Georges jets in

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

GRANDE PRAIRIE -- Let's go ... to Winnipeg.

Georges Laraque won't have to wait long to face his friends and former teammates with the Edmonton Oilers. The hulking heavyweight has been given the tap on the shoulder by Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky to dress against the Oilers in the first pre-season game for both teams at the MTS Centre Sunday.

Laraque, 29, who signed a two-year deal with the Coyotes this summer after being offered a pay cut and denied the no-trade clause he wanted from GM Kevin Lowe after nine seasons in Edmonton silks, has mixed feelings about that.

"It's going to be weird," Laraque said after going through fitness testing in Phoenix yesterday.

"Those guys are like my family pretty much. I was there such a long time. I have no animosity toward any of the guys on the team. I like everybody there.

"It's going to be a funny feeling."

DIMINISHED ICE TIME

The popular right winger, whose role and ice time with the Oilers diminished last season, will be one of a handful of veterans dotting Gretzky's lineup Sunday. Others include Jeremy Roenick and Ed Jovanovski.

Laraque will wear No. 37 instead of his familiar 27 -- that number belonged to Teppo Numminen and is headed to the rafters at Glendale Arena -- when the puck drops at the MTS Center.

"You always want to play hard against your old team," Laraque said. "When I say play hard, it's not like ... I don't want to hurt anyone. It's not like I'm pissed off and you want to hurt someone.

"I want to play hard every game, contribute more, show I deserve more trust and get more ice time.

"I want to show I can be a bigger contributor than I was in the past with the Oilers."

Laraque, who is keeping his home in Edmonton and will continue his wide-ranging charity work in the City of Champions during the off-season, won't be approaching the game feeling he's got something to prove -- at least not to anybody wearing an Oilers uniform.

DIDN'T FIT IN

The fact is, with how the game is evolving and with the depth of forwards the Oilers have, Laraque didn't fit into coach Craig MacTavish's plans.

He's not going to change MacTavish's mind by running around and being a bully. He has no intention of doing so.

"I really think the last couple of years the Oilers didn't utilize me as much as they could," he said.

"Six years ago, I had 13 goals and 29 points. I haven't come close to that and my ice time has been less ... as a player, I'm better than I was four or five years ago and I was playing less and less.

"I don't have to show anything to my (former Oiler) teammates.

"I have nothing to prove to them. I have something to prove to the coach and the GM. Those are the guys who let me go."

At the same time, this is pre-season and there are a lot of kids looking for roster spots who'll want to impress MacTavish. What if somebody comes calling on Laraque?

"That would be disrespectful to me and it would probably make me angry," Laraque said. "I wouldn't want to be that kid."


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