SUN Hockey Pool

No more cryin' from Ryan

DEREK VAN DIEST

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

For Ryan Smyth, it's easier the second time around.

It always is.

A year ago, Smyth, 32, made an emotional return to the city after signing a free-agent contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

Spurred on by a video tribute to his service in Edmonton, Smyth broke down in tears in his first game against his old club.

It could be said, in some way, he never really recovered.

"Obviously with all that had occurred the previous year, I was trying to phase in because it was a big transition," Smyth said. "Then I got injured and I didn't have a good flow to the year."

Smyth was unable to score a goal against his former team last season, although he managed to collect three assists in seven games against the Oilers.

In 55 games with the Avalanche, he had 14 goals and 23 assists.

The previous season, Smyth had 31 goals and 22 assists in 53 games with the Oilers before being sent to the New York Islanders in a trade deadline deal.

After a brief playoff stint on Long Island, Smyth signed a five-year deal with the Avalanche, but in large part due to injuries, failed to regain the form which made him such a hot commodity on the free- agent market.

"It's a game that I love to play and I'm very blessed to be able to play," said Smyth.

"Playing on one team for such a long time, I believe in the cliche, 'Once an Oiler, always an Oiler'.

"I developed great memories and great relationships over there. But it's a new chapter, a new year and I think it's going to be a good year."

So far, it has been.

Smyth is healthy, more energized and had a strong preseason, even though last night he was kept off the scoreboard against the Oilers.

"We're looking for Ryan Smyth to be Ryan Smyth this year," said Avalanche head coach Tony Granato.

"Last year, every time he seemed to get on track, he would get another injury and it slowed him down."


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