Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 1/11/12

Twenty-five games into the 2011-2012 season, Oilers winger Magnus Paajarvi was in trouble. Following a 34-point campaign in 2010-2011, Paajarvi had apparently fallen off a ledge, and had no goals and just three points through 25 games. He was also a minus-2 while seeing his time on ice decrease over three minutes from the previous season.

The Oilers made the decision to send him down to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons to find his edge again. Paajarvi understood the reasoning behind the move perfectly. "I'm actually not too sad about it. I want to play a lot. It's important I play a lot," Paajarvi said in December after the news broke. "I really feel like this is going to benefit me. Hopefully, I can come back even stronger. Hopefully, I can be back here soon."

With his demotion, Paajarvi went from a team that is now 16-22-3 to one that currently leads the AHL's West Division with a 23-10-4 record. Paajarvi got a chance to play top-six minutes and get his confidence back. Oklahoma City was good for Paajarvi, and he scored one goal and eight assists in 10 games with the Barons.

The regaining of his confidence came at a good time for Paajarvi, as he was recalled Tuesday in the wake of Jordan Eberle's injury that could keep him out of the line-up for two to three weeks.

Though Paajarvi's recall comes at the expense of Eberle, he feels ready and better-equipped for the challenge of being back in Edmonton. As he spoke to reporters Wednesday, it was clear that the intent behind his demotion had worked.

"I played a lot down there. I think that's exactly what I needed," Paajarvi said. "To just play, to get that rhythm back, to not think so much. I don't think I'm too different a player, it's only been two and a half weeks, but I definitely have a lot more confidence."

Coach Tom Renney knows that the December demotion was necessary, and is glad to have received a more confident player back from Oklahoma City. "We just want (Paajarvi) to go play because we know he can," said head coach Tom Renney. "This kid really got it, he was really good at understanding that (a ticket to Oklahoma City) was a move for his career."

Renney wants to get Paajarvi in the line-up immediately so as not to interrupt Paajarvi's positive mindset, beginning with Wednesday's game against the New Jersey Devils. "We don't want him to analyze anything to a standstill," Renney said.

Paajarvi points to his playing top-six minutes as the most important part of his time in Oklahoma City. "The situation for me (with the Oilers earlier this season) wasn't good. When you play those small minutes you can't get going," Paajarvi said. "It was really good for me that I got a lot of minutes (in Oklahoma City)...I'm at my best when I'm in the top six." But he still realizes that he has to play well in Edmonton in order to stay there after Eberle returns.

"Don't get me wrong, I want to be up here and with this team for a lot of years, but you do get some perspective when you go down," Paajarvi said. "I do think the experience was good for me. I felt that before I went down, that I can make plays, I just didn't. Now I've done it (in the AHL), played a lot and that was the main thing."

The Oilers have to wait until Wednesday to see if his successful sojourn to the AHL will translate back to the NHL, but Renney thinks that doing well in the minor leagues was necessary for Paajarvi to get on track in the big league. "We want to hit a home run, for sure, but maybe you've got to hit a home run in a little league park before you swing for the fences at Yankee Stadium," Renney said.

Paajarvi, too, is ready to see how his second chance plays out, and is willing to fight to stay on the roster for the rest of the season. "I'm an offensive player. That's where I can do the most damage, but you have to earn it," Paajarvi said. "There's a lot of forwards here, really good forwards. That just raises the bar."

Photo credit: Getty Images

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