SUN Hockey Pool

Dance card empty for Oilers’ MacIntyre

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:56 PM ET

VANCOUVER — When most of the NHL is scared to fight you, you better be able to do more than fight.

That’s where Oilers tough guy Steve MacIntyre is at right now, as he spends his days trying to improve his footwork and his rare game nights trying to find a dance partner.

NHL tough guys don’t mind taking a few shots, but they do mind taking them from guys who can end their season with one clean punch. And after what MacIntyre did to Raitis Ivanans in the season opener (the Flames tough guy hasn’t played since), opponents are treating him like he has a permanent case of swine flu.

His only takers in his subsequent eight starts were Derek Boogaard and Colton Orr, who took a knee when they fought in Toronto and wanted nothing to do with the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder when the teams met again in Edmonton. Friday night in Vancouver he couldn’t get any action if he offered to go with two guys in a handicap match.

That’s fine — there’s no law that says he has to drop them every game. He does, however, want to get to a place where he can make a solid impact without throwing a punch.

“It’s an opportunity that when you’re out there, to play,” MacIntyre said of his unanswered invitations. “Every guy who does my job, including myself, wants to play, to help the team.”

Tom Renney has been frugal with MacIntyre’s opportunities, though. He likes the physical presence but isn’t confident enough in the rest of the package to make him an everyday player -— or at least a once-a-week player. So the footwork and puck-handling drills continue.

“That’s part of being a professional, challenging yourself to be better,” said MacIntyre, who’s played four of Edmonton’s last 24 games. “That’s the ultimate goal, to be a better hockey player. If I can get better at a couple of little things every day, it’s inevitable.”

He’d like to go out there and be a bully, use his size and strength to be an intimidator and make the fights come to him, but referees usually have their arms halfway in the air the moment MacIntyre steps on the ice, so he ends up spending every shift on a razor thin line.

“I go out there and I take care of my guys, and I try not to put myself at a disadvantage by taking a dumb penalty,” he said. “The game, with the rule changes, you really have to walk a thin line. Us tough guys, we have to be conscious of that and can’t take dumb penalties because if you do that you’re not going to play.”

He’s not going to complain, though. When you’ve been where he has, fighting for peanuts on the minor-league gladiator circuit, the challenges he’s facing up here will never knock him down.

“You have to keep it in perspective, take it one day at a time. I know it’s cliche but that’s the truth. Being a professional, you’re here for a reason. This is the second kick (with the Oilers), so they see something they like. I have to keep developing as a player and everything will take care of itself.”

HORC ON ROAD BACK: Captain Shawn Horcoff skated in full equipment Friday for the first time since injuring his knee on Dec. 8

“The knee feels really good,” her said. “I haven’t skated in a month so it’s going to take 10 days or a couple of weeks to get it going, but it feels good.

“There comes a point where you’re good enough to skate, just stay away from battle drills. I want to get out there and get my timing up, try to get as many practices with the guys as I can in the next couple of weeks so when I do come back I’m ready.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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