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PRINCIPE: Warming to Luke

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

Dallas Eakins spoke about a lot of things on Tuesday night, after the game against the St.Louis Blues. The one question that, even in defeat, brought a tiny smile to his face was about Luke Gazdic.

The coach was asked about the winger and his development. What Eakins said verbally, that Luke has been getting better and better and that he's been one of the bright spots on the team, is something we have also seen visually from the Oiler. It's kind of like watching a child grow from an infant to an adult. It's something that Gazdic has done during the first half of the season.

Photo by Getty Images.

I'll admit I'd never really heard of Luke Gazdic until Steve MacIntyre missed him with a hit and was hurt then days later, because of the MacIntyre injury, Gazdic was picked up on waivers from Dallas.

It’s one of the few times in hockey history I can remember a story like that happening. As the old saying goes, ‘When opportunity knocks, you better answer the door.’

Gazdic has answered the door, and the bell, since he became an Edmonton Oiler. It is one thing to fight your own battles, it's another thing to fight someone else's. The 24 year-old has been more than willing to do both for Edmonton.

In hockey and in life you only get once chance to make a first impression. First game, first goal and first fight (a win over Chris Thorburn) would describe what opening night was like for Luke Gazdic against the Winnipeg Jets. If there were other people out there who didn't know a lot about the Torontonian, we were given a close up into what he can do for a hockey team. It was an eye opener into something that Edmonton has been in search of, in fact what almost every team is on the lookout for, and that's a tough guy that can play.

Let's start with the primary reason that Gazdic was picked up on waivers and that's his pugilistic skills. They have been on display a lot and he has not been shy about going after big name opponents. There was Gazdic, in a lopsided result versus Colorado, going right after Patrick Bordeleau when he took a run at Ryan Jones. It ended up in a TKO by Gazdic as he rocked one of the NHL's toughest tough guys.

It was one of those fights seen and heard around the hockey world. You could say about the same thing when Gazdic goaded Boston’s Milan Lucic into a spirited scrap, it was a doozy. Luke landed a right hand that would have felled the average hockey player but Lucic is rock solid and weathered that punch in an action packed fight that was basically a draw. However it was a win when it came to Gazdic, scoring punches and points with his new team.

Not every squad has a tough guy (Detroit, for example), or needs one. In Luke Gazdic's case, he wants to make it so Dallas Eakins has him in the lineup when the other team has a heavyweight in their lineup and even when they don't. He's well on his way to earning that right.

It doesn't hurt that he also scored his second goal of the season versus Tampa Bay and had an assist versus St.Louis. A two-game point streak. A big accomplishment for someone whose becoming a big part of the Oilers.

When it comes to the former 6th round pick by Dallas, the fans are well past the Luke-warm stage with Gazdic.

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