EDMONTON — Mike Cammalleri rode into town a decade-and-a-half after his first visit to Edmonton, one that he remembers with fondness.
“Ziggy Palffy passed it to me on a two-on-one,” he recalled. “Brad Chartrand helped set up the play, and it was (Tommy) Salo in net. It was back-door, against-the-grain five-hole shot.”
That was his first ever National Hockey League goal, 15 years ago — to the day — from Thursday, and there is nothing about that play that Cammalleri can not recall. At age 35, the Oilers are hoping he can find some muscle memory and recall some of the offensive juice that produced six 25-goal seasons over an 855-game NHL career.
Does the Toronto native think he can still score goals?
“I do,” he said. “You (media) guys get the fun job of predicting all of that, but we’ll see who’s right or wrong.”
When Cammalleri was rifling home his first of 290 NHL goals in old Rexall Place, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan was still coaching at AHL Houston. Now, his Oilers needed an eight-goal game on Tuesday to climb into 27th in league scoring.
They need some goals from the bottom six forwards, which is where Cammalleri fits in — as well as the second powerplay unit.
“I think of the name Mike Cammalleri… I see him lowering that knee, taking that one-timer and scoring. That’s the vision that I have of him,” McLellan said. “We need to get him the puck in the right spots and encourage him to shoot it. If he can finish a little bit more from the bottom six, we’ll be in a better spot than we were before.”
Cammalleri, who will wear his traditional No. 13, will play left wing on a line with centre Ryan Strome and right-winger Iiro Pakarinen tonight against St. Louis. He’s moved from team to team enough times to know that the best way to fit in with a new group of teammates is after they sing the anthems and drop the puck.
“Going on the ice and playing competitive sport with your teammates is the quickest way to earn somebody’s trust,” he said. “Look at other lines of work where they have corporate retreats. We’re like the ultimate corporate retreat: put a bunch of guys together and go play a physical hockey game together.
“Earning trust out there on the ice, it’s the best way to do it.”