Potulny's rise continues

DEREK VAN DIEST, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:16 PM ET

Considering his season started in the minors, Ryan Potulny’s rise has been impressive.

On Friday when the Oilers host the Detroit Red Wings, Potulny will skate between Robert Nilsson and Marc Pouliot on the second line, expected to provide offence for a club challenged in that department.

“We’ve been trying some different lines lately, we’ve been trying to find some different chemistry and trying to find some offensive spark,” said Potulny. “It’s fun to be in the middle of those two. You just have to get open because they’re pretty good passers. I guess I’m more of a shooter, so hopefully we can complement each other well.”

Potulny, 25, has 15 goals and 10 assists on the year. Only Dustin Penner with 26 has scored more for the Oilers this season.

He collected his latest goal in a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday in the final game of a four-game road trip.

“I think as the trip went on I felt I played better,” Potulny said. “I thought I started slow, but as the trip went on I felt I got a little stronger and felt real good in Minnesota.”

Originally called up to fill a role on the Oilers’ bottom two lines, Potulny has been one of the club’s pleasant surprises this season. He was originally acquired in a trade from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for D-man Danny Syvret and spent the majority of last season in the minors.

Since his call-up in November, Potulny has been used up and down the lineup.

“I’ve played with Nilsson before, but I’ve never played with Pouliot,” he said. “They’re both pretty skilled guys. I just have to try and create room for them by trying to use speed through the middle. With Nilsson, I have to try and open things up for him, let him handle the puck and let him do his thing. I have to get open for him and try to be ready to shoot at all times, because he can find you with some passes that other people can’t make.”

With just 176 goals this season, the second-lowest total in the league, the Oilers are desperate to find some offence. The team is averaging just over two and-a-half goals per game, the lowest mark in league.

“We’ve been searching a lot as far as the combinations go,” said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. “Ryan has been a real consistent player for us. He’s actually on a scoring pace that is the best on our team, other than Penner early on. Nilsson is a real good playmaker and so that seemed to be a combination that made some sense.”

Despite being out of the playoff race, there is still plenty on the line for a player like Potulny, who’s still not certain where he fits into the team’s future plans.

Such is the case for a number of players heading down the stretch.

“A lot of these guys, the school is still out on them because they play the game up and down and we’re trying to find out who are going to be the guys that are going to level that out at a high level,” Quinn said.

“When we see the good stuff we want to see it all the time, or lots of the time, not up and down.

“At the beginning of the year I really wanted balance in our lineup. Early on we had it, but then we ran into all these sorts of setbacks and we lost that sort of balance and now we’re looking for one guy to do that for us all the time or looking for one scoring line, and it hasn’t turned out that way for us.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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