'A door opened'

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:00 AM ET

When putting together a team, particularly an expansion franchise, the pieces must all fall into place for the puzzle to be complete.

Some pieces are obvious fits -- whether it's a proven scorer, a defensive rock, or a go-to guy oozing leadership skills.

Then there are those players who don't easily fit into one of those defined roles and fly under the radar until it comes to finalizing the roster. Suddenly they're an important part of the team.

Tyler Heavenor and Shane Pederson, a free-agent acquisition and a middle-round draft pick, fall into that category.

Whether either one becomes a key piece of the puzzle is a matter for some consideration yet. But just three weeks away from the club's inaugural National Lacrosse League game, the free-agent acquisition and middle-round draft pick are still fighting for a place.

'FIRST REAL OPPORTUNITY'

"Guys like that just needed to get an opportunity," said Rush head coach Paul Day. "This is their first real opportunity and they've come out and elevated their game."

The pair also avoided the first wave of roster cuts the Rush made since whittling their crew down to the 23-man roster.

The club released local product Stu Sterparn and placed Greg Whitenect and Jon Marrese, both draft picks out of the Edmonton Miners program, along with Stephen Skoreyko, on the three-man practice roster.

Sterparn's departure comes on the heels of Kyle McEwen's arrival.

McEwen, who was released by Arizona last week, brings the Rush more size up front and showed well in faceoffs during Sunday's scrimmage at Rexall Place.

Heavenor lacks size, standing at just five-foot-eight, but his wicked shot makes up for it. He scored 16 goals and added 29 assists during the summer season for the Mann Cup champion Victoria Shamrocks and has shown in scrimmages with the Rush that he was worth snatching up.

"A door opened," said Heavenor. "I've always wanted to play in this league and I've finally got the shot to prove I can play here."

After hearing about Heavenor's talents for so long, Day decided to give him a look. "He's been waiting to get into this league and the success that he's had the last two summers with Victoria has helped him here," said Day. "Tyler doesn't need a lot of space and time to get his shot away and it's a quick release."

UNHERALDED CHOICE

Pederson came to the Rush as a rather unheralded choice in the 2005 NLL Entry Draft, the team's third-round pick (30th overall) out of the Victoria junior program. His credentials weren't as impressive as others in the pool of prospects, but the selection has worked out well.

"Everyone prepares for the first round of the draft," said Day, "but it's the second and third round that you really have to do your homework for. Shane has got a lot better over the course of training camp."

A scorer of some note in junior with 25 goals in 21 games this past summer, the soft-spoken Pederson is letting his play do the talking on the floor.

"I'm just going to the net and cutting through the middle," he said. "I have to come with the same intensity every time."

QUICK STICKS: Also, the Rush have placed Randy Daly on the injured reserve list. Daly, who was picked up in the Expansion Draft from Colorado, was coming back from an ACL strain in his right knee from last season when a stress fracture was discovered. He's expected to resume practising with the Rush in early January.


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