O'Sullivan with Hemsky

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:04 AM ET

It seemed only a matter of time before Patrick O'Sullivan found himself riding shotgun for Ales Hemsky.

That's one of the reasons the Edmonton Oilers went out and acquired him at the NHL trade in the first place.

In Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, Hemsky was shifted from a line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Kotalik to a unit with O'Sullivan and Sam Gagner in an effort to find some offence.

The trio was used extensively throughout the second and third periods and also found itself together on the power play.

"It was good; I thought we had some good shifts," said O'Sullivan. "It was tough for our team as a whole, we had a hard time getting things going offensively. We were using a bunch of different combinations, trying to find something that works."

O'Sullivan had a great chance to score on a setup by Hemsky, but was robbed by Avalanche goaltender Peter Budaj.

"They're all highly skilled guys and they all can make plays," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"They lack size, but because they all have high-end skill and can make plays, there are times when we can play the three of them together."

The search for a wingman for Hemsky has been going on all season.

Erik Cole didn't work out, in large part because he was unaccustomed to playing on his off wing. Dustin Penner struggled to produce with Hemsky and then had his work ethic called into question.

Kotalik hasn't found any chemistry, either.

"O'Sullivan is a good player; we really like him, he's got a good head for the game," MacTavish said.

"He's proven himself to be a good penalty-killer in his short tenure here and he makes plays. If he gets the puck down low, you feel pretty comfortable that he's going to continue the play, not only five-on-five, but on the power play as well."

Since being acquired in a trade from the Carolina Hurricanes, who picked him up from the Los Angeles Kings then flipped him for Cole, O'Sullivan has a goal and an assist in five games.

Against the Avalanche, he topped all Oilers forwards with 21:26 of ice time.

He started Saturday's game on a line with Gagner and Robert Nilsson, who found himself benched in the third period.

"If something is not working, it's got to change," O'Sullivan said.

"Every team is the same way, trying to get results any way you can. In a perfect world, the lines wouldn't change once all year, but that's not realistic.

"Every team mixes and matches all year, which I don't mind because everybody is so good that it's not a big deal."

Horcoff was back in the middle between Hemsky and O'Sullivan at practice yesterday. That's expected to be Edmonton's No. 1 line when they host the St. Louis Blues tomorrow night.

"He (Hemsky) is so good with the puck, you have to try to get it to him, especially when he's got speed," O'Sullivan said.

"That's really the first time I got a chance to play with him. He's a smart player, so I love playing with him -- anybody would."

With the number of forwards at his disposal, MacTavish won't hesitate to shuffle the deck again if he has to.

"It's not an ideal situation at this point in the season where you're getting hypnotized by the names on the board trying to put lines together," said the coach.

"It's a take from Peter to pay Paul scenario, where you get a little bit of skill but you lose physical play.

"It's not ideal at this point, but hopefully we can find some chemistry on some of these lines."


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