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Pitlick given great opportunity

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said on Monday that the Oilers will, “take the guys who have played well, played the best and who we think are going to help us win our first game.”

That’s good news for players like Tyler Pitlick, who are trying to solidify a full-time spot with the Oilers. Pitlick, 22, has a golden opportunity in front of him on Monday night against the Winnipeg Jets. Eakins has put Pitlick on a line with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Playing with these talented forwards will give Pitlick an opportunity to shine.

“We’re just trying to give him a chance to succeed,” Eakins said.

Pitlick earned this opportunity last week against the Jets, when he and the fourth line shifted the momentum of a game in which the Oilers were down 2-0.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (left) gives Tyler Pitlick (right) some pointers on the bench. Photo by Getty Images.

“I thought he played a really good game in Winnipeg (on Wednesday). I thought he changed the complexion of the game, where we were just playing okay. We got into the pace of the game and him, along with his two linemates, gave us a really good shift and that got us rolling,” Eakins said.

Pitlick remembers that shift well.

“I was just getting in on the forecheck, or it was in the neutral zone, and I was just closing in on a guy, he tried to make a move and I just hit him and the puck was sitting there,” Pitlick said. “I got a quick shot off, hit the goalie in the shoulder, or something like that, and then we had a face-off and we just kept rolling on it. We got a cycle going, I hit another guy and we just kept going and I think it created energy for the rest of the guys.”

The Oilers came back and won the game, 3-2.

That shift and that game got Pitlick noticed. Now, he’ll get an opportunity to show off even more.

“It’s a bit of a reward for him and the other thing is, there are always question marks with players. Well, he played with this player or this player and he’s not able to make plays because of those players. Well he is playing with two good players here tonight so let’s see if he can make the plays,” Eakins said.

Pitlick says he hasn’t always been a fourth-line guy, having played with more skilled players before. He says he won’t feel out of place tonight on a line with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins. One of his linemates feels Pitlick will fit right in.

“It’s no different for me if it’s Jordan Eberle or if it’s Nail Yakupov playing on the right side, or if it’s Pitty,” Hall said. “You just want to make sure that he’s comfortable and he plays his game. He’s developed really nicely in the last couple of years and when he was up last year, it was unfortunate that he got hurt because he was playing very well. For him, he can go crash and bang and he can do all of those things he does well. He’s not going to hinder our line by any means, so he just has to go out and play his game and that’s pretty much what our message would be.”

Pitlick played 10 games for the Oilers last season. Injuries derailed an otherwise promising start to his NHL stint. He showed he learned what it takes to make it to the NHL, which is to shoot the puck, skate hard up and down his wing, hit guys and keep it simple.

“Whatever it takes,” Pitlick said last week, prior to playing the Jets.

“I’ll play five minutes a night, hitting guys every shift if that’s what it takes (to make the NHL).”

So far in this camp, Pitlick has done enough to survive cuts. Jesse Joensuu, Kevin Westgarth and Steve Pinizzotto are players remaining with NHL experience that Pitlick will continue to compete against for a forward spot on the Oilers roster.

For the former second-round pick (31st overall in 2010), Monday night’s game is about getting noticed for the right things and the competition will play itself out.

“I don’t want to be noticed for the bad things, but I also don’t want to blend in. I want to be noticed every shift, I want them to know I’m on the ice, I want to hit guys and make smart plays.”

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