SUN Hockey Pool

Horcoff snake-bit

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:09 AM ET

Up to this point, he's being outscored by Jason Strudwick, Ladislav Smid, Ryan Stone and 10 other teammates.

Heading into tonight's encounter against the Vancouver Canucks, Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff has just a goal and an assist on the season.

"I'd be more frustrated if I wasn't getting chances," Horcoff said yesterday.

"I'm getting shots on net, I'm getting quality chances, but the puck is just not going in right now.

"You have to be patient, you have to think it's going to come. It's a lot different than last year, when I was struggling a lot. I didn't feel good out there and I wasn't doing much of anything.

"This year, the chances are there and I thought in the last game we created a lot. I just have to stick with it. I know it's going to come."

Horcoff, 31, has yet to regain the form that saw him score 21 goals in 53 games during the 2007-08 campaign. He was Edmonton's lone representative at the NHL all-star game that year and was on pace to record the first 30-goal season of his career.

However, the native of Trail, B.C., had to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery and he's been battling back ever since.

Last season, Horcoff finished with 17 goals and 36 assists.

"Last year, I just didn't feel great," Horcoff said. "I struggled the whole year with just trying to feel fresh. Early in the year it was tough, coming off the shoulder surgery. I hadn't played in a while and the game seemed really fast. It took a while for me to get going."

This season, expectations are high on Horcoff, due in large part to the $7 million US he's collecting ($5.5-million salary cap hit), having signed a lucrative contract extension before last season.

With the Oilers posting a winning record, the hammer has yet to drop on Horcoff due to his lack of production. The fact he contributes in other ways -- specifically in the face-off circle and on the penalty kill -- have also helped cut him some slack.

"It's always like that when you're winning. It makes things a little bit easier," Horcoff said.

"You hope to find your game quickly. By the 10-game mark you should be going, so I'm hoping to find it here quickly.

"But I want to keep doing the same things. I just need a lucky bounce here or there, get a little bit more confidence and maybe a little more luck around the net."

While the puck may not be going in for him, Horcoff is getting some good looks at the net.

He's tied for the team lead with 15 shots so far this season -- a good number of them off feeds from Ales Hemsky, who is currently out of the lineup with the flu.

Tonight Horcoff is expected to play between Mike Comrie and Robert Nilsson, two pretty good passers in their own right.

"As a coach coming in, you have expectations for him, he has a history of being a pretty good scorer," said head coach Pat Quinn.

"I don't think he's ever thrown amazing numbers up there, but he's certainly expected to be a leader in that department. We expect the same thing, I don't see any change.

"The fact that he doesn't have a lot now is not a cause for concern. We were looking to get some balance in our lineup.

"As far as any adjustments are concerned he and Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) probably had a little bit more of a change to make philosophically the way they've played a little bit.

"They'll get through it -- and they'll get their points."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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