Hats off to Oil GM's son

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

UNIONDALE -- Steve Tambellini doesn't know whether to shed tears of joy, or sorrow.

His son, Jeff, has six goals in the last five games. His team, Edmonton, has seven.

Doh! I mean Hooray! I mean Doh!

Blood is thicker than the logo, so it'll be with mixed emotions that the Oilers general manager watches Edmonton take on Jeff and the New York Islanders tonight. The perfect scenario from his standpoint would be his son getting another hat-trick and the Oilers winning 4-3.

'HUGE GAME'

"We want to win," he said. "Obviously I hope he does well, but I'm not really concerned with what they do. It's a huge game for us. Huge game. We have a lengthy span of road games coming up in the next month, so we want to go home on a good note, with a better compete level than what we've had."

They might want to take a lesson from Jeff, who notched the first hat-trick of his career Saturday night on Long Island, with his dad in the building to watch it happen.

"As a parent obviously there's an emotional connection there when you're watching a hockey game," said Tambellini, who flew into New York with the Oilers after their 2-0 afternoon loss in Boston and headed straight to Nassau Coliseum. "I'm very proud of him. I'm glad he's having the success; I know the work that he's put in."

Tambellini would have loved to be hanging around outside the Isles dressing room doling out hugs and high fives with his son, but as an enemy GM he has to keep his professional distance.

"Absolutely," he said. "I have nothing to do with what happens there. Like every young guy trying to establish himself it's a work in progress. It's none of my business."

But they did plan to have dinner together last night.

'PRETTY SPECIAL'

"That's the best game I've ever played," said Jeff. "So to have him in the building was pretty special."

It's been a grind to get here for the 25-year-old winger. Drafted 27th overall in 2003 by Los Angeles, he's spent more games in the AHL (169) than the NHL (152), and earlier this season was a healthy scratch to make room in the lineup after the Isles claimed Rob Schremp off of waivers from Edmonton.

But he's finding a groove lately.

"I think every player who gets to the NHL has to go through some sort of situation where they're pushed," said his father. "Not too many people get to the NHL without having to deal with some kind of adversity. It's how you respond to it, you go one way or the other and the guys who find a way can sustain a career. The other side, you had your chance that's it."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA

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WHO TO WATCH

KEEP YOUR EYE ON THESE TWO PLAYERS IN TONIGHT'S GAME

ROBERT NILSSON

The former New York Islander will probably want to turn in a big night against the team that drafted him 15th overall in 2003 and then traded him for Ryan Smyth in 2007.

JEFF TAMBELLINI

The son of Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini is running hot right now. Coming off his first career hat-trick Saturday night against the Sabres he has six goals in his last five games.


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