Souray's got his shot at redemption


Few have been as well positioned as Dustin Penner this pre-season to tell; still, he wasn't sure he was equipped to judge the velocity of Sheldon Souray's slapshot.


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EDMONTON - Few have been as well positioned as Dustin Penner this pre-season to tell; still, he wasn't sure he was equipped to judge the velocity of Sheldon Souray's slapshot.

Does it really have more sizzle this season or is that just the assumption given the man is back and seemingly on a mission?

"Well, I've heard it go by," began Penner. "I still haven't seen it."

Much attention was paid to the Edmonton Oilers' special teams on Monday when all returned to training camp headquarters at Rexall Place. Penner got in more time on the penalty kill, a move that is still being considered for the season; the shot blockers rehearsed with the foam pucks; and the two power-play units were put through their paces.

Defencemen Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov were working on a unit with Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and

Andrew Cogliano while Souray and Lubomir Visnovsky were working on the back end of the No. 1 unit.

Penner rotated with Erik Cole in front of the net -- and in front of Souray's shot.

"In practice you do tend to stand off to the side. You don't want to be catching any off the feet," said Cole. "In a game, it's a different story. You stand in there -- and I am sure there will be some scary moments this year ... but that's part of it."

"I try and stay away from the shot in practice," offered Penner.

Because Souray had played just 26 games before he was rerouted to the operating room for shoulder surgery, his shot hasn't been seen around these parts since January.

He wasted no time unleashing it at training camp, along with his physical presence in defensive situations.

"I don't see one weakness in his game right now," coach Craig MacTavish said. "He's fit and ready to go."

So, too, is the shot.

Last week, for instance, Florida Panthers goaltender Chris Tseu-Beckford was seen covering up his mask during a power play. Penner wasn't really all that surprised to see the defensive posturing.

Neither was Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who is looking to get some time in the Oilers' net.

"His wristers are pretty hard, too," said the rookie netminder. "You know I had heard about the shot ... it was a bit more than I was expecting. Now, when I see Sheldon winding up, I just have to be ready. And he can put it anywhere he wants. It comes quick and it's accurate, but if you can stop a one-timer from the point from him, you know you'll be ready. You're confident with your game."

"I definitely feel healthier and that has a lot to do with it. I feel a lot more confident and that has a lot to do with it, too," Souray said.

He is also sure he's going to hit the back of more nets than he is teammates. In the meantime, tip drills and power-play practices can't hurt. Too much.

"He's pretty accurate (when he is going top shelf)," Cole said. "When you're standing in front of the net and looking at him with the puck, you can almost tell it's coming. His head is up. He's conscious of it. That's not something you have to worry about.

"The tough part is you have to keep the guy on your back from shoving you in front of it," he continued. "It's a tough shot for goalies to control, so if he doesn't beat them clean, which he is very capable of, there's going to be a lot of second- and third-chance opportunities."

Back in his days as a Duck in Anaheim, Penner would stand in front of the net when Chris Pronger and Scott Neidermayer were manning the points. Strategic positions were eventually established. Habits were developed. He's still working on Souray, whose shot has a curve, making it even more difficult to follow.

"It's tougher to pick up. Prongs used white tape and I just knew his timing," Penner said. "He'd snap it and I'd sit there ... tick ... tick ... tick. Same with Scottie. He'd just look for my stick. With Shelley? I guess it would be the same thing if you talked to a catcher about a guy who throws it 92 miles an hour and the guy who throws it 99."

As for Visnovsky, he did admit he'll probably pass more than he shoots, which might just be OK with Penner.

"(Souray's) got the best shot in the NHL. I've never seen a shot like his," said Visnovsky. "I just try to pass to him because he's so dangerous and goalies can be a little bit nervous because of it."

"I have to go in the video room with Lubo," concluded Penner, "so I can show him the bottom half of the net."


The Oilers host the Calgary Flames tonight at 7 p.m. in their final pre-season home game. They are in Calgary on Friday and in Dallas two nights later.