Petry settling in with Oilers - but not too much

Edmonton's Jeff Petry and St. Louis' T.J. Oshie chase the puck during the Edmonton Oilers NHL...

Edmonton's Jeff Petry and St. Louis' T.J. Oshie chase the puck during the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Sunday, on Oct. 30, 2011. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:18 PM ET

What first appeared to be a short call-up could turn out as an extended stay for Edmonton Oilers defenceman Jeff Petry.

Regardless of when Ryan Whitney returns to the lineup, Petry will be with the club for at least another month with Cam Barker suffering an ankle injury in Boston during the Oilers recent six-game road trip.

“You never want to see anybody go down, especially for a long period,” Petry said. “But we have to continue to do what we were doing with him in the lineup. He’s a player that is good defensively and adds an offensive element to his game. We have to continue doing the things that we were doing at the beginning of the road trip and before we went on it.”’

Having started the season with the Oilers, Petry was sent down to Oklahoma City briefly as Ryan Whitney returned to the lineup after recovering from off-season ankle surgery.

But a knee injury to Whitney in just his fourth game back, combined with a five-game suspension to Andy Sutton and a shoulder injury to Barker, had Petry back in Edmonton before he could do a load of laundry in Oklahoma City.

Knowing that he’s not heading back to the minors anytime soon, the former second-round pick — 45th overall — in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft is looking to continue to develop his game at the NHL level.

“It’s nice to know you’re going to be here for a while, but you can’t let it slip to the point where you get too comfortable and too used to it up here,” Petry said. “It’s not guaranteed, nothing is given, you have to continue to work hard and continue to perform.

“I feel more comfortable, but there are also some things that I’ve kind of gotten away from, so I just have to work on those things and (on) getting them back into my game.”

In time, Petry is expected to be one of the pillars on the Oilers’ blue line.

He got an opportunity to play in the NHL last season, suiting up in 35 games with the club, scoring a goal and adding four assists.

This year, the native of Ann Arbor, Mich., went into training camp hoping to earn one of the remaining two spots on the blue line. But the immergence of Corey Potter and the return of Whitney afforded the Oilers the opportunity to send their young prospect back to the American League for some seasoning, where he would play first-pairing minutes and in all situations.

With the Oilers, Petry is playing down in the lineup with limited work on special teams.

“The more he plays, the more he gets to figure out the league, which is always the case with young players and has been the case with our team,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “With Jeff, it’s a matter of making sure he can do a lot of things, play with confidence, don’t be afraid to push the envelope a little bit and live on the dangerous side. That being said, he understands that there is a system that can protect him.”

In order for Petry to succeed at the NHL level, he has to play to his strengths. He’s a good skater with the ability to move the puck and an understanding of when to jump into the rush to try to chip in offensively.

When he first arrived to play with the Oilers, the six-foot-two, 180-pound defenceman kept things simple, careful not to make mistakes.

Now it’s getting to the point where he’s being expected to expand his game and begin to do the things at the NHL level that he was able to do at the collegiate and minor-league level.

“You have to invite that, that’s kind of what last year was all about — let guys go out and play, see what they’re capable of, and see what they’re able to get away with,” Renney said. “Saying that, there are some fundamentals that have to be in place in order to play at this level. The one thing that Jeff has going is great hockey sense, and that’s a big thing for someone that is starting out.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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