Cogliano shooting higher

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

Heading in on that breakaway, he was expected to score.

It was, after all, Andrew Cogliano. He was in all alone. And it was overtime.

Maybe if the Hockey Hall of Fame hadn't taken his stick ...

"Actually, we didn't think we played all that well," Cogliano said a day after the Edmonton Oilers 3-2 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers, where he was stopped on a breakaway in overtime.

"I know we still looked pretty good out there together, but we can be a lot better. Our whole game is about cycling in the offensive zone, knowing where we're all going to be is a big key to our success."

Last season, Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Robert Nilsson were a revelation for the Oilers. The rookies nearly dragged the team into the playoffs after all looked lost following the season-ending injuries to defenceman Sheldon Souray and first-line centre Shawn Horcoff.

Along the way, Cogliano scored three overtime winners in consecutive games, setting a new league standard. The Hall of Fame called for the stick he used to score the three goals.

This year, the Toronto native seems to have picked up where he left off.

"I'm ready to go," Cogliano said. "I think I'd like to score more than I have so far, but the bottom line is that I'm getting a lot of the chances and a lot of shots that I did last year.

"I think that's the main thing playing with Gagner and Nilsson, is you have to always get yourself in a shooting position and that's what I've been working on. But I feel pretty comfortable, I feel really good, I think it's going to be a good season."

Cogliano is the triggerman on the line, which is expected to improve on their output last season.

He finished the season with 18 goals, falling just shy of being the fifth rookie in the history of the franchise to hit the 20-goal plateau.

Gagner had 13 goals, while Nilsson finished with 10.

"There is a little bit of pressure on us this year," Cogliano said. "But you always put pressure on yourself to work on your game and make sure you don't lose anything. In the preseason it's not that big of a deal and you can't read that much into it because a lot of the regulars are not in the lineup.

"It's the time to get your timing back and work on some things because when the regular season comes, you want to be ready to go.

"You want to duplicate the year and even get better. You don't want your production to go down, so in the off-season you work hard to maintain that and do the same things you did in the first season. It's just another big season but you can't really think about that too much."

Selected in the first-round (25th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Cogliano left school early in order to play professional hockey.

He scored 24 goals in 38 games in his final season at the University of Michigan.

Heading into camp last year, it was uncertain whether Cogliano would stick with the Oilers or head to their AHL affiliate in Springfield.

That uncertainty is not around this season.

"Yeah, I think last year we flew under the radar a bit for the first half of the season," Cogliano said. "We know now it's going to be a little tougher and we have to make our game a little better. We're still obviously the second line, so I think Horc (Shawn Horcoff) and those guys will be dealing with top defensive lines, although we know we'll be going with pretty good players now."

It was the play of his line late last season along with the off-season acquisitions that has the team so optimistic heading into the season.

The Oilers will play their last exhibition game at home tomorrow when they host the Calgary Flames (7 p.m.) at Rexall Place. They'll then face the Flames in Calgary on Friday before closing out the preseason in Dallas against the Stars on Sunday.

They'll open the regular season on Oct. 12 when they host the Colorado Avalanche.

"We have a ton of good players here," Cogliano said. "For us we have to focus on our line and what we do. We know guys like Horcoff and (Ales) Hemsky are going to play well and the new guys we got like (Erik) Cole and (Lubomir) Visnovsky are good players.

"We just have to focus on our line and work together. If we keep doing that as the games go on, we'll be a lot better."


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