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New Oilers rarin' to get started

by Dan Rosen

Erik Cole never felt the need for a fresh start, but he's nonetheless happy to be getting one in Edmonton. On the other hand, Gilbert Brule does think a new beginning will be good for his budding NHL career.

He, too, will get one in Oil Country.

Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe acquired both Cole and Brule in separate trades Tuesday, landing a former 30-goal scorer and a 21-year-old center with loads of potential. Lowe sent Joni Pitkanen to Carolina and Raffi Torres to Columbus.

"I'm extremely excited to be joining not just a great franchise, but a great hockey market," said Cole, who has played his entire six-year career in Carolina. "At the end of last season I found myself flipping through the NHL package trying to find their games to watch and see if they could squeak into the playoffs. I'm anxious to turn the page in my career, start something fresh and have a lot of fun this coming season."

Cole and Brule are familiar with hockey-mad Edmonton, Alberta in their own, separate ways.

Cole returned from a career-threatening neck injury in Edmonton for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Oilers. He broke his neck on March 4, 2006 in a collision with Brooks Orpik, but made it back to help Carolina win the Cup.

He hasn't forgotten about his Edmonton experience.

"To sit up top with the other guys who weren't dressed for Games 3 and 4 and watch the fans, it's definitely a different perspective then when you're on the ice," said Cole, whose neck is fully healed. "When you're inside that glass you're almost sheltered to it. I don't think guys realize how intense it was not just at the arena, but all across the city."


Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 88
(9th West/19th NHL)
Change from 2006-07 +17
Home Points 47
(10th West/18th NHL)
Away Points 41
(9th West/20th NHL)
Brule was born in Edmonton, and raised in Vancouver, where he also played his junior hockey for the Vancouver Giants.

"That's my hometown and it's exciting to come to a young team that had a great finish," Brule said. "I couldn't be happier with how things worked out for me. I'm trying to get a new start and that's why I'm looking forward to coming to Edmonton."

Brule will likely take the place of Jarret Stoll, who on Sunday was dealt to Los Angeles along with Matt Greene in exchange for puck-moving defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.

Cole is the obvious replacement for Torres, the physical winger the Oilers got for Brule, who hopes he can develop under the tutelage of coach Craig MacTavish the same way center like Stoll and Shawn Horcoff have. Sam Gagner is still in his development stage.

Columbus made Brule the sixth overall pick of the 2005 Entry Draft, but he still hasn't lived up to his billing. He has only 32 points in 146 NHL games after scoring 185 points in 160 WHL games for Vancouver.

"I've seen the development they've done in Edmonton and it's great for me to be a part of that," Brule said. "I can't wait to work with Craig, and I talked to Kevin Lowe and he seems like a great guy. I can't wait to meet everyone else in Edmonton there."

Brule believes his up-tempo style will fit better in Edmonton than it did in Columbus. His development hit such a stall this season that the Blue Jackets sent him to Syracuse of the AHL for 16 games. He managed 10 points for the Crunch.

"The type of style they play is very high speed and that's what my game is based around," Brule said. "I think it's going to be a good trade for me. I think it's going to work out well. I'm excited to be in this position now."

Brule, though, admitted he is a bit stunned to be traded so early in his career.

"I've seen the development they've done in Edmonton and it's great for me to be a part of that. I can't wait to work with Craig, and I talked to Kevin Lowe and he seems like a great guy. I can't wait to meet everyone else in Edmonton there."

-- Gilbert Brule

"This is part of the business and I'm learning that now," he said. "I think this trade is definitely a positive for my career."

Cole, who is entering the final year of his contract, said he never asked for a trade or was even thinking about one, but he saw the writing on the proverbial wall. The Hurricanes have a glut of forwards and needed a defenseman, so giving up one of their assets for Pitkanen seems like the ideal move.

"You look at the roster, the strengths and weaknesses, something had to give," Cole said. "Unfortunately I was the one that had to go, but when you think of it in that sense over the last two years I have seen a lot of good friends that I won a Cup with leave the organization. It's not the greatest side of the business, but it is a business and everyone realizes that."

Cole admitted that "sometimes things get a little stale in one city, or you start to feel too comfortable." He had 22 goals and 51 points this past season after scoring 29 goals and 61 points in 2006-07.

The Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs since winning the Cup.

"It's a fresh start," Cole said, "and there is no better way to look at it then to be excited about the opportunity."

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