Fit to be tied (down)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:47 AM ET

It was fun while it lasted.

Unfortunately for Erik Cole and the Edmonton Oilers it didn't last very long.

In his first game since being shifted back to his natural position on the right side, Cole was on his way to his best night as an Oiler on Saturday - driving hard to the net, fighting off checks and turning speed and determination into a handful of great chances. In short, he looked every bit the power forward the Oilers traded for last summer.

For all of 30 minutes. Then he got kicked out of the game for not having his sweater tied down in a fight with Mattias Ohlund.

"It was half of one game, but I definitely felt more comfortable," said Cole, who showed a lot more spark on the right side with Ethan Moreau and Marc Pouliot than he did on the left side with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. "I was playing my game a bit more. It's a lot less over thinking. It's more just reading and reacting to the play."

He made more things happen in half a game than he did in the first six.

DON'T DO IT AGAIN

"He's a handful there, for sure," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who could have used about 30 minutes more of that in Vancouver. "That was a significant loss. He knows better than that. He was having a terrific game. That line looked really good together. To lose a guy for two periods because of the fact he didn't tie himself down is something we don't want to see repeated."

The tie-down mistake hurt. Cole was having the kind of night that could turn a game around. But for a guy who can count all his career fights on one hand, what are the odds that on the rare night when he forgets to tie down, he gets into a scrap?

"I think maybe five or so at best," Cole said of his career ring record. "But with the style I play I do up my strap pretty much religiously. This time I was doing a stick between periods and I must have rushed out, thrown my jersey on and got out there without tying it down.

"It's a horrible mistake on my part. For how I was playing it was pretty tough to have to leave that game and not be able to help out."

Clearly, though, he is more effective on the right side, where he's been playing his whole NHL career. And the games of Moreau and Pouliot (or Fernando Pisani when he gets healthy) better suits his style.

"In my first conversation with Mac, he said 'Do you play the left side?' I said 'No, I play the right.' He said 'Well, I think the best opportunity would be on the left.' I said 'OK, whatever it is is fine.'

WHATEVER WORKS

"I said from the start, wherever. If you look at our top nine, we have guys who can be moved around anywhere, guys who can play a couple of different styles. Within that mix, whatever is going to work best for us on a nightly basis is fine by me.

"I'll go out and play centre if I have to, as long as we're scoring goals and creating offence."

But with one goal and one assist in his first six games since coming over in the trade for Joni Pitkanen, Cole never seemed to really click on the first line, where Hemsky would be better complemented by a one-shot scorer who finds open ice and waits there with his stick cocked. Cole is more about using his speed and strength to take it to the hoop.

"Now I think he's playing with more like-minded players," said MacTavish. "I've got a better idea of what fits better for him than I did 10 days ago. That line looked really good, it's going to be a handful, whether it's Fernie in the middle or Pouliot, Ethan and Cole are tough to play against."


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