Hemsky finally has help

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

For much of his time in Edmonton, Ales Hemsky kind of felt like Lee Harvey Oswald.

You know, one man acting alone.

Not to say Edmonton didn't have decent secondary scoring every now and then, but for the most part Hemsky's been a lone gunman here.

Until now.

Never in Hemsky's six-year tenure with the Oilers have there been so many weapons at the club's disposal.

The Kid Line gives Edmonton it's best second line in ages, Erik Cole brings speed and finish to the first line wing and Shawn Horcoff has developed into an all-star.

Sheldon Souray is healthy, Lubomir Visnovsky can wheel the puck.

So deep are the Oilers offensively that Dustin Penner, who scored 23 goals as a permanent fixture on the first line last season, is now on the third.

"Finally we have a lot of guys who can play, who can score," said Hemsky. "It's always nice to have secondary scoring. It's good for confidence and you're more relaxed on the ice.

"I've been here for a little while and finally (more skill). We've had it before, but I don't think like this, where every line can go and score goals. I know we can do some damage like that."

It's easier to play knowing that the game isn't going to live or die on your shoulders. Not that Hemsky ever shied away from the big moments, but over an 82-game haul he says it's nice to know there's plenty of backup.

"If you're not having a night, somebody else will do it," he said.

"Same with the power play; if the first unit doesn't do it, we've got the second unit. If you have three good lines, they can do it every night. If you have an off night, somebody else can do it. It should be like that."

Scoring by committee is always a good thing and Hemsky says the committee in Edmonton looks pretty solid on paper.

"I'm very excited about this year," he said.

"They made a lot of good changes. I lost a lot of good friends but that's hockey - you have to handle that. They made a lot of good trades. We have Visnovsky, we have Cole, Sheldon will be back, Ethan... We should be really good this year, I'm really excited about that."

After playing with plodders like Penner and Ryan Smyth the last few seasons, Hemsky says he's still getting used to Cole, who brings a completely different element to the first line wing.

"You have to get him the puck on the fly, he can skate," he said, adding he's still learning how to properly set up Cole. "If you get somebody who can really skate, you have to use him more than before.

"We played three games together. It wasn't that great but we'll get better every game, every practice."

As for the wrist injury that handcuffed him down the stretch last year, Hemsky says it's 100%. He didn't have anything done to it other than a good, long rest.

"I don't have any troubles," he said. "I took a month and a half off and I didn't feel it (when he came back)."

Hemsky, like so many players, laboured in his sophomore season, getting just four more points in 71 games than he had in 59 the year before.

With so many candidates for second-season letdowns this year, he knows the potential for a major sag is very real.

"The second year is always tough," he said.

"I've been here, everybody's been there. There will be a lot of pressure on them. Everybody expects a lot of things from them, they just have to relax and play their game, don't listen to anybody else. Do their own things.

"There will be a lot of pressure from the media, from everybody. They have to handle it."


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