MacIntyre staying in shape

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

Steve MacIntyre's new and improved skating stride won't have anyone confusing him with Paul Kariya or Jason Chimera out there, but then again, he doesn't look much like Steve MacIntyre, either.

And that's probably a good thing.

Not that Oilers fans didn't quickly fall in love with the lumbering, often off-balance behemoth who slugged his way into the lineup last season, but the recently developed spring in his step can only make him better.

The six-foot-five enforcer looked a lot lighter on his feet when he took the ice at the Perry Pearn conditioning camp, the result, an improvement he credits to an off-season spent working on his fitness and footwork here in Edmonton.

"I feel better, too," he said. "It's something I wanted to get better at and it's something you might not get a chance to do during the season, so I wanted to focus on that during the summer."

He and five other big guys, including Zack Stortini, Minnesota prospect Matt Kassian and Montreal Canadiens prospect Shawn Belle, trained with Oilers' fitness consultant Simon Bennett.

"We had a talk at the start of the summer and I told (Bennett) I wanted to get better in this area, and he specializes in that," MacIntyre explained. "We did explosive movements, balance, isometrics or whatever you call it. He tied it all into a really good summer program and I think it's something I got better at.

"My lifts are better, I feel stronger, and when I get on the ice I'm able to do a little more in terms of skating.

"If you can't skate, you can't play."

MacIntyre still checks in at about 250 pounds, but says the weight "just changed places. I got a little leaner."

The 29-year-old waited a long time to break into the NHL and he can't wait to build on the progress he made last season.

"That's why I stayed here all summer. I got a break last fall and I got my foot in the door, now I have to get everything in the door. The Oilers were good enough to give me an opportunity and I have to do my part to become a better player."

The two hours worth of drills and three-on-three scrimmages at Pearn's camp are another step in the right direction. There's no dump and chase involved, no off the glass and out -- it's all skating, shooting, puck handling and passing.

"It's really helped me," said MacIntyre. "When you're in tighter confines you have to think and move quicker or else guys are right on top of you. You're not going to try some of the stuff you're doing out here in a real game because that'll get you into trouble and you'll be sitting on the bench, but making simple plays and simple passes and getting the shot off when you get the opportunity... handling the puck a lot, making quick plays and quick reads, it's a confidence builder.

"It's a long session, but it's good for a guy like me."

MacIntyre knows where his bread is buttered and has no visions of becoming a 20-goal scorer. When asked about his role upon arriving in Edmonton he said "it's not rocket science.''

But he knows he needs to be quicker on his feet and better with the puck if he's going to get more than a few prowling shifts against Minnesota and Calgary.

"Everybody knows I can fight, but I need to be able to do all the other stuff. Skating and working on my skills. They have to come a long way but it's a work in progress."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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