SUN Hockey Pool

Lubomir full of presents

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- Lubomir Visnovsky headed back to SoCal bearing gifts.

The Edmonton Oilers defenceman packed a few jerseys in his travel luggage for his return to the Staples Center in Los Angeles tonight.

"I still have a lot of friends there," Visnovsky said. "So I'm taking a few Oilers jerseys to give away to my friends. Staples Center needs a few more Oilers jerseys in it.

"I got a couple of white ones, blue ones and a couple of the old ones with the orange all with my name on them."

Originally the Kings fourth pick - 118 overall - in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Visnovsky played seven seasons in Los Angeles before being traded to Edmonton this summer for forward Jarret Stoll and defenceman Matt Greene.

Tonight marks his first trip back to his old haunt as the Oilers take on the Kings (8:30 p.m.) in the opening of a two-game road trip.

"I have some great memories, I played seven seasons there," Visnovsky said. "I'm a little bit excited. I'm sure I'll be a little bit emotional, especially before the game and in the warmup."

Visnovsky played a total of 499 games with the Kings, amassing 279 points during that span.

This summer he signed a contract extension, which led the native of Topolcany, Slovakia, to believe he would be staying in Southern California for some time.

However, the day before his new contract kicked in, he was traded north, forcing Visnovsky to uproot his family and move to Edmonton.

"I was actually a little bit mad with the trade at first," Visnovsky said.

"But after a couple of weeks I realized that, this was hockey.

"My job is to play hockey and the GM who traded me is responsible for the team. It was his choice and now I'm a member of the Oilers and I'm going to work hard every game in order to get better."

The Kings had given Visnovsky a five-year $28-million extension.

They then said the contract was too rich for a rebuilding side and an order had come down from the top to move the skilled defenceman.

"He (GM Dean Lombardi) gave me the money and after signing me, he said he was very happy," Visnovsky said.

"He told me that I was going to be part of the future because they had a lot of young players and I was a little older and I believed him.

"I was happy to be staying there. But then after that, I don't know how many months after the season, he traded me one day before I started my new contract."

Visnovsky eventually warmed up to the idea of playing in Edmonton and is starting to find the form that made him such a highly coveted commodity.

In the 5-2 win over the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place on Wednesday, he arguably had one of his best games as an Oiler, scoring a goal and adding an assist.

"He's playing really well right now, he's really on a roll," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"I think it took him a little while - as it does all players that have played on one team for quite some time - to find a rhythm. It was just a huge goal for us at the end of the first period on that power play after we had two pretty poor power plays.

"It was a perfectly placed shot. He's been a great addition."

Acquired in order to replace the offence provide from the blue line by Joni Pitkanen, Visnovsky is well on his way to surpassing the smooth-skating Finn's output from last season.

He's also enjoying playing hockey in a market where it matters the most.

"Life is a lot different than it is in Los Angeles," he said. "But it doesn't matter, I'm here to play hockey. For the last five years I've missed the playoffs and I think here we have a better chance to make the playoffs. I need to play some playoff games which is a lot different than regular season games.

"Here is a hockey town, it's the No. 1 sport and looking at the fans, it's unbelievable."


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