Tough day for Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:32 PM ET

EDMONTON - Entertaining to watch, uncomfortable to play.

The Edmonton Oilers, often the former but seldom the latter, are suddenly nobody’s soft spot on the schedule anymore.

After spending the last few years loading up on talented young players who can bring people out of their seats with their skill, the Oilers added some dudes who can do the same with their fists.

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini addressed Edmonton’s lack of grit in a major way Friday, signing unrestricted free agents Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk and then trading Kurtis Foster to Anaheim for 6-6, 245-pound defenceman Andy Sutton.

“Man, that’s a great combination,” said newly-signed defenceman Cam Barker, as excited as anyone about who’s coming to Edmonton with him. “With the amount of talent and young guys the Oilers have, you need guys like Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk and Andy Sutton. Not only are they great guys in the locker room, they are guys who will definitely keep the other team’s honest.”

Eager, who won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks two years ago, is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound winger who can play as well as fight. The Sharks saw enough of him in the 2010 Conference final loss to Chicago that they made a point of getting him this year.

“I can be a physical-type player but I think I can play the game also,” said Eager, who’s happy to be getting in on the ground floor of this rebuild. “I want to be a big part of the team and I want to be a big part off the ice as well, in the dressing room being a good guy, getting along with the guys and building that way also.

“You have to look out for the guys you play with and the guys you care about. I’ve done that everywhere I’ve been. That’s what makes good teams; having each other’s backs goes a long way.”

The good thing about Eager is that every once in a while the wires touch and he’ll do something scary (ask Daniel Sedin after Kevin Bieksa beat up Patrick Marleau) to make the other team think twice.

“He’s a big man at the right age who’s played on very good teams,” said Tambellini. “He’s an emotional player and I wanted some emotion in our dressing room. I wanted people who can pick up the pace of a game.”

Hordichuk doesn’t have to be asked twice, either, and can also take regular shifts on what figures to be a momentum changing fourth line.

“I think I’ll be a perfect fit,” said Hordichuk, who checks in a 6-1, 212. “I’m excited to be up there and being back in the west ... doing some damage out there.”

One way or the other.

“If you’re a bigger guy, it’s tough to be out there and get the fights when nobody wants to fight you,” he said. “But the thing that I learned is that as long as you’re creating havoc out there and finishing your checks, it forces the other guys to step up. If you can hit and be physical and tuck one in here and there it makes your stock that much more valuable.”

Sutton isn’t a heavyweight in the fighting sense of the word, but he is a big body that opposition forwards do not like to play against. He makes a suddenly-tougher team that much more menacing.

“When teams come into the building here it’s going to be a little different atmosphere,” said Hordichuk. “I think that’s what the Oilers want to have, that combination of grit and skill. That’s the kind of team that usually has success in the playoffs.”


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