Cole getting fired up?

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

Erik Cole's effort has rarely come into question, but his lack of production has been a source of concern for the Edmonton Oilers.

Heading into Friday's contest against the Anaheim Ducks, the former 30-goal winger had scored just three times and had a total of eight points.

But Cole had arguably his best game with the Oilers in the 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks.

He batted in the tying goal and came within a goal post of netting the winner as the Oilers fired 53 shots at Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller.

"He skated hard," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He's getting a lot of credit for scoring the goal, but he did a good job killing penalties, which may be as important a contribution.

"He played some big minutes, he was great four-on-four and he could have won it for us."

Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes last summer for defenceman Joni Pitkanen, high expectations were pinned on the native of on Oswego, N.Y.

Once a cornerstone of the Hurricanes franchise, Cole was expected to provide grit as well as some much-needed offensive punch off the wing.

He was one of the reasons for so much optimism heading into the season.

But things haven't worked out as scripted for both Cole and the Oilers.

Despite working hard, like a hamster in a wheel, Cole wasn't getting anywhere and struggled to collect points at his usual pace.

In fact, Friday night was the first time he scored a regular-season goal at Rexall Place.

He could have had three, also getting a great chance on a two-on-one break, and finishing with seven shots.

"I don't know (if it was his best game)," Cole said.

"I just feel like we let a point slip away. It's frustrating that we had enough opportunities to take a lead, take control of the game ... and we didn't.

"We had a lot of quality scoring chances. I had two real good chances early in the game that he (Hiller) made a couple of good saves on. He played really well."

Last year, Cole had 51 points in 73 games with the Hurricanes. He had 61 in 71 the previous year.

This season, he's on pace for a 26.

In an effort to get Cole going offensively, the Oilers have moved the winger around in the lineup trying to find him some chemistry.

He's also played both on both sides of centre.

Cole started the year on the top line with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, then was dropped down to the third line with Ethan Moreau and Kyle Brodziak.

On Friday, he played on a unit with Horcoff and Dustin Penner.

Cole also spent a lot of time killing penalties and got some stints on the power play.

"I think our penalty kill did a good job of battling and trying to take away their threats," Cole said.

"Obviously, we would have liked to be a little sharper on the power play, especially early on when it looked like we could have taken control of the game.

"But they ended up with a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission."

In the second period, Cole's contribution to the penalty kill became vital when the Oilers started making a parade to the penalty box.

Sheldon Souray, Ethan Moreau and Horcoff took three consecutive penalties to start the period.

Then towards the end, Moreau took a double-minor that put the Oilers two-men short to open the third period.

The Ducks managed to score one power-play goal in the period, but couldn't net another one, which would have put the game out of reach heading into the final frame.

Cole's third-period goal allowed the Oilers to come back from a 2-0 deficit. It was his first in 17 games.

"Hopefully, that will get Erik going," MacTavish said.

"It's good to see he and Sam (Gagner), especially, put together a few games now.

"We're in better shape in that regard, but I don't think we're out of the woods yet."


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