Smid draws in

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- There must have been a time where Ladislav Smid wondered exactly how hard Raffi Torres had hit him.

Smid was playing defence for the Edmonton Oilers when he took a forearm shiver to the back of the head from his former teammate over a month ago in Columbus.

Following a stint on injured reserve with concussion issues, Smid resurfaced as a forward.

"It was a good experience," he said.

"The first game I was so excited that I felt it was easy to play there. The second game was way harder for me.

BLOCK SHOTS

"In our zone it's tough. I knew I had to block shots, go to the boards and go to the point.

"There were a few times I ended up as the centreman down low. I had to support the defencemen and I found that to be kind of hard. It's not easy and I would say it's more skating. The first game I was taking pretty short shifts, 30 seconds then out."

Last night Smid was in more familiar territory, taking a spot on the Oilers blue line against the Los Angeles Kings.

It's a position the native of Frydlant, Czech Republic, had not played since taking the shot from Torres on Nov. 5.

"Ladi has looked good in practice for the last little while, and we've been looking to get him back in the mix on defence," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"It was good to get him into a couple of games up front, he did a great job, he's had a great attitude throughout this.

"Now it's just a case of getting him back on defence and seeing what he's got. He looked good there early in the season and he's looked good in practice there."

Acquired in the trade that sent Chris Pronger to the Anaheim Ducks, Smid was projected to be a regular on the Oilers blue line for years to come.

The Ducks first pick -- ninth overall -- in the 2004 NHL Entry draft, Smid has developed into a solid, physical defenceman.

However, with the acquisitions of Lubomir Visnovsky, the return of Sheldon Souray from injury, and the emergence of Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov, Smid has found it difficult to earn an every day spot in the lineup this season.

Combined with the impressive play of Jason Strudwick, the third-year NHLer has become Edmonton's seventh defenceman.

DEAL WITH IT

"It's pretty hard, but I have to try to deal with it the best I can," Smid said.

"It's tough, but guys like Lubo, (Visnovsky) Shelly (Souray) and Gibby (Gilbert) are playing well.

"We have a lot of experienced defencemen, so it's really hard to ask for more ice time. I'm the seventh defenceman and all I can really do is work hard and wait for my opportunity."

It was believed with the number of injuries the Oilers have had on the back end in recent years, Smid would eventually get an opportunity to be in the lineup.

He had drawn in for five consecutive games prior to his injury.

"I was feeling really good then," Smid said. "It sucks to get injured at that point, but that's hockey. Things happen sometimes.

"Now that I'm back, I'm just going to try and keep it simple. It's my first game after a while as a defenceman so you have to keep it simple.

"You have to be hard on the battles and that's all you can do."

In order to make room for him last night, the Oilers moved Jason Strudwick up front after the lines were shuffled to fill the spot vacated by Sam Gagner, who was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms.

Strudwick was expected to make way for Smid regardless of Gagner's injury.

"It's time to get Ladi back in his natural position," MacTavish said. "He's a young player and you have to continue to work with young players and give them an opportunity to get back in the position that he's going to be long-term.

"It's a decision based more on what's best for Ladi right now. Hopefully, he can come in there and play flawlessly for 15 years."


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