EDMONTON - Jeff Petry knows the job is there for the taking.
The Edmonton Oilers went into training camp this year with a pretty good picture of what their defensive corps would look like.
There was really only one spot on the blue-line up for grabs, and so far, Petry is making a strong case to claim it.
“I felt like I started out training camp a little slow, trying to get used to the speed again,” Petry said. “Summer skates are a lot different than they are here. But I thought (Tuesday) night’s game was the best one I’ve played at camp. Hopefully I can continue to keep growing.
“I know there is that spot available and I wanted to come in with an attitude to make the team and then go from there.”
The Oilers are looking at Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid, Cam Barker, Theo Peckham, and Andy Sutton as their top six defenceman.
The seventh spot on the roster is currently up for grabs between Petry, Taylor Chorney, Taylor Fedun, Corey Potter and Colten Teubert.
There could be an extra spot available if Whitney is unable to play the regular-season opener because of his ankle injury.
“You can’t look at the numbers, you have to go out and play and make it a hard decision for the coaches to send you down and make it an easy one to keep you here,” said Petry. “Last year helped a lot just getting familiar with the guys around here, getting familiar with the coaching staff and getting a taste of what it takes to be up here and to stick up here. That helped the nerves coming into camp this year.”
The Oilers second pick — 45th overall — in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the native of Ann Arbor, Mich., played three years at Michigan State before turning pro.
Last season, Petry spent the first part of the season with the Oklahoma City Barons before being called up to play with the Oilers in the latter part of the year.
He finished with a goal and four assists in 35 games, making a good impression of himself in the process.
“I think Jeff has come in here and looked certainly more comfortable in his second camp,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “He’s more comfortable with who he is and how he plays. When he plays with that type of confidence and when he asserts himself, he’s a very good player for us.
“He’s been good so far, he continues to do the things that he needs to do in order to make a statement for himself. There’s competition here and there should be and I think he’s measured up.”
During his first stint with the Oilers, Petry was able to maintain his spot on the blue-line by keeping his game simple.
This year, the Oilers will be looking for a bit more out of him.
“When I first came up last year, it was strictly just taking care of the defensive zone,” Petry said. “Now I’m jumping into the play. The coaches have been telling me to jump into the play when the time is right, so now, I’m just trying to integrate that into my game.”
One of the things that could keep Petry from making the team out of training camp, however, may have to do with how the Oilers plan to utilize him during the season.
If he spends more time in the press box as the club’s seventh defenceman than on the ice, it may be better suited for the team to send him back to the AHL, where he’ll be logging first-paring minutes.
“Nobody wants to be seventh defenceman and in terms of development of a player, we’d have to look at that hard,” Renney said. “If six, seven is almost like a goaltender rotation, then that’s a different story, but if it’s bide your time, then I’m not sure that’s healthy.”