SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' call-ups deserved Saturday's win

ROBERT TYCHKOWSK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:24 PM ET

They're understaffed and over-matched and being force fed a steady diet of humility and defeat, but Tom Renney's collection of rookies, journeymen and American Hockey League call-ups doesn't quit.

They've worked as hard as anyone they've played since their stars went down and the Oklahoma Airlift began, but because of gaping holes where their skill and experience should be, they had nothing to show for it but loss after loss after heartbreaking loss.

They deserved Saturday night.

They needed that win a lot more than Vancouver did, and it showed. During the game as well as after it.

"At some point you look around at the guys in the locker-room and see how much they're pouring into every game," said winger Ryan Jones. "And you just want them to get some sort of victory."

You know it's a good room when players want to win for the guy in the next stall as badly as they want to win for themselves. And that was the mood after Edmonton upset the President's Trophy winners 4-1 on Saturday's nationally televised stage.

"I'm really happy for the guys," said Magnus Paajarvi. "We've worked so hard. That's what you have to do in this league, you have to give yourself the chance to have the same battle level, even higher, than the other team. Then you get games like that -- goals, momentum. Just a really, really good victory."

Some will argue that Edmonton didn't get Vancouver's best game -- that they took the Oilers for granted two days after clinching first overall -- and that might be true to some extent, but it doesn't matter. What matters to the likes of Linus Omark, Liam Reddox, Teemu Hartikainen and Chris VandeVelde is that their best game really can be good enough.

"The whole night had opportunity written all over it," said head coach Tom Renney. "We responded well to that and that's a team that's growing up before your eyes.

"All we've ever suggested is that this team would do that for its fans. Some of the faces have changed, there's no doubt about that, but we are growing up in front of people's eyes and gaining the respect that we deserve."

The foot soldiers weren't bit players in the win, either. VandeVelde played 20:16, Reddox 19:15 (4:10 of it shorthanded). Hartikainen had a sweet assist and drew a penalty shot. Jeff Petry was plus 1-in 19:10 minutes of work.

"The call-ups have done really well," said Renney. "I don't think there's a guy here who hasn't contributed in his own way to help us stay competitive.

"You can go through all of them, from Taylor Chorney to Petry, VandeVelde doing a nice job for us at centre ice, showing us he has a two-way mentality. Ryan O'Marra with some size up the middle and an ability to win faceoffs. Every one of them has contributed in one way or the other."

That's why nights like Saturday in Vancouver are so special.

"They're really working and really trying to engage themselves in a game plan that will give us some success," said Renney. "They know that they're under some scrutiny in terms of what the long-term picture looks like, but they've really kept the team game in the forefront. I think that's a credit to them. It would be really nice to see them bang off a few wins down the stretch."

LATE HITS... The Oilers had Sunday off, so Gilbert Brule, complaining of light-headedness during the Vancouver game, and defenceman Ladislav Smid, who left the rink in a walking cast, will be evaluated Monday.

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: TYCHKOWSKI


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