Smid's time to shine?

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

He was brought over as part of the trade that shipped Chris Pronger out of town.

Now entering his third year with the Edmonton Oilers, defenceman Ladislav Smid is expected to be an integral part of a solid group of blue-liners - the most talented group since Pronger was an Oiler.

"I'm really excited about the season," said Smid. "We have a lot of new key players, who are very, very good. So our team should be very good and hopefully we'll be able to make the playoffs. I know all of us on defence are excited about that and hopefully we'll do very well."

PAIRED WITH VISNOVSKY

Last night in the Oilers opening exhibition game of the season against the Vancouver Canucks, Smid was partnered with veteran Lubomir Visnovsky on the blue-line.

Visnovsky's arrival from Los Angeles, along with Sheldon Souray's return from injury, has the Oilers extremely optimistic about their defensive corps heading into the season.

"It's going to be great getting a chance to play with them every day," Smid said. "I'm watching them every practice and trying to learn something from them. It's great for all the young guys to get a chance to play with (them)."

Last season, in a shock to many, Smid started the year with the Springfield Falcons after losing his roster spot at training camp. However, he was quickly recalled and finished with four assists in 65 games.

"I've seen basically what I've wanted to see out of Ladi," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He's moving the puck quickly, he's making smart plays, making the simple outlet pass and he's bringing a physical element to his game.

"I want a good, dependable hard-nosed guy and so far that's what I'm seeing."

SUMMER SURGERY

This summer Smid required surgery to repair a slight tear in his knee. He spent five weeks in Edmonton before heading back to his native Czech Republic to continue his preparations for the upcoming season.

"It's still a little weaker than my other knee," Smid said. "It's 100%, but it's going to take another three weeks to a month before there is going to be no swelling or soreness."


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