SUN Hockey Pool

Gagner looks to raise game

Oilers forward Sam Gagner chases Predators defenceman Roman Josi at Rexall Place in Edmonton,...

Oilers forward Sam Gagner chases Predators defenceman Roman Josi at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Nov. 28, 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:50 AM ET

EDMONTON - Sam Gagner wants to get back into the conversation, and its not the one that involves him being traded.

The Edmonton centre is starting to find his skating legs after missing most of training camp with an ankle injury.

While Gagner was still looking for his first goal heading into Mondays game against the Nashville Predators, he did have six assists on the year and four in his previous three games.

I feel better, Gagner said. I think sometimes it takes a while at the beginning of the season, especially when you get an injury. I dont think I ever lost confidence in my game, but I wasnt playing the way I know I can. I think in the last few games, Ive had a little bit more jump and Ive been getting to those danger areas a little more and raising my battle level a little bit.

Once the face of a promising future, Gagner has since taken a backseat to the Oilers new generation of talent.

Having fully recovered from his ankle injury, Gagner would like to get back to being an offensive threat every night.

I still have a lot to prove to myself, I still want to reach another level, Gagner said. You want to be a key part of wins and contribute to wins anyway you can. We have a great situation here where if everyone steps up, were going to win more games than not and its fun to be a part of that.

FIVE MINUTES FOR HITTING SO HARD

Ryan Jones had five minutes to try and figure out what exactly he did wrong on Monday.

The Oilers winger was given a five-minute elbowing major after blowing up Predators centre Blake Geoffrion with what appeared to be a clean hit.

Jones caught Geoffrion with his head down behind the Predators net and laid out the grandson of Bernie Boom Boom Geoffrion with a solid shoulder-to-shoulder hit.

Blake Geoffrion had to leave the game after the hit, while Jones skated to the penalty box wondering how the referees could justify giving him an elbowing penalty and a major no less.

Interestingly enough, Jones wasnt given a game misconduct which often accompanies a major penalty, similar to the one Ryan Smyth received earlier this season.

FEELING STRONG

Andy Sutton wasnt sitting around waiting for his groin to heal while the Oilers were away on a four-game road trip.

The veteran defenceman was doing everything possible to work his way back into the lineup. After a good morning skate Monday, Sutton believes hes close to a return.

I feel great, Ive put in some good work this week, Sutton said. (Assistant athletic therapist) Chris Davie and (fitness consultant) Simon Bennett have helped me with a lot of good things to help me heal quicker.

While the team was on the road, I worked out twice a day. I did treatments here at the rink, then went and did a workout at Simons gym. I was riding the bike like a madman.

Sutton was injured during the warmup in the Oilers game against the Ottawa Senators nearly three weeks ago.

I actually tweaked it in the morning skate, I had the flu for two days and I tried to practice through it and I think I was a little dehydrated, Sutton said. I tweaked it in the morning and then I re-tweaked it pretty good in the warmup. I thought I could make it through, got it wrapped, did everything I could, took a painkiller, then went out through the tunnel, out through the oil derrick, took that first lap and I really yanked it.

The Oilers had to play the game with five defencemen due to Suttons untimely injury. They have since brought up reinforcements from their AHL affiliate.

Sutton may be back in the lineup some time this week as the Oilers continue their six-game home stand.

I feel great and its going to be up to the coaching staff, Sutton said. Ive been ramping up the intensity the last four or five days and I expect theyll make a decision over the next few days.

STRONG ENDORSEMENT

As a former junior star playing under Dale Hunter, Sam Gagner feels his one-time coach will fare well in his new NHL gig.

Hunter was hired by the Washington Capitals Monday, replacing Bruce Boudreau behind the bench.

He coaches like a pro would and hes going to do a great job there, obviously with his track record in junior, said Gagner. He coached a lot of teams to winning seasons and what hes been able to do there has been very impressive and Im sure hes going to do well.

Gagner played for Hunter as a member of the London Knights, one of the cornerstone franchise in the Ontario Hockey League.

He demands accountability like a pro. Hes played the game for such a long time he understands what the pro lifestyle is like, Gagner said. When you play for the London Knights, you get groomed to be a professional and he does a great job of that. The transition is not always seamless, but Im sure its going to be a little easier for him just because of the way he coaches.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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