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Peckham eager to start over with one-year deal

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers
Appearing in only 54 games last season, Theo Peckham collected 1 goal, 3 points and an even rating (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC).
Edmonton, AB - Theo Peckham wants a do-over. If possible, he'd prefer the entirety of 2011-12 be wiped clean off the record.

He'll get a second chance, as the Richmond Hill, Ontario, native signed a one-year, $1.075M contract Monday. It's an identical deal to the one he inked as an RFA last off-season.

"It's a relief," he admitted over the phone. "I understood I was coming off not the greatest year, so -- it wasn't necessarily 'take what you can get,' but both sides are happy. There was a little discussion back and forth, but I think for the most part it worked out best for both sides."

In 2010-11, the 24-year-old played in a career-high 71 games, collecting three goals and 13 points while anchoring greater responsibility as the year went on. But that momentum was quickly met with damaging turbulence last season, halting progress and sending him to the repair shop known as the press box.

Concussions played a role in his limited action, but it was the inconsistency in between that resulted in 10 games missed as a healthy scratch.

No. 24 has little interest in revisiting his perch high above the action at Rexall Place.

"On Day 1 [at training camp], I need to understand that there are a lot of defenceman that can play for this team," he said. "I need to put my best foot forward to make sure that I can come in and earn my spot. Most importantly, I can't leave any unanswered questions; 'Is he going to fit here or fit there?' I need to make sure that what I bring to the lineup is something the Oilers can't live without.

"100 percent," Peckham added, agreeing that this season is an opportunity to come in as if he's starting his career over again. "You've got to go there and show them why you're better than the three other players trying out for that one spot. That's how I approached it in my rookie year and this season is the same. I need to show them why I deserve it more."

Along with Peckham, the Oilers currently have eight defencemen signed and ready to step in. At the bottom end, Corey Potter and Andy Sutton will likely provided Peckham's greatest roadblock in earning a full-time spot.

"It's competition that brings out the best in everybody," he said. "There's almost no room for error that way. You're either going to be there or you aren't. I understand that and am prepared to work for it."

Peckham is still young and brings a unique skill-set that the Oilers don't have a lot of on the backend. At 6'2", 235 pounds and with a mouth like no other on the ice, his competitive spirit isn't hard to miss. Neither are his punishing (and clean) open-ice and board-side body checks.

But in the NHL, opportunities and second chances are limited. Following a concussion sustained in early February, as well as some on-ice factors that provided others with his assignments as he neared a return, Peckham went well over a month without playing a single game, returning on March 6 in San Jose. Four nights later, he was back upstairs in a suit and tie while the Oilers took on the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

"I'd never really dealt with that situation at all in my career to that point," Peckham said. "It was really, really tough. I spoke to some of the older guys like Andy Sutton and Darcy Hordichuk about it, guys who'd been through it before. They gave me some advice on how to deal with it and work harder to get back in.

"If you miss as many games as I did, it certainly takes you some time to get back into a rhythm. Then you have a couple bad games and you're back out and in the press box again. It's a tough thing to do. You want to a chance to play your way through your struggles, but I needed to make the most of my opportunities and I didn't."

Under the instruction and guidance of Head Coach Ralph Krueger, with whom he built a special bond last season, Peckham sees the bench boss' promotion as another opportunity to truly erase last season's nightmarish plot.

"He knows a ton about the game, is very smart and is a great coach," he said of Krueger. "He'll always do what's best for the team -- and when it comes time to drop the hammer on you and have that guy that will give you a kick in the butt when you're not playing well, he's a great guy to have around and help us through it. It's good for me and good for everyone to have that kind of motivator on staff."

But it's the self-motivating aspect that will ultimately determine how successful Peckham's do-over can be.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick

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