SUN Hockey Pool

Jason gets to Strud his stuff on forward line

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

LOS ANGLES -- Originally, the plan was for Jason Strudwick to alternate between the Edmonton Oilers blueline and their fourth line.

However, the free-agent acquisition has played so well on defence this season, that he's become a team staple.

That was until the Oilers got to the Staples Center to face the Los Angeles Kings, where Strudwick was pushed up front.

"Last year (with the New York Rangers), I played a little bit of forward," Strudwick said. "Towards the end of the year I filled in as a forward for a few games. I feel pretty comfortable up there.

"The more you do something, the more comfortable you become with it."

Strudwick filled in for Sam Gagner last night against the Kings.

Marc Pouliot moved up to play on a unit with Andrew Cogliano and Rob Schremp, while Strudwick skated on a unit with Liam Reddox and Zack Stortini.

Gagner, was kept out of last night's contest after having concussion symptoms following a run-in with Dallas Stars defenceman Nicklas Grossman on Wednesday.

"After the hit, my head wasn't hurting, so I didn't think anything was wrong," Gagner said.

"It was just that everything slowed down for me. That last goal, the play developed a little slower, so it was easy for me to make the play. But before that, the quick plays were tougher.

"I feel a little bit better, so hopefully it'll be a gradual progression and I'll be back soon."

Regardless, Strudwick was due to make room for Ladislav Smid, who has not played defence in over a month.

When a spot opened up at forward, it was a natural fit to slide the local product in for the moment.

The Oilers have called up Gilbert Brule from their AHL affiliate in case Gagner is out for an extended length of time.

"My role has been pretty steady throughout my career, so I'm prepared for everything and nothing is unexpected," Strudwick said.

"There is a comfort level on defence, but this is something I've been doing for years now and it's something I'm not accustomed to.

"It's actually kind of exciting - you get to run around a lot more, you get to hit a few more guys."

Signed as a free agent this summer, the six-foot-four, 225-pound defenceman was brought in to provide stability and veteran leadership to the club.

His versatility was one of the big attractions to the Oilers.

Strudwick found out the morning of the game he would on a forward unit and not in the press box. The former two-time Memorial Cup winner with the Kamloops Blazers, had never played up front until reaching the NHL.

"Marc Crawford (in Vancouver) was the first guy to put me up there," he said. "We were losing in St. Louis and he put me up there with (Todd) Bertuzzi and (Markus) Naslund and we scored a goal. I think he thought he reinvented something, so then it kept happening a lot after that."


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