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Gagner stepping into No. 1 role

by Robin Brownlee /
EDMONTON -- Sam Gagner has been cast into the role of the go-to player for the Edmonton Oilers because of injuries that will keep Ales Hemsky and captain Shawn Horcoff out for an extended period.

With Hemsky expected to miss a month with a groin injury and Horcoff expected to be lost for two months with a knee injury, Gagner will step in as coach Tom Renney's No. 1 center against Tampa Bay on Friday, playing between rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle.

"With Horc being out, it would be easy for us to make excuses," Gagner said. "We've lost our first-line center and first-line right winger. I don't think anyone wants to settle for that. I know I don't.

"You want to look back at the end of the season and be proud of the fact that we battled through adversity and had guys step up. That's got to be our mindset."

One of the biggest challenges for Gagner will be to assume the attention to solid defensive play that's been Horcoff's trademark. That's especially true given the inexperience of Hall and Eberle.

"Defensively, with Horc being out, I've just got to continue to get better," Gagner said. "I need to be solid. Horc plays a lot of tough minutes and we've got to find ways for everyone to step in and fill that void."

The kid is good --
Edmonton defenseman Kurtis Foster got an up-close look at Steven Stamkos as a member of the Lightning last season. He knows exactly how dynamic Stamkos is.

"He wants the puck on his stick when the game is on the line," said Foster, who had a career-high 42 points last season with Tampa. "He shoots the puck and he can pick those corners like nothing else. He wants to win games."

Around the rink -- The Oilers had a four-game win streak snapped in a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim on Tuesday, while the Lightning come in with two wins in their last six games after a 4-2 loss to the Flames in Calgary on Tuesday. … Stamkos is second in the League with 21 goals and 40 points, but he's been held without a point in three straight games and he has no goals and 2 assists in the last six games. … While Stamkos has gone cold, teammate Ryan Malone has been heating up. He has points in five straight games, with 3 goals and 7 points in that span.

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