SUN Hockey Pool

Gagner a real helper

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:13 AM ET

DALLAS -- It didn't take Sam Gagner long to earn a place in Edmonton Oilers history.

His eight-game assist streak is the longest ever by an Oilers rookie and not far off the NHL consecutive-game assist record held by Alexei Zhamnov in 1992-93 (10 games).

"I didn't even know about it till they told me this morning," Gagner said before last night's game with the Stars. "To tell you the truth, I kind of wish they hadn't told me until (the streak) was over."

Wayne Gretzky had an eight-game assist streak in his first NHL season, but wasn't officially a rookie because of his WHA stretch.

"Pretty impressive the way he's stepped up since Shawn Horcoff's been out," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "Ten points in the eight games."

It's a pace that works out to a 100-plus point season over 82 games.

"Pretty impressive," said MacTavish. "He's found a way to create stuff every night. It reinforces the decision to keep him here (as an 18-year-old). Based on the development at a young age you always worry about that. But he's added a lot to the team this year."

MacTavish said Gagner reminds him of a young Martin St. Louis.

"He can really make plays in a confined area. When he has the puck under pressure, for a small guy, I'm as confident with him as anybody on our team that he's going to make a play.

"A lot of puck protection ability to go along with a great set of hands."

SMID OUT A WHILE

Ladislav Smid has a knee brace to go along with the ankle brace he wore on Thursday and the prognosis for a quick return doesn't look good. His leg swelled up overnight and hurts as much now as it did after he slammed into the end boards in practice on Thursday.

"I'm going to see the doctor on Sunday," said the Oilers defenceman. "I need these (braces) for support. I can't put any weight on it and I can't move my ankle at all."

It made for a tough night, not being able to move or roll over.

"I slept about three hours," he said.

They'll have an MRI taken in Edmonton and go from there.

"We know the procedure by now," said MacTavish, who's watched too many of his players go down to injury over the past two seasons. "I don't know what to say about it other than deal with it.

"The disappointing thing is that Laddie loses the games for his own development."

Mathieu Roy, if he can stay healthy, has stepped in to fill the gap.

"It Matty can get to the top of his game, it won't be a huge drop off," said MacTavish.

THORESEN GONE

With most of the attention focused on the impending trade deadline, the Oilers hoped they could sneak Patrick Thoresen back down to the minors, but Philadelphia plucked him off waivers just before noon yesterday.

Thoresen had been in Springfield on a two-week conditioning stint, but when that was up they had to fly him into Dallas so he was physically with the team (league rule), then place him on waivers for the purpose of sending him to Springfield for the long haul.

"We felt we had other guys in the organization that if we did lose him ... we'd take that chance," said GM Kevin Lowe. "He got through a lot of teams before Philly, but Philly is really depleted."

The Flyers have to keep him on their NHL roster all year.

If they want to send him to the AHL (which they might, when they get some of their injured guys back, or if they add depth at the deadline) he goes back on waivers and Edmonton gets first shot at him.

"I get the sense that he might come back to us at some point," said MacTavish.


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