EDMONTON – Jesse Joensuu didn’t make much of an impact in parts of four seasons with the New York Islanders, but given another chance by the Edmonton Oilers, the 25-year-old Finnish forward made a good starting impression Saturday.
Joensuu played just 67 games with the Islanders after being drafted in 2006 and last year, with the NHL heading for a lockout, he returned home to Finland to play. He signed a two-year, one-way contract with Edmonton in July and in his first NHL action with the Oilers he had a goal and an assist in the team’s 6-5 shootout loss to the Calgary Flames
“My first game (back in the NHL), lot of things happen fast,” said the left winger named the game’s third star. “Some shifts were good, but I made a couple of mistakes. I was happy to score a goal and get some chances. When you’re a forward you’re trying to do something offensively.”
The six-foot-four, 210-pound forward, added to give the Oilers some much needed size and, they hope, grit, scored midway through the second period to give Edmonton a 5-2 lead.
The Oilers squandered that lead in the third period when they gave up three goals in four minutes and eight seconds just past the midway point. Lance Bouma, with his second of the night, ignited Calgary’s comeback and Josh Jooris, a college player trying to make the Flames scored twice in a 2:02 span to even the score.
Calgary outscored Edmonton 2-0 in the shootout to take the victory between the split squads. The Oilers won a split squad game 3-2 at the Saddledome.
Despite the outcome, Joensuu said the game, for him, was a “little bit of confidence booster to play again in the NHL and be healthy now.”
After his years trying to stick with the Islanders – he had eight goals and 15 points — and finally heading home last year, Joensuu isn’t feeling any pressure to make the Oilers. He’ll just give it his best shot and whatever happens, happens.
“I’m 25 now and I dreamt coming to the NHL as a little kid, that’s all I wanted,” he said in the virtually deserted Oilers dressing room after the loss. “They took that away from me. I went to Europe and thought I was never going to come back. Last season was a battle and grind with the injuries. Now being with the same group from the get-go means a lot.
“I’ve come back and I’m just happy with what they’re giving me. I don’t feel any pressure for anything because if I’m not good enough for the NHL so be it, I’ll play in Europe. I’m not going down (to the minors).”
Calgary’s other goals were scored by Ben Street and Dennis Wideman. Sven Baertschi and Roman Horak beat Olivier Roy in the shootout. Calgary goalie Reto Berra stopped both Linus Omark and Taylor Hall.
Hall, Ryan Smyth, Kyle Platzer and Mark Arcobello scored Edmonton’s other goals.