Strudwick won't be packing

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

Jason Strudwick has always skated in Edmonton to prepare for the upcoming hockey season.

But for the first time in 16 years, he won't be departing to ply his trade.

Strudwick will stay home this fall and suit up on the Edmonton Oilers blue-line.

Yesterday he was among a number of local area professionals at Perry Pearn's three-on-three camp taking place at the K of C Twin Arena.

"I come home every summer," Strudwick said. "The biggest thing that will be different this year is not having to pack up my clothes and leaving.

'QUITE EXCITED'

"We can actually settle in-to our home here. Getting a chance to play at Rexall Place is going to be pretty exciting. I'm not really nervous about it, I'm actually quite excited."

Strudwick, 33, signed with the Oilers as a free agent this summer. The veteran defenceman is going into his 12th NHL season.

Last year the six-foot-four, 225-pound Edmonton native played 52 games with the New York Rangers scoring a goal and adding an assist with 40 penalty minutes.

"I never really thought (signing with the Oilers) would happen, not that I didn't want it to, it just never occurred to me," Strudwick said. "When it did, it obviously took a few days for it to settle in."

Drafted by the New York Islanders in the third round (63rd overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Strudwick spent four years in the Islanders system before getting traded to the Vancouver Canucks. He spent five years on the West Coast, then signed as a free agent with the Chicago Blackhawks before ending up with the Rangers.

Being new to the Oilers and having yet to play a game, Strudwick can still walk around town in relative anonymity. It was a luxury he also had in New York, but one that will probably change once the season starts.

"I had a taste of that in Vancouver," he said. "It's probably bigger here as far as everybody knowing the team and stuff. But I'm looking forward to it. The biggest thing is that we have a really good young team. I'm expecting to have a good, strong team."

Brought in to add veteran experience and grit to the team, Strudwick will battle for a regular spot on the blue-line. He's aware of how it can be a double-edged sword being a local playing for the Oilers.

The city has been known to eat its own.

"I had a chance to talk to Fernando Pisani about it, he's done really well here and is well-liked in the community," Strudwick said. "I hope that I'm welcomed by fans as a guy that goes out and does his job. I don't think there'll be very much beyond that. I'm a guy that goes out and gives you an honest effort.

"I was a fan of the Oilers growing up and I know that's what I looked to from players I watched."

Having scored 11 career goals coming in, Strudwick knows the serious type of scrutiny is usually reserved for offensive players, although it could be said Cory Cross was run out of town.

For some reasons expectations seem to be higher on local products.

OWN GOALS

"I have my own goals in my own head, for myself and for the team as well," he said. "When you say expectations I don't know if that means a lot to me. I know what I expect from myself and from the team and that's what's most important to me."

Regardless, with the way the Oilers finished last season and the moves they made this off-season, Strudwick shares the sense of optimism going into the year.

"Even before I signed with the Oilers there was a lot of momentum, positive momentum," he said. "I think if everyone stays healthy and everyone performs we're going to be good. I've talked to the other guys and they're excited, they're pumped up to go."


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