Edmonton Oilers left wing Benoit Pouliot will be the first to admit he has struggled mightily at times this season.
The 30-year-old has seen his production dip to 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 67 games, and he went one spell of 28 games this season without a goal, from Dec. 8 to March 14.
Pouliot also has been known to take penalties in the offensive zone. The coach who endorses that as a strategy has yet to be born.
For all those question marks, Pouliot has the potential to be one of the Oilers most important contributors in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He is blessed with size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), good hands and playmaking ability and after the NHL Trade Deadline found a comfort level on Edmonton's third line, with newly acquired center David Desharnais and right wing Zack Kassian.
"I feel good," Pouliot said. "We have good chemistry right now and we're getting a lot of chances offensively.
"We know our top two lines will produce offensively, we can rely on that, but to go far in the playoffs we'll need all four of them. Mark Letestu's line (the Oilers fourth line) has been doing that all year. They've been consistent. For us, it will be to bring the same thing, but our main focus, I think, should be keeping pucks out of our net and then we'll get our chances offensively."
Pouliot has 244 points (117 goals, 127 assists) in 551 career NHL games.
His more valuable statistic to Edmonton may be his 54 career games in the playoffs.
That puts him second on the Oilers, behind forward Milan Lucic's 101 playoff games. The Oilers have 11 players without a single game of playoff experience, and 16 of their 23 players have fewer than 10 games.
Pouliot, who has played in the postseason for the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild, has a good knowledge base as to what the playoffs are about and how the game and atmosphere change dramatically from Game 82 of the regular season to Game 1 of the playoffs.
"It's a lot different than the season, that's for sure," Pouliot said. "It's a totally different game. At the same time I find it way more fun, in a way that it's competitive every night. It's a grind. Our game is going to change with that a little bit in the playoffs.
"I think it's going to be a lot of matching up and the speed is going to be cranked up to the max, and the emotion. I think we just can't get ahead of ourselves.
"We have some guys who have been through it, [Milan] Lucic and [defenseman] Kris [Russell]. I think once you have the first game, you'll learn and figure out how it's going to be."
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