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BLOG: Hitchcock letting Gagner play

"Sam played under a system in Toronto that is exactly what is here… So, he can come in and just play ice hockey," said Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Not only can Sam Gagner find some comfort in the fact that he's played with the Edmonton Oilers in the past, becoming a fan-favourite over 483 games with the franchise.

But for Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, there's added relief in Gagner hitting the ice with knowledge of the Oilers on-ice systems, which are similar to the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies' - where Gagner has played for the bulk of the 2018-19 campaign.

"I think what makes it good for Sam is that he played under a system in Toronto that is exactly what is here," Hitchcock said following Wednesday's practice at Downtown Community Rink. 

Video: RAW | Ken Hitchcock 02.20.19

"He's comfortable here because the terminology is the same, the words are the same, the systems are the same. So, he can come in and just play ice hockey. There's no 'get to know you' phase."

Once the trade for Gagner was made on Saturday, the London, ON, bolted to Brooklyn to suit up against the New York Islanders. The 29-year-old saw 9:56 of ice time, registering two shots on goal and going minus-one in 15 shifts. 

The Oilers first-round selection in the 2007 NHL Draft had his time on ice nearly double on Tuesday, playing 19:12 and throwing three shots at the net, while also getting a shootout attempt.

"The part that we like is that we've been crying all year for people to shoot the puck and let us play after the shot, which is where the NHL is going," Hitchcock said. 

"The puck possession game starts from the shot on goal and he puts it on the net. Every time he gets out there and puts it on the net, it allows us to keep the puck. It's a really good fit for what we need right now."

Video: RAW | Sam Gagner 02.20.19

Gagner's been limited to only seven games of National Hockey League action this season, all with the Canucks. The forward posted three points in his seven outings and is feeling confident with his play and deployment so far in his second stint with Edmonton.

"I would have liked to get more done on the power play last night, especially on that extended 5-on-3. It would have been a huge goal for us if we were able to get one there," Gagner said Wednesday.

"At the same time, I'm excited about the opportunity. I feel confident in my game and feel like I'm playing well. I just have to find ways to continue to get to the net and hopefully produce down the stretch."

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