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Oilers’ Gagner enjoys “high pace” of Austrian league

Dec 31, 2012, 1:50 PM EDT

Sam Gagner AP

Don’t put Sam Gagner on the list of locked-out NHLers disappointed with their time playing abroad.

The Edmonton forward has been plying his trade with Klagenfurter of the Austrian League during the work stoppage, and recently told the Edmonton Sun he’s thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“It was a good opportunity for me to play and develop as a player,” Gagner explained. “It’s a league with a really high pace, so it forces me to really move my legs and I think that’s a really good thing for me going forward.”

The 23-year-old is currently on hiatus from Klagenfurter — he was part of Team Canada’s Spengler Cup-winning side — and it’s unclear if he’ll return to Austria, or head back to North America to wait for the start of the NHL season.

Either way, Gagner’s time in the EBEL (Erste Bank Eishockey Liga) has been a positive.

He racked up 10G-8A-18PTS in 19 games and also reunited with former Oilers teammate Andrew Cogliano, now with the Anaheim Ducks.

Cogliano also relished his time in Austria, albeit in a different manner than Gagner.

The Ducks forward joined Klagenfurter last month and described the experience as a reality check, citing long bus rides, small crowds and questionable officiating that made him appreciative of what he has in the NHL.

“It really does humble you,” he told the Toronto Star. “I know when I go back I won’t be taking much for granted. I can see myself playing even harder now [with the Ducks] and make sure I’m fighting for my job every game because we have it really good back home.

“We do things in the NHL that guys here wouldn’t even imagine.”

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