Arsene savouring moment with Oilers

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

SASKATOON -- Dean Arsene is savouring every moment.

Last night, the 29-year-old journeyman defenceman played his third exhibition game with the Edmonton Oilers, the third NHL exhibition game of his career.

"It's always exciting when you get to put on the jersey and you get to be on the ice with everyone," said Arsene prior to last night's game. "You try not to get too wrapped up in it, you just want to play the game and not try to do things that are not my style and try to force things, and that's when you get into trouble. I'm just trying to keep it simple and play physical, and I've been fortunate to get in the lineup."

Undrafted, it has taken the native of Abbottsford, B.C., eight years to get to this point.

After finishing his junior career with the Kootenay Ice, which included a year in Edmonton with the franchise, Arsene spent his entire career in the minors.

He's attending his ninth NHL camp, but it wasn't until the Oilers opened the exhibition season in Calgary that the six-foot-two, 212-lb. defenceman put on an NHL jersey.

"I've been with Calgary twice, Vancouver once, Rangers twice, and Washington two or three times. It's been a lot," Arsene said. "It's tough. Obviously every year that passes, it's one of those things that weighs on your mind. But that's what you play for, it's one of those things since you're a little kid, you want to play in the NHL. I was never drafted and a lot of times the draft picks get a better chance than you do. My first couple of years, I had some injuries that I wasn't able to play and since then, for whatever reason, the chips haven't fallen into play."

Signed as an unrestricted free agent this summer, Arsene, who is on a one-year, two-way contract, is expected to provide depth on the Oilers' blue-line as well as leadership for their AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Arsene spent the last five years with the Hershey Bears, winning a Calder Cup championship last season. He had the option of going back to the Bears, but decided to try his luck with the Oilers in the hope of eventually getting a shot with the big club.

"I was in a good situation in Hershey, they have a good organization, but you're always looking to move up and when I found out Edmonton was interested, I jumped at the chance," Arsene said. "Sometimes you need a new look and a fresh start. I think I've had one here. I'm pretty excited to play in exhibition and I'm just going to try and keep it going."

So far, Arsene has made a good impression with the club, although there's little chance of him sticking with the team once final cuts take place.

Within two minutes of his first game, he had plastered Calgary Flames' forward Garth Murray, and then handled himself well in the ensuing fight.

It's expected he'll be one of the captains in Springfield and could be one of the first call-ups if the Oilers go through injury problems on their blue-line this season.

"I really like how he's been, he's competed hard, and clearly he's got some courage," said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. "He's involved in the battle for the puck and he does all the little things well.

"The group of defencemen they had here last year has rated fairly well as far as our organization, so it would take something really special to crack the lineup. But to have a guy, and to know you have a guy that may be able to fill in is important. Who knows what will happen? There might be reason to have him on this roster and I wouldn't feel uncomfortable with that."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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