Other side suits Cole just fine

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

It was a memorable night in 2006 for both Erik Cole and the Edmonton Oilers, even though they were on opposing sides.

Cole was back in the Carolina Hurricanes lineup, recovered from a career-threatening neck injury, but the Oilers went on to play a near perfect contest, forcing a seventh and deciding game for the Stanley Cup.

"I remember it was tough - it was a tough atmosphere to go into," Cole said. "I remember Chopper (Ethan Moreau) welcomed me into the game early on, but it was good to just get on the ice and be part of things."

Despite adamant denials by the Hurricanes that Cole would be available for the series, the winger skated out for Game 6 of the 2006 final.

Earlier in the season, the native of Oswego, N.Y., fractured a vertebra in his neck when he was drilled into the boards from behind by Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman Brooks Orpik.

Minutes into Game 6 in Edmonton, Moreau took a run at Cole setting the tone and sending a message. The Oilers would go on to win the game 4-0, before losing Game 7 in Carolina two nights later.

"I think we were kind of relieved after that game," Cole said. "It probably was one of the best things that could have happened to us, to take a beating like that, then having it come down to one game in your home building.

"We had been good at home all year and we were brimming with confidence heading into that game."

Last night Cole was back at Rexall Place, playing in his first game as a member of the other side.

He skated on the team's top line alongside Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff as their exhibition season got underway against the Vancouver Canucks.

The two teams face each other again tonight at G.M. Place in Vancouver.

"In a lot of ways I'm looking forward to a new start and hopefully build some better memories from here," Cole said.

"It's a little bit of a change going over to the left side, but when you're playing with guys that can handle the puck like that (it's worth it). I think the most important thing for me is to come back and play sound in my own end, then get hard up the ice, open up some lanes for those guys.

"They're both gifted play-makers, and if I'm coming with my speed, it's going to be a pretty tough combination to play against."

The Oilers acquired Cole this summer in exchange for defenceman Joni Pitkanen.

Carolina's third choice (71st overall) in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, Cole played six seasons with the Hurricanes, twice making it to the Stanley Cup final. Last year, he scored 22 goals and added 29 assists in 73 games.

"He's got a ton of speed, he drives the net hard and he's got a great shot," said Horcoff.

"He brings that level of grit. He's real good in the corners and that's an area where you have to be able to create some offence if you want to be a line that's going to produce night in and night out."

The trio was pencilled to play together since the trade in July. Last night was the first look at the unit. Cole, however, a natural right-winger, needed to make the move to the left side in order to play on the Oilers top line.

"It's a pretty good spot on the left side there," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "I don't think he's going to come to me and say that he wants to play the right side. I'd be surprised if he did.

"He's really motivated to make that work. Conceivably he'll be really good there. We'll see how it all fits. But he's got lots of speed and he's going to help us on the forecheck in terms of getting the puck turned over on the forecheck. I think potentially he's going to be a good complement for those guys."


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