SUN Hockey Pool

VandeVelde looking for his first NHL goal

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:24 PM ET

DENVER - Chris VandeVelde is getting closer.

However, the Edmonton Oilers forward is running out of time to collect his first NHL goal this season.

It's something he'd like to get out of the way before attending training camp next year.

"It is a big deal," VandeVelde said. "Obviously everyone wants their first goal, and I think I'm playing pretty well, so hopefully I'll be able to get it."

Having been called up towards the end of the season to fill in for the numerous injuries the Oilers have suffered up front, the rookie has had ample opportunities.

Against the Vancouver Canucks, VandeVelde fired a shot over the shoulder of goaltender Roberto Luongo and off the crossbar.

Friday against the Minnesota Wild, he collected an assist and had three shots on net.

"I had some chances (Friday) and they're just not bouncing in," VandeVelde said. "But I'm not going to change anything, I'm not going to go away and do something I don't normally do. I'm going to keep it simple and maybe I can get one here in my last game."

Selected in the fourth round -- 97th overall -- by the Oilers in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, VandeVelde has played 11 games with the big club since getting called up from their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City in mid-March.

In that time, the native of Moorehead, Minn., has seen his ice time steadily increase. He's played over 20 minutes in his last four games.

"It definitely helps to get the trust from the coach," VandeVelde said. "He's been playing us a boatload. It's a good sign and things are going pretty well."

Playing on a line with Teemu Hartikainen has helped VandeVelde, having developed chemistry with his fellow rookie with the Oklahoma City Barons.

Along with Jordan Eberle, the line features skill as well as size and grit.

"I think we've grown into playing pretty well here and we've grown into our role," VandeVelde said. "We're moving the puck well and we're both pretty big, physical guys, so I think we can be effective that way."

Regardless of whether VandeVelde is able to net his first goal on Sunday, the experience he's been able to gain with the Oilers will prove valuable when he battles for a fulltime roster spot next season.

"It definitely helps just being here and knowing everyone here," he said. "It's a big help and I'm just looking forward to next year I guess."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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