Peckham's learning curve

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

EDMONTON -- At a different time, under dissimilar circumstances, with something larger on the line, Tom Renney would not have them on the ice.

But with his team riding out the season dead last in the NHL standings, the associate coach of the Oilers figured it would be a good opportunity to see how a pair of young defencemen respond to pressure.

So instead of sending out his top tandem of Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert in the dying moments against the Detroit Red Wings Friday, Renney went with Theo Peckham and Aaron Johnson.

“The bottom line is that’s what we’re looking to do right now,” said Renney.

“We have to put people in those positions when we get those opportunities.

“We could have taken a timeout and put Whitney and Gibby out there or Chorns (Taylor Chorney) and Struddy (Jason Strudwick), but I wanted Peckham to have an opportunity to be out there in that type of circumstance.

“He had played a really good game and I think that’s what we should dwell on.”

The move didn’t work out, as Peckham tried to kill out the clock by lying on the puck in the corner.

It eventually squirted out to Pavel Datsyuk, whose shot bounced off Johnson’s skate in front of the Edmonton net and right to Brian Rafalski, who scored to tie the game with 0.2 of a second left in regulation time.

“I saw him change us with 30 seconds left and I didn’t say anything. I figured that it was a chance to put the young guys in that situation,” said Whitney.

“When you’re not going to make the playoffs, you have to try new things.

“Unfortunately they tied it up, but it’s good for guys like that, who are younger, to experience those situations.”

The Oilers were eventually able to pull out the win in a shootout, giving goaltender Devan Dubnyk his first career victory.

That made the lesson a little easier to take.

“When I got the call to go out there, my first thought was not to let them score — and then they scored,” Peckham said.

“But it was cool. I’ve been playing a lot of minutes lately, and the confidence they showed in me to put me out there with 30 seconds left was good.

“I tried my best to get the job done for Dubie, but those are the breaks sometimes.”

Peckham wasn’t solely to blame for the last-second collapse. He didn’t get much support from the rest of the Oilers on the ice.

When the puck eventually made its way to Rafalski, the Red Wings defenceman was all alone in front of the net.

In hindsight, Peckham would probably not have dived on the puck in the corner in an effort to kill out the clock.

By learning that lesson, sending him out in that situation proved to be a good thing.

In the future, when there’s more on the line in terms of the outcome, Peckham can look back at Saturday’s experience.

“I was a little surprised to get the call, but I was probably more excited to get the opportunity to try to get Dubie his first win,” Peckham said.

“It was good to be out there, but it didn’t sit very well when they scored.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


Photos