THE TEAM TODAY: Heavy Artillery
Hordichuk shines in scrimmage, discusses role as team's go-to tough guy
Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Sam Gagner (with an assist credited to Nail Yakupov) scored for Team Blue, but Darcy Hordichuk (2), Chris VandeVelde and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins propelled Team White to a slim 4-3 win.
Hordichuk? Filling the net? Not even he expected it.
The veteran winger signed a one-year contract extension with the Oilers back on Jul. 1. Since then, the 32-year-old has worked diligently to round out his game and become a more complete player. Often used sparingly in the 2011-12 season, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound enforcer believes he can be more of a contributor this year.
"I worked extremely hard over the off-season, went to Perry Pearn's Camp and worked with a stick-handling and skating coach there," said Hordichuk. "Being around a guy like Shane Doan, someone that was also there -- it gives you a different analysis of the game and gave me a better perspective of what guys like me should be doing. I need to drive the pocket more and go to the hard areas. Over the off-season, I had a chance to get a little stronger and change a couple things with my conditioning.
"I feel good. I feel that I can manhandle some guys out there. It's nice to get a couple goals, but I'm more worried about getting in there and laying some hits. It's about focusing on my speed and getting stronger. I'm the same weight (as last season), but I feel a lot stronger on my skates. I hope it pays off and that I can help out."
The Kamsack, SK product appeared in only 43 games last season, usually playing less than six or seven minutes per game. In total, he collected eight fights (in addition to three in the pre-season) and 64 penalty minutes.
Hordichuk has a good relationship brewing with Krueger and is expecting a bigger role under the new head coach.
"Just being able to get in the game and show that I can play a regular shift by earning Ralph's trust is important," he said. "Not that I was necessary used wrong last year, but I never felt I had the chance to really do my role and what I thought was important. If given the opportunity, maybe I can contribute a little bit more."
"I really believe that the game of hockey has an important physical component that you need to implement it when you can," Krueger added. "With the pace that we're going to be under here and the necessity to win games early, teams are going to be concerned with their discipline. But Darcy, when he's on the bench and on our team, he really gives you a unique component. We have a lot of specialists here and he's one of them. There are going to be days when we really need Darcy and or someone else to bring that element of respect from the opposition. He's really good at that."
With Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz "in need of protection," as Hordichuk describes, Krueger says No. 16 will be leading the charge in that department.
"I've always believed that defend your teammates and that's part of the game," Krueger explained. "We'll be reacting as a group -- nobody's going to be intimidating us and we'll go eye-to-eye with anyone. If they go beyond the boundaries, we'll be able to also."
JONES BACK IN TOWN
Described a week ago as "horribly timed," Oilers winger Ryan Jones suffered an eye injury when he was struck with an errant puck during a pre-CBA conditioning skate at the University of Minnesota. The 28-year-old will be out several weeks, but returned to Edmonton Wednesday and addressed the media in the Oilers locker room.
The injury required stitches and surgery, but other than a slightly swollen and bloodshot left eye, he looks no worse for wear.
"That's questionable," Jones said when asked if a visor would have prevented the damage. "It came from underneath, so probably yes." The Chatham, ON native has, however, pledged to wear one from now on.
Jones remained in Edmonton until Dec. 1 before returning to his off-season home in the State of Hockey. Still, the 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward came back to Canada on occasion -- and one visit became especially eventful. Jones and his wife, Jamie, were stopped at the border and were arrested (handcuffs and all) as there was a warrant out for someone of the same name.
"I tried to explain the situation to the guy but he was basically treating me like I was this other Ryan Jones," laughed Jones -- the Oiler, not the criminal. "They needed three pieces of proof that I wasn't him. I thought the fact that he was 6-foot-6 should have given it away, but apparently they still needed two more (pieces of ID). I ended up being finger printed, so now I can't get away with much.
"When you get to Edmonton, everyone knows who I am around here. But when the border guys saw 'armed and dangerous' on the other Ryan's record and saw me, they put two and two together and let me go."
So what, exactly, was the other Ryan Jones wanted for? The Oiler wasn't told, but "it sure wasn't shoplifting," he said.
"Drugs?" one reporter asked. Not with Jones' dog, Bailey, in the back seat.
"That used to be the problem," Jones laughed. "Now it's dog food they're looking for."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick