Hordichuk gives Oilers edge

The Oilers added some grit when they brought agitator Darcy Hordichuk on board. (Amber Bracken, QMI...

The Oilers added some grit when they brought agitator Darcy Hordichuk on board. (Amber Bracken, QMI Agency)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:45 PM ET

The last time they met, Darcy Hordichuk got so deep into Brad Staubitz's kitchen, he could have cooked dinner.

The Edmonton Oilers' winger managed to goad Staubitz into taking eight minutes in penalties, as the Minnesota Wild forward jumped Hordichuk twice trying to extract his pound of flesh.

It was the type of agitation Hordichuk was brought in to do, having signed with the Oilers this off-season.

"Any time you play against guys like that, there's definitely a little bit of history," said Hordichuk. "Staubitz is a guy that likes to be physical and runs around. I'm out there to my job and he's out there to do his job. Some days I'll take penalties and some days he'll take penalties."

For the last few years, the Oilers had few answers to players such as Staubitz and Cal Clutterbuck, who make a living taking runs at players and getting under their skin.

The club tried to groom Zack Stortini into that type of role, but the former Oilers winger never settled into it and never perfected the art of agitation.

Stortini had a tendency to accept every invitation to drop the gloves, regardless of what point of his shift he was in.

Often engaged at the end of a shift, there were times when all Stortini could do was hang on, earning him the ÔHuggy Bear' moniker.

As a battle-tested veteran, Hordichuk is more in tune with the perils of fighting tired. That's the reason he turned down Staubitz's first invitation at the end of a shift in the teams' previous encounter, setting the stage for the first double minor.

When Staubitz declined an invitation to tussle from Hordichuk later in the contest, the Oilers winger decided to turn the other cheek again in their next tussle, eventually eliciting another double minor.

"Darcy is a well travelled guy and he knows the league, too, so he has details," smiled Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "He can be very much that pest. But he's also a fabulous teammate and he's very cognizant of what he needs to do to protect his teammates.

"He's been playing this game a long time and he knows instinctively when it's time and what's right and that's important. And he can play on top of that. He finishes his checks, he's one of our better forecheckers when it comes to play in the body and we need that in our game."

Hordichuk has made a career out of being difficult to play against.

He's the prime example of a guy opponents hate to play against, but would love having on their side.

For years the Oilers were on the other side of that equation, when Hordichuk plied his trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

But as a team found wanting when it came to sticking up for themselves and annoying opponents, there came a need for the Oilers to bring in a player like Hordichuk.

A knee injury earlier this year has limited Hordichuk to seven games this season. He had a strong preseason, but then was used in a limited role at the start of the year.

Having since recovered, Hordichuk is starting to play a bigger role with the Oilers, especially against teams like the Wild, who have a few pests of their own.

"Darcy is a real heart-and-soul player. He's a great teammate and he's certainly loved by his guys here," said Renney. "He is an effective player in that sense, when he's a physical guy and gets in on the forecheck and goes hard to the net.

"He's always ready to back himself and his teammates up, for sure, and that's always important to us."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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