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MacTavish wants consistent, physical play from Winchester
Jim Matheson, The Edmonton Journal
Friday, December 15, 2006

EDMONTON - So the big guy draws the short straw, again.

The sight of no sweater hanging in his locker for the second time in the last seven games was not what Oilers' Brad Winchester wanted to see Thursday.

With rookie Alexei Mikhnov playing his second NHL game, somebody had to come out, and Winchester was told he was the man. Meanwhile, Patrick Thoresen, Jean-Francois Jacques, Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Toby Petersen stayed in the lineup.

It's another step back for the six-foot-five winger who's had some strong nights this year but continues to have trouble keeping it together for any length of time - at least to the satisfaction of coach Craig MacTavish.

He grades the performances and, even if Winchester has eight points and is plus-3 in 29 games and has the second most PIMS (43) on the roster, the coach wants more.

"If he's not physically involved, there's no sense playing him," said MacTavish, taking Winchester to the woodshed, and not sparing his feelings.

"You have to find a way to be a physical factor, and if you're not a factor in a game, what good are you? Whether you're playing seven minutes or 10 minutes, if you're a negative factor, somebody is knocking at the door trying to get in (to your spot). You have to find a way ... . Maybe it's a bad example, but look at Bucky (Kelly Buchberger) with us. He'd been 15 years in the league, and if things weren't going well, he was scrapping, much to the chagrin of his wife and family," said MacTavish.

Winchester's best work of the season came on a five-game road trip in early November to Montreal, Detroit, Columbus, St. Louis and Colorado. He played a season-high 14:25 minutes in St. Louis, scoring twice. But, the last three games he's been under 10 minutes a game, just 6:44 in Chicago. He has only one point (a blistering shot of a goal on Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward last week) in the past 12 games.

But, it's not the points that are bothering MacTavish. He doesn't feel the 220-pounder is fighting enough for his piece of real estate, although he admits he could just as easily have taken a few others out of the lineup against Minnesota.

Like Thoresen, who has levelled off after a fast rookie start and has no points in his last 11 games. Or Jacques, who is still feeling his way around. But not the rookie forward Pouliot, who MacTavish is using on the power play and who is becoming more accustomed to the pace.

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