SUN Hockey Pool

Petrell grabs Oilers opportunity

Oilers forward Lennart Petrell pulls the sweater of Wild forward Brett Bulmer over his head as they...

Oilers forward Lennart Petrell pulls the sweater of Wild forward Brett Bulmer over his head as they fight in St. Paul, Minn., Sep. 30, 2011. (ERIC MILLER/Reuters)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:17 AM ET

ST. PAUL, MINN. - While many of his Finnish countrymen dreamed of a life in the big league, Lennart Petrell never went to bed with a copy of the NHL Guide and Record Book under his pillow.

A rare breed in this day and age, Petrell thought it best to dedicate all of his focus to his own team.

“You don’t think about it that much, playing in the NHL, because I didn’t have any realistic chances to come here before,” said the 27-year-old winger, who drew in for his first-ever game Thursday night in Minnesota. “So you want to concentrate on what you’re doing and that was playing in Finland.

“Maybe when I was younger it was on my mind more but I got to realize that I was drafted 190th, so it’s a long shot to get signed, a long road.

“I knew if somebody gave me a chance I might have made it but I never thought about it that much.”

He also had some of the worst timing in the world. By the time he was ready for a shot, fate conspired to keep him on the other side of the ocean.

“Once I was in the army, two other times I was injured and wasn’t even close to 100%. There would have been no point coming.”

Now, for once in his hockey life, everything has come together at the same time.

He’s healthy, ready and has a chance to show what he can do.

“As soon as I heard about this opportunity I signed with the Oilers,” said Petrell. “I know I can play in this league and I kind of felt that now is a really good time.

“It’s the first time I got a decent offer and a chance. I just felt like the timing was perfect.”

BARKS NEEDS BITE: Thursday marked Cam Barker’s first game in Minnesota since being bought out by the Wild last year.

No hard feelings, though.

“Obviously there’s a little added motivation, you want to play well against an old team but that’s pretty much the same for everybody playing an old team,” he said. “I’m an Oiler now and I’m happy to be one.”

Barker will likely never be the high-scoring quarterback on the blueline that made him the third pick overall in 2004, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a valuable addition if he reinvents himself as a physical, reliable two-way guy.

“There’s no shame in that,” said head coach Tom Renney. “There’s nothing greater than a player knowing what his role is. Every year there are teams who have that guy they’re helping redefine. For Cam and our team we hope that we can help him do that to our advantage.”

BAD BOYS, BAD BOYS: The season was all of one game old and Wild already had two players suspended — Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brad Staubitz — so they’re keenly aware of hockey’s changing landscape.

Some wonder if they’ll be afraid to play tough.

“I know it’s already in their heads,” said head coach Mike Yeo. “You know that they’re going to be calling it strictly, but you have to play the game, you have to react and make split-second decisions out there. We have to be ready to go out and play the game with intensity and speed.”

WELCOME TO MINNY: Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi are settling in nicely after being traded from the Sharks to the Wild.

“After being here for almost a month it’s been really good,” said Setoguchi. “It goes to show that no matter where you go, hockey guys are all the same.”

Going from California to Minnesota is a culture shock, though.

“Hockey-wise, it’s a little more extreme here,” said Setoguchi. “They love their hockey and they take pride in it.

“San Jose did, too, but here they just live and breathe hockey, from high school to college to the NHL. They know their hockey and they know how to be critics, too, so you want to be on their good side.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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