Peckam battles for Oilers blueline spot

DEREK VAN DIEST, Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:32 AM ET

It was perhaps Theo Peckhams’s last chance to leave an impression.

With three players appearing to be battling for one spot on the Edmonton Oilers blue line, Peckham was the one auditioning Friday night against the Calgary Flames.

The Oilers defenceman is in a fight with Richard Petiot and Shawn Belle for the final spot on defence.

“There are a couple of things I have to clean up, but I think for the most part, I played pretty well,” Peckham said. “There were a couple of turnovers that I understand can’t happen in this league and you have to work at it. You just have to stay focused in practice and it’ll get better every day.

“You just have to clean up the little things.”

Peckham, 22, picked up an assist in the 5-1 loss to the Flames, but finished with a minus-one rating. He was victimized by Jarome Iginla late in the second period and was on the ice for the Flames fourth goal by Jon Rheault in the third.

Regardless, Peckham did make his presence felt out on the ice.

Room for improvement

“I came in healthy and I felt that I was in good shape and I’m trying to give myself every opportunity,” Peckham said. “I think I’ve played OK. There’s obviously room for improvement, but overall, I think I’ve played well in training camp.”

The native of Richmond Hill, Ont., was the incumbent coming into camp and therefore favoured to take one of the last spots on defence.

However, Petiot, 28, has made a strong case for himself with a pair of solid games where his defensive abilities and physical play have stood out.

Belle, 25, is also in the running despite having only played one exhibition game so far.

“It’s tough, you’re counting the days and you know that last cut is just around the corner,” Peckham said. “But you can’t worry about that too much, that’s only going to affect you negatively. You have to go out and just pretend it’s a normal game, just go out and play your game and put your best foot forward.”

Having been unable to make a good impression at last year’s training camp due to an ankle injury, Peckham felt healthy going into this year and had a good opportunity to make the team at the start of the season.

His chances of claiming a spot on the roster are still good.

Picked up pace

“I feel a lot better out there, last year with the ankle injury, the concussion, the knee and then the shoulder, everything just dragged on,” Peckham said. “The way I look at it, I got everything out of the way last year. I definitely feel a lot better out there, I was on the ice for about four weeks before camp and skating with NHL guys it forces you to pick up your pace. For the most part, I feel pretty good out there.”

Regardless of which players get cut, all three would have to clear waivers in order to go down to the Oilers AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

The Oilers have one exhibition game remaining, heading to Calgary on Sunday for the rematch where Belle is expected to make his final case to stay.

“They don’t say much to us, they keep it pretty close to the vest, which is the right way to do it,” Peckham said. “We’ve spoken about it, we all know what’s at stake. It’s an old cliché, but you have to give it 110%. We all know that and we’re all professionals about it.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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