Nilsson beating a regular path to the press box

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:15 AM ET

You can tell all you need to know about Robert Nilsson's season by looking at the numbers since March 1 - eight points in the 10 games he played, and another seven games as a healthy scratch.

That's his Oilers' career in a nutshell.

Tremendous skill.

Inconsistent.

Short leash.

"I want to be out there playing 18, 20 minutes a game," said Nilsson, back in the lineup for the last four games of the stretch drive, after spending three in the press box. "It's a little frustrating sitting up top and watching the guys play, especially at this time when the playoff run is on."

In his first game back he set up Sam Gagner for Edmonton's only goal against San Jose, making a nifty backhand pass for a play that nobody else in the building saw but him.

"Every time he touched the puck he made a play," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "That's got to be the baseline game for Robert. That's the game he has to push the repeat button on each and every night. That's the difference it makes in our game when he's on top of his game like that."

There's no question that at his best Nilsson is among Edmonton's most gifted players, but his legendary inconsistency drives everyone nuts, including Nilsson.

He could be an 80-point guy if he set his mind to it.

"That's something I want to see from myself, too," he said. "When I play good I know I make an impact on this team."

What he's trying to learn is how not to be a negative impact when the points aren't coming.

"If I don't make a (scoring) play I still have to make the smart plays, kind of like (Fernando) Pisani plays. Sometimes I have to play like him."

The short leash?

"That happens on every team," he said. "I guess here it's me and Pens (Dustin Penner). You still have to work and try to get Mac to have a little more confidence in me so I can have a bad game and still know that I can be out there next game. Now it seems like I play a couple of solid games, have a bad game and I'm back up again."

He admits he's a work in progress.

"For sure. In the first half of the season I had just a couple of good games. After Christmas I feel like I've been playing like I want to, even though I got healthy scratched a couple of times.

"I'm not happy with that, but I still feel like when I've played the last half of the season I've played good and I've made an impact."


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