Zack's back - but for how long?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 10:26 AM ET

Zack Stortini knows better than anyone that he has to improve his numbers -- starting with Games Played.

A valuable everyday regular last season, Stortini is barely batting over .500 this year when it comes to getting in a game.

He's been in the lineup 12 times, including last night against the Canucks, while being a healthy scratch 12 times.

AUDITION STAGE

He's back in the audition stage, having to prove himself to the coaching staff all over again.

"I don't know that he ever really got out of it," said head coach Craig MacTavish, who's been having trouble finding the right fourth-line mix since the Oilers let Curtis Glencross go.

"Glencross was a good player, that's clear, and Kyle (Brodziak) was a good fourth- line player too.

"They complemented Zack very well.

"Like a lot of fourth-line players, you need the perfect complement of players to get the most out of their game.

"They don't have enough control of their game, personally, to get things done without the right complement. We talked about that a lot with Georges (Laraque) when he was here."

Stortini, who played 66 games last season, knew that nothing would be handed to him this year.

"I'm here every day working as hard as I can to earn my spot," said the 23-year-old, who fought Vancouver's Darcy Hordichuk five minutes into the first period last night.

BATTLE EVERY DAY

"I never take anything for granted, it's a battle every day to keep your job here. It's a tough league to play in.

"I've been very fortunate with the opportunity I got so far. It's important for me to get better and improve in order to stay here.

"It's important to prove yourself every day. It's an ongoing battle."


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