SUN Hockey Pool

Cogliano gearing up, not wearing down

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

At first Andrew Cogliano was just happy to be here.

But as the season went along and his talent became apparent, more and more was expected out of the rookie forward.

Now heading into the stretch drive, the Edmonton Oilers will need all they can get out of Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson in order to contend for a playoff spot.

"They were really good in the Carolina game, which was surprising to me, because you play a team that has pretty good size and you think the smaller players will be less likely to have success in a game like that," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "But it was just the opposite. They moved, they made plays with the puck, they got it off the boards, played to the strengths of their collective game and carried it through to the few games after that.

"So we're anxious for them to pick up where they left off after this road trip."

Heading into tonight's contest against the San Jose Sharks, Cogliano has nine goals and 15 assists in 52 games. He's the highest scoring Oilers not playing on the top line.

During the Oilers recent five-game road trip, the Cogliano, Gagner, Nilsson unit combined for 14 points.

"I feel pretty good with Nilsson and Gagner," Cogliano said. "That's a line where we know we are going to be on the ice and we can make plays together."

Like most of the Oilers, Cogliano has struggled with his consistency this season. As an offensive player, his contribution is measured in points. And when he wasn't producing found his ice-time diminishing.

"That was really tough when that was going on," he said. "It's tough to focus and stay in the game. When you play one shift and then get another 10 minutes later, it's hard to keep your intensity up. You try and keep that intensity up and you try to keep your focus, but when you're not out there it's really tough."

Having played collegiate hockey the previous season, there was talk that Cogliano may eventually hit the wall, now being forced to play twice as many games through a similar stretch of time.

However, MacTavish doesn't feel that's the case.

"I think the characteristic in players that hit the wall is that they find the game really difficult and I don't see that happening with Andrew," MacTavish said.

"He doesn't find the game difficult. He loves the game, he loves to come to the rink, he's well conditioned, he's very disciplined off ice."

In fact, the five-foot-10, 178-pound Toronto native, is looking forward to the stretch drive.

"The games get tougher as the year goes on. We're at 53 right now and I played 41 last year," he said.

"My body feels pretty good, this is just the kind of stretch were you have to put it in another gear."


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