Brule, Cogliano finding Oilers niche

Edmonton Oilers' Gilbert Brule celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with Andrew...

Edmonton Oilers' Gilbert Brule celebrates his goal against the Ottawa Senators with Andrew Cogliano. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

MONTREAL — There are only so many job descriptions on an NHL team and the ones of blue chip superstars in training appear to be taken in Edmonton.

But that doesn’t mean there can’t be room for a couple of fast, hard-working and reliable forwards who haven’t forgotten what those mesh things at either end of the ice are for.

At least that’s what Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule hoping as they try and carve out niches for themselves in the Oilers future.

After a first quarter of the season in which it looked like they were playing themselves off the team — Cogliano had four points in his first 20 games, Brulet had three — the often-overlooked tandem is springing to life.

“Me and Cogs have been working hard,” said Brule, who has two goals and an assist in the last three starts, two of them Oilers wins. “I just don’t think we’ve had a lot of puck luck, you know, and finally they’re starting to go in.”

Cogliano’s luck seems to have turned after he was high sticked in the mouth and took a puck on the jaw in the space of a week. Like it could have gotten any worse.

“We weren’t happy with how things were going,” said Cogliano, adding they were happy with their effort but it never seemed to show up on the scoresheet. “I think now … I want to give some credit to ourselves. I think we’re pretty good players, we can create things. I think we just needed an extra push.”

Head coach Tom Renney is happy to see them rewarded for their efforts, but even though the stats were pretty barren in the first 20 games, he wasn’t unhappy with what they were doing before.

“They’ve been good anyway this year,” he said. “They’re a line with an identity, they know how to play the game 200 x 85. And Penner is such a big strong man that he helps smaller players maintain control of the puck at the other end of the rink.

“I think as long as they do it by doing the right thing away from the puck in the first place, we’re fine, we’re not into track meets.”

With a lot of other players ahead of them on the premium ice time waiting list, Cogliano and Brule know they’ll have to make their numbers the hard way.

“I definitely have to play harder at even strength because you’re not always going to get the power-play time,” said Brule. “If I do get it it’s going to be hard-earned.”

And even then, it might only be a sliver.

“The big thing for guys like Gilbert is we’re trying to give some minutes to some young people and grow some other players as well,” said Renney. “But he’s a very important part of our team, there’s no question about that. He can jump into any number of locations and help us. There’s opportunity there for a guy like Gilbert.”

Brule, re-inventing himself after being drafted sixth overall as a first-line winger in 2005, still has the tools to be an effective player. He’s fast and tenacious and hasn’t lost the hands that made him a 100-point guy in junior. And he’s improved enough in his own end of the ice that he can still be part of the strategy when he’s not scoring.

“He’s certainly paid attention to the other side of the puck when it’s not going in for him,” said Renney. “There are other ways to contribute when you’re not scoring and we know full well that we’re going to have to do it by committee with this team.

“The bottom line is he’s an abrasive little guy, he can take the body, he does go hard to the net, he’s not afraid of the puck, and as long as he plays like that we’re fine.”

Follow me at Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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