SUN Hockey Pool

Gilbert in Oiler record book

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The shot cemented his place in the Edmonton Oilers record book: Just ahead of Paul Coffey and Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Tom Gilbert broke a team record for most goals by a rookie defenceman when he scored his 10th goal of the season in Tuesday's 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. It was a record shared by Coffey and Bergeron.

"Just to be put in that category with (Coffey) is a pretty cool accomplishment," Gilbert said. "Fortunately I've had the opportunity on the ice to put pucks in the net and to break a record is always nice."

Coffey scored nine goals as a 19-year-old rookie during the 1980-81 season. He would go on to net a few more in the following years - including a record setting 48-goal campaign - on his way to a Hall-of-Fame induction.

Bergeron equalled the mark in the 2003-2004 season as a 23 year old. He's now a member of the Anaheim Ducks, having been dealt from the New York Islanders at the trading deadline.

"It's impressive that he's come in and set the record," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"He continues to evolve and get better. He's got great potential."

The goal was the lone bright spot in what was otherwise a dismal night for the Oilers. Gilbert jumped into the rush and converted a cross-ice feed from Robert Nilsson, firing it past Predators goaltender Dan Ellis.

It was a typical goal for the Oilers defenceman, who has a knack for knowing when to jump up into the play.

"He's got that timing," MacTavish said. "He doesn't seem to make it look as difficult as it is. You see defencemen jumping through the hole a lot of times and getting in the space, but not putting themselves in the seam. But he's got great timing and great instincts when to go."

Next on Gilbert's hit list is Coffey's record of assists by a rookie (23) and points (32). Gilbert, 25, heads into tomorrow's contest, on the road, against the Columbus Blue Jackets with 10 goals and 16 assists.

It's been an impressive rookie season for Gilbert, who was acquired in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche for goaltender Tommy Salo and a sixth round pick.

A native of Minneapolis, Gilbert spent four years at the University of Wisconsin where he scored the game-winner in the NCAA national championship final against Boston College.

Last season he spent most of the year with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, scoring four goals and adding 26 assists in 48 games.

He was called up late in the season and welcomed to the league by Columbus Blue Jackets enforcer Jody Shelley, who knocked Gilbert into another time zone and out of the lineup. However Gilbert recovered and ended up scoring a goal and adding five assists in 12 games.

This season, he's played in all 67 games for the Oilers.

"I think now playing with (Matt) Greene I'm getting more opportunity to jump in the play now as much as possible because I know he's always going to be behind me," Gilbert said. "I also think they trust me enough to make the right decision when I'm jumping in and not to go in at the wrong time. For me it's about making the right read and not getting caught down low and giving up an odd-man rush the other way."

As is the case with most offensive defencemen, Gilbert is aware his top priority is still in his own end.

Earlier this season he was playing strong defensively, but then went through a bad stretch where his plus/minus rating took a big hit. "In any sport it comes in stretches," he said. "You'll have four or five games where you don't get scored on, then you'll get scored on in every game. As of late, it's been pretty good. I went through a pretty rough stretch where I was on the ice for a lot of goals.

"But lately it's been pretty good, although there are still a lot of things I have to work on. But for the most part, I'm just getting more and more comfortable."


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