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Smithson thrilled to join Oilers, playoff race

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

- Jerred Smithson can barely contain his excitement. On the same day he and his wife were expecting a baby boy, the 34-year-old centre was traded to the Oilers in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick.

Surprising? Absolutely, but in the best way possible.

"I went to practice in Florida, was leaving the rink and hadn't heard anything (regarding a trade)," said Smithson. "I went to check my phone and that's how I found out. I went back in, talked to some people and that was that.

"I was definitely a little shocked."

In 35 games with Florida this season, Smithson recorded two goals, three assists, 10 penalty minutes and a -4 rating. After turning a corner last season with their first post-season appearance in 12 years, the Panthers have struggled mightily in 2012-13. The club currently sits 15th in the East with a 12-19-6 record (30 points).

Joining the Oilers in the heat of a playoff race, the Vernon, BC product couldn't be more elated.

"Oh, it's huge," said Smithson. "There's nothing better than playoff hockey. That's why you play the game, to get in and compete for the Stanley Cup. The direction the Oilers are going in, it's going to be a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to getting there, going in and playing my game."

Undrafted, Smithson spent his entire junior career with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen before turning pro in 2000 with the Lowell Lock Monsters of the American Hockey League. In his 10-year NHL career, Smithson has played with three organizations, including the Nashville Predators where he spent seven seasons.

In 578 career games, Smithson has recorded 38 goals and 95 points.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound pivot's game isn't overly complicated. In addition to chipping on the scoresheet, providing a big-body presence and imposing his will physically, he's one of the League's top faceoff men with a dominant 54.8 percent success rate.

"I've put a lot of work into it," said Smithson. "I started seeing how important (faceoffs) were in my last year in Calgary. I was fortunate enough to have been able to work with (Hitmen Head Coach) Kelly Kisio and he talked to me about the importance of it. Part of it came naturally, too. I was decent at it and continue to take a lot of pride in it.

"I like to get in there, create energy and use my size to create openings for my teammates. I haven't followed the West too much this year with us being out in the East, but I know what it's about and am looking forward to getting in the mix.

"Any way I can help the team, sign me up. I intend to be strong in the faceoff circle, on the penalty kill and be a good guy in the locker room."

Due the birth of his son, Smithson isn't expected to suit up until the California portion of Edmonton's current four-game road trip. The Oilers kick that off tonight in Calgary and will do battle again tomorrow night in Vancouver before darting to Los Angeles for a Saturday matinee against the defending Stanley Cup Champions.

"There's a lot going on in my head right now, but I'm really looking forward to getting there," laughed Smithson. "The last little bit anyway, it's all been about the birth of our son. It's a little extra excitement and it's been interesting to say the least.

"I'm really excited to come to Edmonton with the history of the team and the direction the team's going in right now. Playing against them when I was in Nashville and seeing how good these guys are, it's exciting to become a part of it."

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