EDMONTON - As Wayne Gretzky used to say: "You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take."
Ales Hemsky is aware he needs to shoot the puck more often, but according to the Edmonton Oilers winger, it’s not that cut and dry.
“I would like to, but I’m still dealing with some stuff (shoulder) and I can’t shoot every time,” Hemsky said prior to Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames. “It’s something in my head I need to improve and I think I’ll have to start shooting more. If you want to score goals, you have to shoot the puck.”
Hemsky scored his third goal of the year Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, taking a pass from Shawn Horcoff and skating around goaltender Curtis Sanford.
Having twice scored at least 20 goals in his career, the native of Pardubice, Czech Republic, does have the ability to be more than just a setup man.
Yet with two surgically-repaired shoulders, Hemsky at times is hesitant to let a shot go.
“Sometimes I can feel it and I’m just not comfortable shooting because it’s a bit sore,” Hemsky said. “But it’s getting better and it feels better the last few games, and hopefully, I should be fine.”
According to Oilers head coach Tom Renney, it might be more of a mental block with Hemsky.
“His shoulders are much stronger than they’ve been, there’s no question they’re fixed,” Renney said. “I think now what he has to do is make the decision to shoot. Once he starts to do that and have success, he’ll start to feel much more comfortable.”
Wandering the desert
It’s not as though the Battle of Alberta needed added motivation. But the comments Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster made at the beginning of the season did not sit well with some of the Oilers.
Answering a question on a fan forum prior to the start of the regular season, Feaster was asked why his team doesn’t take the same route as the Oilers and rebuild from the bottom up.
Feaster replied: “I’m sorry — Edmonton finished where last year, caller? Want to wager on where we finish relative to Edmonton this year? I’m tired of this question, I’ll tell you very honestly. I’m getting a little sour. How many teams ... every year, for the last 10 years, five years, eight years, have finished in the bottom five, bottom seven, bottom 10? They’ve had a pick anywhere from No. 1 to No. 10 year after year after year after year, and they still wander in the desert. And they’re no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago.
“You know what? I look forward to the Battle of Alberta for the next X number of years. If the idea is, ‘Burn it to the ground,’ then Ken (King) can find another manager to do it.”
Heading into Saturday’s contest, the Flames were seven points back of the Oilers in the NHL standings.
“I did see that comment and I just kind of left it at that,” said Oilers winger Ryan Jones. “Hockey and sports are emotional things and sometimes people say things that they don’t really mean to say and they get taken out of context. I’m not sure if that’s what happened with those comments, but it’s hard for me to say anything. I don’t want to put myself in a position where I say something I might regret.”
Pain in the back
Edmonton Oilers winger Ben Eager is back practicing with the club and may be available for Wednesday’s encounter against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Eager has missed the last five games — including Saturday’s tilt against the Flames — with a sore back.
“I was just warming up before the game in Minnesota and my back kind of just gave out on me,” said Eager. “I got hit when we played Ottawa and I extended my back the wrong way.
“I don’t know if it was from that, but when I bent over my back gave out and I couldn’t play.”
Eager, signed as a free agent this summer, has an assist and 25 penalty minutes in 16 games with the Oilers this season.
It’s the first time he’s had back issues in his career.
“I’ve had a sore back before, but nothing too serious,” he said.
“I’ve never had pain like that before.”