Edmonton Journal article (Oil Kings coach searches for positives in negative season)February 10 2010 at 6:39 AM
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Oil Kings coach searches for positives in negative season
Goalie Lanigan, defenceman Pysyk and forward Foster a few bright points for struggling club
By Chris O'Leary, Freelance
February 10, 2010
HURRICANES AT OIL KINGS
Puck drops at 7 p.m.
Media: Team 1260 Radio
If hard times build character and reveal true colours, there are a few things that Steve Pleau likes in his Edmonton Oil Kings.
At 12-33-4-8 -- the second-worst record in the Western Hockey League -- the playoffs have been out of the equation for a long time.
While 11-and 16-game losing streaks were debilitating, and a trade deadline fire sale gutted the roster of veteran experience, there have been glimmers of light for the Oil Kings head coach.
"I think Cam Lanigan is a guy who's stepped up through this whole thing," the coach said of the 17-year-old goaltender. "We want him to be our No. 1 goalie. We want him to show us that he can, and I believe that he's doing that."
Lanigan was outstanding in the team's 5-4 overtime win over the Prince Albert Raiders that ended the 16-game dry spell on Jan. 31, stopping 50 shots.
"It's been exciting to get to play," said Lanigan, who has seen his ice time ramped up in the second half of the season.
"It definitely helps to give you a more consistent game when you get to start. It's definitely a lot more exciting. It's a lot more workload, but it's fun."
Pleau also pointed to two NHLdraft eligible players in defenceman Mark Pysyk and centre T.J. Foster.
"A kid like Mark Pysyk, he's got a lot on the line individually and he could sulk and suck about being on a team that's in last place and he hasn't. He's competed right through and he's learning every day," Pleau said.
"And a kid I really enjoy being around is T.J. Foster. He's another kid who's in his draft year and he's stepped up his game. He's been tremendous. He's played in all situations and he's thrived in them."
Also making his presence felt on the Oil Kings is one of the team's newest members, Danish centre Sebastian Svendsen. A part of the trade that sent Czech forward Tomas Vincour to the Vancouver Giants in January, Svendsen seems to have found his niche with the Oil Kings. The 18-year-old has scored three goals in his last four games, games in which the team came away with five points.
"I just tried to get some of the things from Vancouver over here and keep things positive and just play hard all the time," Svendsen said. "I think we started to play really good (lately) and I think we'll get some more wins the last couple of games now."
"One thing that we really needed was energy and enthusiasm and a belief in ourselves and he's a fun kid to be around," Pleau said of Svendsen. "He loves to come to the rink, he's always got a smile, he competes like heck and it's translating onto the scoresheet, which always helps."
With just 15 games left on the schedule, the team will continue to seek out whatever victories it can, whether they're on the scoreboard or of the moral variety. Their 5-2 dumping of the Prince George Cougars -- the WHL's worst team, incidentally -- was the Oil Kings' first road win since Nov. 14. It came a night after the Oil Kings fell 4-1 to the Cougars.
"It was kind of a mixed emotions road trip, where you feel like you're at the bottom of the barrel when you lose on Friday night but you come out and play great on Saturday," Pleau said. "It's one of those things where I think it's a mental battle no matter where you're at."
The battles continue tonight, when the Oil Kings host the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the first game of a five-game home stand.
© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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