December 31, 2011
Oilers' Sutton to make familiar return
By DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
UNIONDALE, N.Y. - Andy Sutton may be too old a dog to learn a new trick.
So despite completing his second suspension of the season and returning the Edmonton Oilers lineup Saturday afternoon, the six-foot-six, 245-pound defenceman doesn't foresee a big change in his approach to the game.
"It's hard because I play very instinctually," Sutton said. "My style of play is such that I have to be on my toes and play physically.
"You may see me make more hits with my back and butt as opposed to my elbows and shoulders. It seems to be the only way you cannot get suspended anymore."
Sutton served eight games for a hit on Carolina Hurricanes winger Alex Ponikarovsky at the beginning of the month.
Sutton was handed a five-game suspension earlier this season for a hit on Colorado Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog.
Ironically, the Oilers blue liner is making his return in a building he's familiar with, having played with the Islanders for three seasons. The last time the two teams met at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Sutton knocked both Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff out of the contest, before getting the better of J.F. Jacques in a fight.
"Yeah that was a good night," smiled Sutton. "I put both of them out that game. I also hit Gibby (Tom Gilbert) and fought Jacques."
At the time, Sutton said he wasn't targeting the Oilers best players. They just happen to put themselves in vulnerable positions, always a precarious predicament when the London, Ont., native is on the ice.
"I just hit anybody, really," Sutton said. "When I was playing here, I was playing against the top lines at the time and that was the Oilers top line. It was a good year. I stayed healthy and my gap control was really good, and I was getting a lot of hits, I was getting two or three a night like that."
Sutton, 36, had some of his best years with the Islanders before being traded to the Ottawa Senators towards the end of the 2009-2010 season.
"My time here was good," Sutton said. "Obviously the team was in a rebuilding phase and at times it was frustrating. It was not too dissimilar to what we're looking at Edmonton right now. There was a lot of great, young talent and a team on the rise.
"They treated us great and I have nothing but great memories of me playing here."
Sutton spent last year with the Anaheim Ducks before being acquired by the Oilers in a trade for defenceman Kurtis Foster this summer.
In 16 games this season, he has a goal, two assists and 50 penalty minutes.
"Andy brings leadership and brings a sense of poise, kind of a collected look from his point of view," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "He happens to say the right things most of the time to keep guys on task, focused and under control."
The Oilers head into the contest having lost the first two games of a seven-game road trip. However the team was encouraged by the intensity they displayed in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.
If anything, Sutton should help the Oilers maintain that intensity level against the Islanders. And while his game won't change, Sutton feels perhaps the attitude around the league needs to.
"I play very instinctive, you have to, if you're not doing that, you're somebody else," Sutton said. "I think things are getting crazy. Last night when Pecks (Theo Peckham) hit (Brad) Staubitz along the boards, their guys were going crazy, screaming about how it was a head shot and that he left his feet.
"Everybody has to calm down. It's nuts, you could almost dissect every hit and you would see a guy leave his feet or make contact to the head. You have to think, when a guy has his head down, he head is leading always. You're always going to catch his head first."