SUN Hockey Pool

What's in a number?

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

It was at 10:25 of the first period when Sheldon Souray blasted the shot that moved him into a tie for the lead as the top-scoring defenceman in the National Hockey League.

Three minutes and 44 seconds later, he lost it back to Shea Weber. But in a city where there used to be several statistical subplots in play at the same time season after season, there's finally one to follow.

NO MISTAKE

And 34 games into the season, you'd have to say Souray has proved that Kevin Lowe didn't make the mistake so many people figured he'd made when he gave the native of Elk Point a five-year, $5.4 million front-loaded contract through the 2011-12 season off the one-year phenomenon of having scored 26 goals with the Montreal Canadiens while at the same time having that eye-sore of a statistic - a minus 28.

As the days count down to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Souray has suddenly put himself into a position, along with Weber, of deserving serious consideration for a spot wearing the red maple leaf.

Last year, healthy for only 26 games and scoring only three goals and producing only 10 points, didn't prove anything.

With 11 goals and 15 assists for 26 points, while at the same time being a plus player this season, Souray has not just been a big shot from the point but a complete player at his position.

Scoring the game winner in each of the previous two games and producing a goal and an assist when it mattered most in last night's 5-2 win over the Nashville Predators, Souray became the Oilers' top goal scorer for the season to put him on pace to duplicate his 64-point Montreal Canadiens 2006-07 season and do it without that massive minus.

"You are always a work in progress but I don't think people knew me well enough, or had seen me play enough," said Souray of those who thought his acquisition was a major mistake by the then general manager.

"That big minus caused a lot of ridicule. I had never had a big minus before. I wasn't worried about that. A lot of players on that team that year, players like Saku Koivu, had big minus numbers that year. What I wanted to improve was to become a more well-rounded player.

"My motivation isn't the numbers, how many goals I score or how many points I produce and all that. To me it doesn't make any difference.

"I like to play the minutes. I like to be put out there in the important offensive and defensive situations. That's what's important for me," said the rear guard who played 24:11 last night and has averaged 25:11 for the season so far.

Last night was the kind of game you expected to watch frequently but have watched oh so seldom in a year in where last night's win was only the sixth of the season at home.

Instead of the same old win-on-the-road come-home-and-stink-out-the-joint scenario there were positive story angles all over the property.

The Oilers ended a nine-game losing streak against Nashville, Erik Cole managed to get at least one paw out of the dog house with a three-point night, Andrew Cogliano and Shawn Horcoff each scored their 10th to double the number of Oilers in double figures and Sam Gagner looked like he'd finally found the confidence to turn the tide on his sophomore jinx season with a goal and an assist.

But it was Souray, the Oilers most consistent player all season, who was once again provided the positives and did it early with a goal and an assist that prevented the Predators from having a first period lead - and you should know they haven't lost a game all year when they've led after 20 minutes.

"He's played well from the outset of the season and he's really been a positive factor on the power play where teams are compensating to overcome him and that shot. There are not many players who can score from that far away," said coach Craig MacTavish of the blast from inside the point on the power play, his seventh of the season, moving him into the league in that category.

'OTHER OPTIONS'

"When they're compensating to overcome Souray, that opens up other things and now we're starting to explore other options," added MacTavish of the power play.

That makes Souray a player the Team Canada brain trust is going to have to consider for Vancouver 2010.

But Souray doesn't see himself having this season as some sort of application for a position on that team.

"That's so far away for me. I'm looking at 2009," he said.


Videos

Photos