NHL

Oilers' Paajarvi happy with his demotion

Hockey Primetime Mike Cook
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Magnus Paajarvi is being optimistic at a time when many players would be pessimistic.

Drafted two years ago by Edmonton, there was lots of hope that the left wing could be one of the young players to help lead the Oilers back to respectability.

While Paajarvi was serviceable in last year’s rookie campaign, he was spending far too much time this season munching on press box popcorn rather than helping on the ice. Through 25 games he had just three assists, was averaging 12 minutes of ice time and before being sent to AHL Oklahoma City last Friday, Paajvarvi was a healthy scratch six times.

In meeting with the media following his demotion, Paajarvi was smiling and upbeat.

“I want to play, and I want to play a lot,” the Swede said. “It sucks to go down, but on the other hand I feel opportunity.”

It’s that positive attitude that Edmonton brass hopes will make the 10th overall pick in the 2009 draft work even harder to be the player everyone expects him to be.

General manager Steve Tambellini said he wants Paajarvi to play a lot of minutes and get to the point where he’s instinctively using his assets: speed, strong drive to the net, holding on to the puck, making plays and being strong on special teams.

“You get your confidence from playing. That’s how you get your timing,” Paajarvi said. “When you play those small minutes, it’s not that easy to get there.”

Tambellini stressed that Paajarvi’s work ethic has not been questioned; rather it is a case of his game not evolving as fast as other Oilers.

“He’s going to be a big part of us going forward here,” Tambellini said.

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Paajarvi was a top-six forward on the 2010-11 Edmonton team that finished last in the NHL for the second straight season, scoring 15 goals and adding 19 assists in 80 games. But with the return of LW Ryan Smyth, the drafting of C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and movement of Sam Gagner to a wing, Paajarvi dropped further on the Oiler depth chart.

He still got some power-play time early this season, but wasn’t producing, thereby reducing his ice time even further.

“Yes there’s more depth, but it’s also up to the player to be able to find a way to grab your ice time, to grab your spot and right now it’s not there for him,” Tambellini said. “I feel reassured that he’s going with the right frame of mind as to what a pro really is.”

Tambellini said when he delivered the news to Paajarvi, the player interrupted him and said he knew that going to the AHL is the best thing for him.

“You expect emotion for a young player at that time, but it speaks to Magnus’s maturity as a person and a player," Tambellini said. "He has some perspective that he knows he needs to play; it’s not right for him to be up in the press box at this age.”

There is no timetable, and the goal is for Paajarvi to play big minutes and play in different situations. He scored a sweet shootout goal in his first game with the Barons.

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“I really want to go down there and develop,” he said. “I want to play a lot and I want to play in really important situations. I feel like it’s good for me. … Hopefully, I can come back and really show them that I can be (with the Oilers). I feel like I can be there.”

Northwest Division notes:

Calgary entered Tuesday’s game against Minnesota with 14 wins. Just four of those have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. … The Flames’ power play went 0-for-2 on Tuesday night against the Wild and is 10-for-39 the past 10 games. … C Olli Jokinen had a goal and an assist in three straight games prior to getting a lone assist on Tuesday. … Calgary’s Rene Bourque has been suspended for two games for a hit from behind on Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. … Colorado beat Philadelphia 3-2 in a shootout Monday for its sixth straight home win. … The Avalanche have won nine shootouts in a row going back to last season and 17 of its past 18. … The Avs are 8-1 against the Eastern Conference this season. … Colorado LW Gabriel Landeskog scored Monday to end an 18-game streak without a goal. … Edmonton has stumbled to a 4-9-1 mark in its past 14 games, including four straight losses. The Oilers have only two wins in their past 10 road games. GM Steve Tambellini isn’t planning a major shakeup. "We have game changers," he said. "We have people who can do it offensively, we have some heavy bodies who can play hard with Ben Eager and Darcy (Hordichuk) and Andy (Sutton), who's not in the lineup right now. And we have a couple of goaltenders who, when they're on, can win games on their own. So the pieces are there." … C Shawn Horcoff has gone 12 games without a goal. … Edmonton LW Taylor Hall has two goals and two assists in three games since returning from three weeks off with a shoulder injury. … Minnesota was blanked 4-0 on Monday in Vancouver, and is winless in its past nine trips to British Columbia (0-7-2). … The injury-plagued Wild were 0-2-2 in their previous four games entering Tuesday’s tilt in Calgary. Minnesota has played most of that stretch without four of its top six forwards. LW Pierre-Marc Bouchard (broken nose) returned Monday, C Mikko Koivu (leg) was expected to return Tuesday. RW Devin Setoguchi (knee) missed his sixth game Monday, and LW Guillaume Latendresse suffered another concussion Dec. 14 after missing 15 games with a concussion. … After a slow start, Vancouver went 11-2-2 in the past month to move within three points of Minnesota atop the division. … The Canucks'next eight games are all against Western Conference opponents. … D Aaron Rome is expected to miss three to four games after suffering a broken thumb Saturday. …LW Andrew Ebbett is close to returning from a fractured foot. … C Henrik Sedin recorded a goal and two assists Monday while Daniel Sedin recorded three assists, including a picture-perfect passing play with his brother. Henrik Sedin shares the NHL points lead at 39 with Toronto’s Phil Kessel and Claude Giroux of Philadelphia.

Tagged: Flames, Oilers, Maple Leafs, Canucks, Wild, Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Phil Kessel, Magnus Paajarvi

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