Brule finds new life with Oilers

CanWest News Service
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NHL

Other than the fact their misery will officially be over in less than three weeks, there has not been much positive to say about the Edmonton Oilers.

But almost lost amid this train wreck of a season in the Alberta capital is the resurrection of Gilbert Brule's pro hockey career.

Other than the fact their misery will officially be over in less than three weeks, there has not been much positive to say about the Edmonton Oilers.

But almost lost amid this train wreck of a season in the Alberta capital is the resurrection of Gilbert Brule's pro hockey career.

The 23-year-old North Vancouver, B.C., centre and former Vancouver Giants star looks to have finally proven that he belongs in the NHL.

Brule entered Friday's game against the Anaheim Ducks with 15 goals and 34 points in 61 games this season.

He is minus-6 on a team that has given up more goals (248) than any other NHL team.

By comparison, the Oilers' $7-million man, Shawn Horcoff, has 12 goals and 30 points and is a horrendous minus-28.

"I think I am just playing with more confidence out there," Brule said after Tuesday's game-day skate at Rexall Place. "I'm not looking to give up the puck so easy like I used to. I think I am realizing I have that extra second of time and I have the skill to make a play and get my head up and not give up the puck the way I was doing before."

Confidence was not something Brule had in spades after three very frustrating seasons as a pro. Drafted sixth overall by Columbus in 2005, he was rushed into the Blue Jackets' lineup. He was sent back to the Giants after playing seven games with Columbus in the 2005-06 season and then had two less than scintillating seasons playing under the demanding defensive style of former Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock.

Brule managed just 19 points in 78 games in 2006-07 and nine points in 61 the year after. The Blue Jackets then gave up on Brule, trading him to the Oilers for Raffi Torres on July 1, 2008.

Brule spent most of last season in the minors and was considering heading to Europe before a meeting last summer with new Oilers coach Pat Quinn. Brule signed a two-way deal with an NHL salary of $800,000 and Quinn gave him the chance to prove his worth.

Brule has had a whole different cast of linemates this season, but lately has been skating with leading scorer Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano.

"This is the first year (in the NHL) where I have finally felt like I have belonged and fit and know I can make a difference out there for our team," he said.

Organizations: Edmonton Oilers, NHL, Vancouver Giants

Geographic location: Alberta, North Vancouver, Columbus Europe

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