Heavyweight NHLers are there to serve and protect on a nightly basis, but Luke Gazdic has some ability and shouldn’t be satisfied with being a knuckle-dragging, four- to five-minute-a-game guy.

There could be something there in the Edmonton Oilers’ fourth-liner.

On several shifts against the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday, he looked every bit as effective as a similar tough guy, Ryan Reaves, on the other team. Reaves was part of the Blues’ most energetic line with Magnus Paajarvi and Maxim Lapierre, according to St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock.

Gazdic, who set up Mark Arcobello’s second-period goal, threw several hard checks during close to eight minutes of playing time. He also tried to engage Reaves, who is coming off a broken hand, but there were any fisticuffs there.

Frankly, there’s little reason Gazdic, a good pupil with strong work habits, can’t make himself into an 8-1/2 minute a game contributor like Georges Laraque or Dave Brown when both were riding the range here. Gazdic can skate and isn’t just dumping the puck into the opponent’s zone. He’s scored four points and is averaging 5:38 right now.

“The one guy lately who’s making great strides is Luke. He understands his role and he’s getting better as a hockey player,” said coach Dallas Eakins.

“Boy, there was a lot of talk to our bench by the St. Louis players and he was quick to engage it. There was one individual who had a lot to say to Luke, then he went out and stood beside him, he had very little to say. That’s part of the gamesmanship down there, though. There’s lots of talk, things said you can’t believe are said.