Opportunity Jacques

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

It was all going so well, then he ran Fredrik Sjostrom from behind.

But up to that point J-F Jacques looked extremely comfortable on the Edmonton Oilers' top line alongside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky in a 5-3 loss to the Calgary Flames last night.

Whether that's where he lines up when they games actually count for something, however, remains to be seen.

"Getting a chance to play with Horc and Hemmer is a big opportunity for me," Jacques said. "I'm just going to try and play my game even if it's on the first line -- that's my focus when I'm out there. I know I'm not expected to go out and score every night, there, but I'm going to keep playing physical."

It's the third consecutive game Jacques has been slotted onto the first line. Last night, he scored his second goal of the year, snapping a shot past Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff from a bad angle.

In the second he had a golden opportunity to collect his third, but was unable to get good wood on a bouncing puck in front of the net.

Later in the frame, Jacques hit Sjostrom from behind into the boards and was assessed a minor penalty. Then when challenged by Robyn Regehr following the play, Jacques dropped the big Flames D-man with a right hand.

"I think J-F has come a long way," said Horcoff. "He's a guy that works extremely hard, has a lot more confidence and I think there's a lot more to come. He's shooting the puck, it's going in for him, he's having a great camp."

Jacques is a good enough skater to be able to keep up with the top line and so far through the preseason has shown an ability to finish off opportunities.

"He's a big body," Horcoff said. "I really like where his game is. He seems to be more comfortable more at home here this year. You can see it in his game, he's come a long way for us."

The Oilers have been unable to fill the void on the left side of the top line since Ryan Smyth's departure. There have been a number of players who have auditioned in the role, but no one has been able to claim it.

"I don't necessarily expect to stay there," Jacques said. "It's been good so far getting that opportunity in training camp. If you look at the guys I'm playing with, it's been an honour to play with guys like Horcoff and Hemsky. It makes things a lot easier."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos