Sam Gagner is starting to feel better about his game.

And while it’s too late to make much of a difference to the Edmonton Oilers this season, it does help fan the embers of hope looking towards the next.

With his goal and assist in Tuesday’s 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators, Gagner has collected nine points in his past eight games.

It’s the type of production the Oilers were hoping to get out of the centre throughout the season.

“I’m feeling better, I’m feeling more confident,” Gagner said following an optional practice Tuesday. “I’m obviously not happy with the way my year has gone. I think the Olympic break was good for me to refocus and get feeling better. Our team is playing a lot better, which helps. Hopefully, we can keep it going down the stretch here.”

With a solid lockout campaign, where Gagner averaged a career-high 0.79 points per game, expectations were high heading into this year.

A broken jaw sustained in preseason, however, courtesy of Vancouver Canucks winger Zack Kassian, proved to be a huge setback for Gagner, who struggled to regain his stride. It’s still a battle, although things are trending upwards as the Oilers get set to host the Buffalo Sabres Thursday (7:30 p.m.) at Rexall Place.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “Guys that miss training camp and miss part of training camps usually have an off season.

“When you have an injury like that — it’s not like he broke his wrist, it was a broken jaw, a bad injury and I think that put some hesitation in his game. You’re looking over your shoulder a little bit and I know Sam probably came back because we were dying and it was such a terrible time for our team.”

Gagner missed the first 13 games of the season, and by the time he came back, the Oilers were already in a hole they would not be able to climb out of.