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Oilers Watch: Souray Edmonton's backbone in playoff race

There is life in the Copper and Blue and when a team is rolling, it’s usually a good idea to look to the top.

In the midst of a three-game winning streak, the Oilers are once again looking like the team they were at the beginning of the year and the recent return of defenseman Sheldon Souray from a concussion has certainly helped matters.

True, Souray only has one assist in those past three wins, but it’s almost more important what he represents to the team and the opposition. That is to say, Souray is a weapon that must be guarded against and a minute-muncher who can relieve the pressure for teammates.

Back in his Montreal days, Souray was a tantalizing player who just needed a little seasoning to shore up his defensive duties and avoid being turned inside-out by the NHL’s more skilled rushers. Fast forward to Monday, with the balance of the game against the Florida Panthers in question and the Cats threatening late in the third period. Souray, now a savvy veteran, used his strength to fight off a Florida forechecker and poke the puck out of the Edmonton zone one-handed, forcing the Panthers to regroup, ultimately denying them what could have been a dangerous scoring chance. He was also a physical force along the boards that night, keeping the Panthers honest and playing the style fans tend to appreciate more than the subtler aspects of the game.

The big, 6-foot-4, 233-pound defenseman best known for his cannon point shot has seven points in 14 games this season, which, on a points-per-game average, works out to be in line with some of his best years in the NHL. Plus, he’s a well-spoken leader on a team that has seemed fragile at times.

He is returning from a concussion, which is unfortunately an open-ended kind of injury in that any additional trauma can multiply the severity of the symptoms, but if Souray is careful – sorry, Shelly, but best not to drop the gloves this year –there’s still a lot of hockey to be played this season. Whether it’s enough to get Edmonton into the playoffs is another matter.

This article also appeared in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to His blog appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays.

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