SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Gagner a-head of the game

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:49 PM ET

Two years ago it took the traditionally slow-starting Sam Gagner 19 games to reach four points, and last year, after piling up a quick 10 out of the gate, he managed just 12 points in the next nine weeks.

Mr. October he aint.

But with four assists in four games, the 21-year-old seems a step ahead of where he usually is at this time.

I think hes quicker, said head coach Tom Renney. I think hes paid attention to proper training this past summer and hes more assertive as a player. In his mind hes free of being evaluated on every single shift. I think hes confident because of it.

Gagner did alter his of-season training, but says the early jump is more about his mental state.

Just a different mind-set, he said. I came in this year way less worried about what the results were going to be and what people were going to think. And I know I put the work in this summer so I gained confidence from that.

He knows he can get hot, but delivering on a more consistent basis is what makes somebody a legitimate, full-time top-six forward. Which is what he wants to be on a rebuilt Oilers team.

Ive had stretches in this league where Ive put up numbers, which has always been in the back of my head, he said. I still feel I can get to another level, but there hasnt really been that game where weve broken out and, because of that, theres been change.

Gagner seemed quite at home on a line with Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky (who wouldnt?), but the recent line shuffle could have him playing with Penner and Jordan Eberle next game. Continuing to produce, no matter who hes with, is a must.

To me, (linemates) dont matter, he said. We have so much skill on this team its going to help everybody out. When every line can score and makes plays, it helps everyone.

Maintaining the point point-per-game pace would be nice, but it remains to be seen if its realistic.

I did it my first couple of years, set goals for myself, and you worry so much about reaching them that you let it cloud whats really important, he said. The biggest change for me is worrying about the process, preparing well, recovering well and making sure my practice habits are good. From there results will come.

PROMOTION TIME: Magnus Paajarvi, who hasnt dazzled in the regular season like he did in the pre-season, skated with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky in practice Tuesday. Whether it stays that way for Thursdays game remains to be seen, but if it does, watching Hemsky and Paajarvi together could be interesting.

I want to focus on myself, be as good as I can, said Paajarvi. If I do that its going to work out just fine. I felt good playing wth Cogliano and Brule, too. Theyre all great guys. But Ive never played with Horc and Hemmer so I think thats going to be a good thing. Well see what happens.


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