SUN Hockey Pool

Gilbert's goals got 'em going

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

ST. PAUL -- The chance for Gilbert Brule to curl up in a ball and feel sorry for himself has come and gone.

He missed it. Didn't have time.

If there was ever a reason to doubt his own ability and worry about blowing his best opportunity to impress the coaches, it was last Wednesday against Vancouver.

In a game he's already forgotten about, Brule wasn't five minutes into his big promotion to the first line when he found himself stapled to the bench, pointless and minus two, wondering what time he'd be catching the next plane back to Springfield.

One day he's lining up beside Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner, the next he's sitting beside the popcorn machine in the press box.

It should have been enough to shake the 22-year-old's confidence, but it wasn't. Re-inserted two games ago, and only because Robert Nilsson and Ales Hemsky had concussions and Craig MacTavish had nobody else to put in, Brule responded by scoring in back-to-back games - both of them highlight reel dekes.

"I want to stay in the NHL, I want to be here and be effective and help this team win and I'm not going to do that by playing scared," said Brule, who played 13:45 against St. Louis and 13:34, including 3:16 of power-play time, in Washington.

"The goal in Washington, I was just going hard to the net and Brodziak gave me a good pass. I know I have the skill to finish that play and it worked out.

"The last two games I was playing with a clear head. focusing on the things I do well."

Like backing defenders off with his speed. Like driving hard to the net. Like scoring big goals.

"If you get him in that opportunity he's got the hands to capitalize," said MacTavish. "He scored a couple of great goals, huge goals for us at the time. To take a 3-0 lead (in Washington) was deflating for them. He capitalizes and I've sure liked that part of it the last little while, I hope it continues."

So does Brule, who's trying to restart an NHL career that began with a first-round selection (sixth overall in 2005) and quickly wound its way into the Columbus and Edmonton minor league systems.

The trade for Raffi Torres is the second chance he's been waiting for, and the Edmonton native is trying to make the most of it.

"It's only been two games. I have to keep it up," he said.

It helps that there are some familiar faces in the room. Springfield Falcons teammate Ryan Potulny is also making good on his jump to the Oilers. He has three assists in two games on the second line with Sam Gagner and Erik Cole.

Liam Reddox seems to be carving out a niche with MacTavish, as well.

"It makes it more comfortable when you see a teammate like Ryan doing well, and Reddox, too," said Brule. "We're all playing well and helping this team win. It's good."

They'd rather be doing it up here than down there.

"Sometimes when you come up you're nervous and you don't make plays," said Potulny. "I'm just trying to relax and make things happen."

With both of them playing as well as they have been - seven points in the last two games - it makes you wonder why the Springfield Falcons are in such deep muck.

"I don't know, that's a good question," said MacTavish. "Hockey is hard to figure out at times."


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