No home sweet home for Oiler callup

Edmonton's Chris Vande Velde shoves Los Angeles King and former Oiler Ryan Smyth during the Oilers...

Edmonton's Chris Vande Velde shoves Los Angeles King and former Oiler Ryan Smyth during the Oilers gameat Rexall Place on Tuesday. (Codie McLachlan, Edmonton Sun)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. Chris Vande Velde has had an eye on this game from the moment he was called up to play with the Edmonton Oilers.

For many, Thursdays contest against the Minnesota Wild is simply a formality, on the road to the end of another frustrating season for both sides.

But for the Oilers rookie, its a homecoming and an opportunity to play in an arena hes familiar with, in front of family and friends for the first time.

Ive played there (Xcel Energy Center) a bunch of times, Vande Velde said. Itll definitely be exciting and I have some family coming in and some friends. Its going to be a special game thats for sure. Its going to be the first time for some people to watch me play. Its going to be fun, Im looking forward to it.

Called up by the Oilers two weeks ago, Vande Velde plans on savouring every moment of the opportunity afforded to him by a rash of injuries.

Despite not scoring against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday no Oiler scored the native of Moorehead, Minn., had one of his strongest outings with the Oilers, earning nearly 20 minutes of ice time.

Hes very reliable, said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. To a point, you expect what he delivers and he does. Hes a little bit predictable in that way, which is a good thing.

Im just tying to give him an opportunity to play in a number of different circumstances and hes done well.

The Oilers fifth pick 97th overall in the 2005 NHL draft, Vande Velde, 24, is trying to impress enough so his name will be mentioned in conversations about next seasons roster.

His line, alongside Jordan Eberle and Teemu Hartikainen, was the most threatening in that 2-0 loss to the Kings.

I think its a great line, Vande Velde said. Im familiar with Hartikainen having played with him all year in Oklahoma City, and Eberle is a great player. Weve been getting lots of chances and I think its only a matter of time before I pop one in.

I think its big having played with Hartikainen before, we know where to go and we read off each other pretty well. I think we worked down low pretty well and if we can get the puck to Jordan, hes a pretty good scorer.

In six games with the Oilers since his call-up, Vande Velde has yet to register a point. However, the stage is set for him to net his first goal in front of a personal cheering section Thursday.

Im still looking forward to my first goal and hopefully it will happen soon, he said. It would be nice to score it in Minnesota, but well see.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


Videos

Photos