March 1st, 2024

Veteran forward Gagner providing solid depth in third stint with red-hot Oilers

By Steven Sandor, The Canadian Press on January 25, 2024.

EDMONTON – Sam Gagner has been part of two historic winning streaks.

He was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets when that team went on a 16-game tear that stretched from December 2016 to January 2017.

Now, he’s part of an Oilers team that entered a Thursday night game against the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on a 14-game streak, which is a record for a Canadian NHL club.

“Any time there is a streak like this, there’s always comparisons,” said Gagner after Thursday’s morning skate. “We got great goaltending throughout that entire streak in Columbus, we’re getting it here.

“Your depth needs to contribute, special teams, top guys – you need contributions throughout your lineup, and we’re getting that.”

Gagner is part of that depth. He entered Thursday with 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 21 games this season, which is solid production from a bottom-six forward.

The 34-year-old veteran was on the fourth line but scored the winner – a shot he banked off the glove of Flames netminder Dan Vladar – in Saturday’s 3-1 triumph over Calgary.

Gagner says the streak was a bigger deal in the Columbus dressing room than it has been in Edmonton.

“I think it was more of a thing there,” he said. “We had gotten off to a pretty good start that year in Columbus, we were leading the league at that point, so there was more talk of the streak.”

Compare that to Edmonton, where a 3-9-1 start led to the dismissal of coach Jay Woodcroft and the hiring of Kris Knoblauch, who entered Thursday’s game 24-6-0 behind the bench. The Oilers’ streak was the product of a team having to claw its way back into the playoff race.

“With the start to the year we had, we don’t really have the opportunity to be looking too much at a streak or what it means,” said Gagner. “We have a different focus in here, and it’s making sure we’re continuing to build our game.”

Knoblauch said his players to remained focused despite all the noise about the streak.

“I don’t know what happens in that dressing room as soon as I walk out of it,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t think the streak or what we’re doing two weeks from now really gets mentioned. We just want to be in the present, we want to be in the now.”

Gagner, who is in his third stint with the Oilers after making his NHL debut with the team in 2007, holds the team record for points in a game with eight – not Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier or Connor McDavid.

Coincidently, that eight-point effort (four goals, four assists) came in 2012 against the Blackhawks.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.

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