Petrell starting to click in NHL

Oilers forward Lennart Petrell hits Canucks forward Aaron Volpatti at Rexall Place in Edmonton,...

Oilers forward Lennart Petrell hits Canucks forward Aaron Volpatti at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Oct. 15, 2011. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:00 PM ET

EDMONTON - Lennart Petrell didn’t intend to send Marek Zidlicky face-first into the boards Thursday night, earning a major and a game misconduct in the process.

The Edmonton Oilers forward and the Minnesota Wild defenceman were actually once teammates in Finland before both coming over to play in the NHL.

Fortunately for Petrell, Zidlicky wasn’t hurt on the play, the Wild weren’t able to capitalize on the five-minute man advantage and the Oilers went on to win the contest.

“I felt bad about the way he went into the boards,” Petrell said. “From my point of view, I was trying to put some pressure on him and I think he may have caught an edge, because I feel that there wasn’t much contact made there. I don’t know it, was hard to tell.”

NHL vice-president of player safety Brendan Shanahan tweeted Friday that he reviewed the hit and will not impose any supplemental discipline: “Although Petrel’s (sic) hand is on Zidlicky’s back, we do not see a shove prior to the toe pick.”

Despite the play, Petrell’s contribution to the Oilers this season has been a positive one and prior to getting the boot Thursday, the 27-year-old NHL rookie scored a short-handed marker that helped pace the Oilers to a 4-1 win.

It was Petrell’s third goal of the year and it came against another acquaintance in Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who also hails from Helsinki.

“I know Niklas, we practise together in the off-season back home,” Petrell said. “I knew going in on that play that I had a better chance if I shoot early and maybe surprise him a little. It worked out.”

Heading into the Christmas break, the Oilers are happy with how Petrell has worked out.

Signed as a free agent this summer, the former sixth-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets had spent his entire career playing with his hometown club in Helsinki before coming over to the NHL.

In 29 games so far this season, the six-foot-three, 198-pound centre has three goals and three assists.

“I think things have been pretty good,” Petrell said. “Making the team right from training camp, it’s all been new to me. I think I’m kind of settled now and I feel like I’m part of the team.

“In the first few month, half the time I really didn’t know what was going on. But now I feel I’ve adjusted pretty well to the North American style of play. It’s not something you notice day by day, but looking back a couple of months, you can tell you’re just more comfortable.

Petrell was highly recommended by the Oilers’ European scouts and came with a glowing recommendation from Hall of Famer Jari Kurri.

Considered one of the best penalty killers in Europe during his days with HIFK Helsinki, Petrell has done wonders for the Oilers’ penalty kill this season.

“It’s a little different killing penalties here,” Petrell said. “When I first came over, my positioning was wrong all the time.

“Over here the players have such amazing skill on the power play and that’s a big challenge as well. The fundamentals are pretty much the same, but in Europe you are more passive because of the bigger ice surface, but you still need to block shots and put pressure whenever you can. Here it just happens a little quicker because of the smaller ice.”

Apart from his penalty-killing abilities, Petrell has also proven to be an effective shutdown forward who provides size and strength for the club.

“It’s a different style of play here,” Petrell said. “It’s a little bit harder to stay in the game here when you’re playing nine minutes a night as opposed to almost twice that in Europe.

“But I played in all kinds of roles and when I started as a pro it was like this as well, playing as a fourth liner. Everyone wants to play more and wants to score more goals, but you have to take pride in whatever you’re doing and know your role. I know I’m not a first liner and they’re not expecting me to score 50 goals here.”

Petrell does have scoring capabilities. He once netted 19 goals in 53 games for HIFK Helsinki. Last season he scored 13 goals and added 22 assists in 56 games with he club.

Heading into the second half of the year, Petrell is looking to expand his role with the Oilers.

“I expect more of myself,” he said. “Like everybody in this locker room I have high expectations for this season.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

@SUNdvandiest


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