Fourth-line Oiler displays offensive touch

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

EDMONTON - Heading into the season, Ryan Jones was somewhat of a mystery to Edmonton Oilers fans.

Acquired off waivers from the Nashville Predators prior to the trade deadline last year, Jones suited up in just eight games for the Oilers due to a knee-on-knee hit from Derek Boogaard, which eventually put a premature end to his season.

Ten games into this year, Jones, 26, is beginning to display the attributes he brings to the table.

"It's what I expected of myself coming into the year," Jones said. "I think I can contribute offensively from time to time, it's something that I've done throughout my career.

"But it's not what my game is going to be judged on. It's going to be a matter of playing hard and finishing checks. Those goals are just bonuses."

Jones collected his third goal of the season in Tuesday's 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place.

The native of Chatham, Ont., helped the Oilers claw their way back into the contest by banging in a rebound past Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo early into the third period.

He also scored a goal in the Oilers 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Friday, converting a breakaway through the pads of goaltender Corey Crawford.

IN CLOSE

"The goals I score are usually from in close and I don't see many," Jones smiled. "But I'd like to think that I can score on a breakaway when I get the chance."

A former fourth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild, Jones was traded to the Nashville Predators where he spent two years in their system before being picked up by the Oilers.

Over 49 games in Edmonton and Nashville last season, Jones had eight goals and added four assist for 12 points.

This season, he's become a staple on the Oilers fourth line, playing alongside Colin Fraser and Zack Stortini or Steve MacIntyre.

"I think as a line we want to help the team any way we can, whether it's getting out there on the penalty kill, blocking shots, fighting, doing whatever we can to lift the bench up and chipping in goals whenever we can," Jones said. "We just need to be a line that (head coach) Tom (Renney) has confidence in and that he can throw out there any time against anybody. When we get to that point, we'll see a lot more ice time and our confidence will grow as a line."

The unit has had its ups and downs this season. They were planted to the bench after giving up two goals on their first two shifts earlier this year against the Wild.

On Tuesday, they found themselves out against every line the Canucks threw out, including their top line featuring Daniel and Henrik Sedin.

"I don't think that our line has had too many bad games," Jones said. "That one (against the Wild) was definitely one of them, but I think we've been fairly consistent just playing our style. I think (Tuesday) we played better than we have all year and we'll try to build on that."

Early in the season, the Oilers were using Jones as a penalty killer, however, those assignments have been reduced as the search for more effective combinations continues.

It's something that actually seems to have boosted his effectiveness in even-strength situations.

"We have to take some responsibility for his difficulty on the penalty kill and others since then," said Renney. "It's not all on the players, we as coaches ask ourselves every day if we're doing the right things.

"I do think it helps when you maybe have less responsibility and can concentrate on doing a deeper commitment to fewer needs."

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