With everybody toting a notepad or a microphone eager to rub up against fuzzy-cheeked Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson after the Edmonton Oilers pre-game skate this morning, Fernando Pisani was getting less action than a dude with a comb-over and wicked halitosis at closing time. Sam (not mine, Dave’s), Andrew (don’t call me Todd) and Bobby have, after all, have earned the accolades they’re getting by being hot as a $3 pistol since coach Craig MacTavish turned them lose as a line.
In 16 games since Shawn Horcoff was lost for the season with a shoulder injury—the point in this campaign when players could’ve shrugged and said “To hell with it” with total justification—Gagner, Cogliano and Nilsson have been MacTavish’s best trio.
That said, guess who leads the Oilers in goals during that stretch? Sam? Andrew? Bobby? No, that would Pisani. Without any fanfare at all, he’s scored seven goals since Horcoff went down. So, did Pisani say, “Hey what about me?” after I approached him this morning? No chance. Pies isn’t made that way. As everybody leaned in to get a piece of the kids, Pisani tipped his hat.
“I think it’s great. It’s well deserved,” he said. “They work hard in practice and it shows in games. They’ve got some good chemistry right now. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to have them in the room.”
As NHL players go, Pisani’s at the top of the list of guys who haven’t let what they do or how much money they make morph them into somebody you’d like to kick in the groin because they’re absolutely certain their stool doesn’t stink. He’s a solid guy. A team guy.
That’s why Pisani’s happy to see the kids enjoy the limelight—even if he’s the best story on the team right now, in my opinion, with how he’s playing after overcoming a career-threatening bout of ulcerative colitis. The truth is, Pisani’s been nothing short of courageous the way he’s faced the debilitating disease, beat it back and overcome it with the help of drug therapy.
Pisani wasn’t near 100 per cent went he returned to the line-up Dec. 2 after losing 30 pounds and missing 26 games. He ran on adrenalin for awhile, fell back a bit, then regrouped.
“You’re excited as soon as you get back,” he said. “I felt good for the first 10 or 15 games back. After that, I hit a little bit of a wall. I felt a little bit tired.”
Thanks to his unheralded hot streak, he’s managed 10 goals in 43 games going into tonight’s tilt with the St. Louis Blues.
“I feel confident with where my game is right now,” Pisani said. “I’m getting opportunities and I’m finishing on them now. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
SAM SAYS: Oilers win 5-2.
SAM RECORD: (1-1)
—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.