Gagner tastes a lot of pine

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Sam Gagner, like everybody else on the Oilers, is going to have to work for his ice time.

Pat Quinn made that very apparent Saturday, limiting the former first round draft pick to 5:04 worth of fourth-line minutes through the first two periods against Calgary.

Gagner, who averaged 16:45 last year, didn't need a translator to figure things out.

He needed to be better, to bring more to the table.

So he did. The 20-year-old got into a pretty good scrap with Craig Conroy after Calgary made it 3-1 in the second and scored what would have been the game-tying goal (were it not for Nikolai Khabibulin's ham-handed puck handling) 13 minutes into the third.

"It's never a position I want to be in," he said of his decreased role. "I want to be a guy who his teammates can count on to produce some offence. I felt like the only way to get a chance to do that was to make a statement, show the guys in the room that I'll do anything."

The coach, too, since it's obvious Quinn is harder to satisfy than Craig MacTavish was.

"That's a good thing for us, we want to be accountable in here and we want to earn our minutes," said Gagner. "When guys are playing bad there are going to be consequences, when they're playing good they want to be rewarded.

"I want to be better. I want this year to be a lot better year for me. I think it's just making a statement in general, to my teammates, to my coaches. I wanted to go out there and show some passion, show that I wasn't going to settle. Hopefully I can continue to improve and continue to get better as the season goes along."

Quinn liked the effort.

"Sam did well," said the coach. "I'm still in the learning stage with Sam. He just didn't show (in training camp) what was expected, based on what I'd learned about him. Last night he did."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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