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Smyth's back but it's just another game

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
“There’s going to be times when he’s in front of the net but you just have to deal with it.” - Dwayne Roloson
There will be a video presentation before the game followed by some waterworks from Ryan Smyth and likely more than a few fans at Rexall Place but when the pre-game ceremonies are over all that will be left is the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and a key divisional match-up.

Smyth played 770 games as an Edmonton Oiler after being drafted by the team sixth overall in 1994 but was moved to the New York Islanders at the trade deadline late last season. He makes his return now as a member of the Avalanche.

There has certainly been a lot of hype surrounding the return of Smyth but there are five Avalanche players with as many or more points than Smyth and the Oilers are aware of that fact.“We can’t focus on one guy. If we focus on one guy the rest of the team is going to end up hurting us,” said goaltender Dwayne Roloson after Tuesday’s morning skate.

Smyth has six points in eight games during his Colorado career but nobody’s talking about Paul Stastny. All he’s done is rack up 14 points to rank second in the league in that category. Last game he had a five-game scoring streak ended during which he racked up 11 points.

“I don’t think we have to do anything about Ryan Smyth, I think we have to do everything we can to win a hockey game whether Ryan’s in there, Joe Sakic, Andrew Brunette, the goaltending or whatever,” Roloson continued.

The ageless future Hall-of-Famer Joe Sakic led the Avs in scoring last season with his first 100 point season since 2000-01 and has eight points in eight games so far this year.

In addition to Stastny’s ability to score off the rush and Sakic’s deadly wrist shot, Smyth’s ability to score ugly goals – he did just that against Calgary last Thursday – gives the Avs an added dimension, but it’s nothing the Oilers should go out of their way to defend against.

“There’s going to be times when he’s in front of the net but you just have to deal with it,” Roloson said.

Oilers defenceman Steve Staios will be trying to move #94 from the top of the crease most of the night but he’s up for the challenge.

“We’re ready for the game,” he said. “It’s going to be a little bit different. We had Gator come in earlier in the year – same sort of thing. You just have to be mentally prepared to deal with it.”

Head coach Craig MacTavish made clear that the team doesn’t have any sort of team strategy around Smyth.

"We're not going to do much differently, it's obviously an important game for us to continue building the confidence that we started with here at home. We haven't had the success that we need on the road, but as long as you're winning at home you can overcome that.”

Shawn Horcoff said that the team will be fine, but it might be difficult on Smyth, back in familiar settings but playing for the enemy.

“It’s going to be a lot more emotional for Ryan – first game back – than it will for all of us,” said the Oilers centre.

Smyth knows that it will be a difficult night emotionally but in the end it’s the game itself that matters.

“I had some great memories here,” Smyth said. “They’ve got a good young team and we’ve got to make sure we’re well prepared and ready.”


Oilers defenceman Mathieu Roy will play his first game of the season tonight. Roy was injured in the team’s final pre-season game when he was blindsided by Canucks forward Rick Rypien.

“I’m pretty excited about it,“ he said, noting that he’s been ready to go for at least the past few games.

“Close to a week, maybe. I needed to make sure that not only my head is fine but my conditioning is fine as well.”

The addition of Roy was necessitated by a knee injury suffered by Joni Pitkanen.

“We’re down to six defencemen so he’s in. We’ve been looking for a spot to get him in,” said head coach Craig MacTavish. “We were thinking about playing him in Calgary as well. It’s unfortunate that Joni is hurt but it gives Mathieu an opportunity to get in. He’s been skating and looks good in practice so he’s definitely ready for a game.”

With Pitkanen out for several weeks, Roy knows the opportunity he has starting with tonight’s title versus the Avalanche.

“It’s a tough challenge. I need to play strong and play safe, not make any mistakes with the puck.”
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