SUN Hockey Pool

Souray returns, Arsene sits

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

ATLANTA -- It's still nine years and counting.

Yesterday, defenceman Dean Arsene was ready to make his NHL debut filling in on the Edmonton Oilers blue-line.

However, Sheldon Souray, who has been out of the lineup since getting tripped into the end boards by Calgary Flames winger Jarome Iginla five weeks ago was cleared to play and was inserted instead.

"I had a sense that (Souray) was going to play because he was working on some power-play things in the warm-up," said Arsene, who took the warm-up yesterday in a 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. "The way I look at it, it's been nine years to get called up, what's a few more days? I don't know if I'll get in or not, I'll just keep the same attitude I've always had, just keep working hard and maybe I'll get an opportunity."

Arsene was called up by the Oilers on Saturday from their AHL affiliate in Springfield.

The 29-year-old native of Murrayville, B.C., spent the last six years with the Hershey Bears before signing a minor-league contract with the Oilers this off season. In all his time in Hershey, he had never been called up to the NHL.

"When you get called up, you always know there are guys out and stuff, but I didn't know how close (Souray) was to coming back," Arsene said. "But it was good to see him back on the ice."

Souray had been practising with the team on the road. He had a strong return, playing over 25 minutes and finishing with a plus-one rating.

"It took a little while to try to get in a rhythm, but I felt all right, I have a pretty steady partner (Steve Staios) which helps," Souray said. "I think we're all on the same page, I probably could have used a little more jump early and throughout the game. But it feels good to jump in and get my feet wet.

"This game wasn't overly fast, it wasn't overly physical, it was one of those games that you can kind of feel your way into," Souray said. "But when you get cleared to play, you don't think about getting hit. Once the first period was over, I felt like things were coming back a little more natural."

Souray's return gave the Oilers six healthy regulars on the blue-line. He could sympathize with Arsene's plight.

"I've been in that situation before," Souray said. "Not nine years, but as a young guy. Sometimes it takes longer than other times. I'll give him credit, he came in and acted like one of the guys and he's a good guy. He'll get his opportunity for sure. It just wasn't today."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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