GDB 28: MacT's Punch-Out

Jason Gregor
December 13 2008 05:09PM

Expect some fisticuffs -- Craig MacTavish is because he has inserted Zack Stortini and Jason Strudwick on the fourth line for tonight.

You can’t blame him, since the Canucks are the second most penalized team and have the second most fights so far this season. The Canucks ran the Nashville Predators out of their own barn four nights ago, and the Oilers aren’t nearly as tough as the Predators, even with Strudwick and Stortini in the line-up.

The Canucks won’t have Roberto Luongo again tonight. He aggravated his groin in practice and might be out another month, so they have to win with grit and an in-your-face attitude. They are 4-4-1 without their all-star netminder, but lately they have really upped their aggressive play.

Will the Oilers answer the bell tonight? They better or Vancouver will continue their abrasive style. Not only do the Canucks fight -- 31 fights from 14 different players -- they also like to hit. The Canucks aren’t that skilled on paper outside of the Sedin Sisters, Pavel Demitra, Mason Raymond and Kyle Wellwood, but they have a bunch of spit disturbers who love to run at guys all night.

Last season the Oilers answered the bell in a game that featured seven fights, including Sam Gagner going with Ryan Kesler, and that seemed to be a rallying point for them. The Oilers need to create some team unity and an identity at home, so maybe standing up for one another tonight against Vancouver should be a no-brainer.

It seems like forever since the Oilers were involved in a spirited game. I’m not expecting line brawls or anything, and probably not more than two or three fights, but it would be nice to see a game with some intensity and animosity. The Oilers have been way too easy to play against most nights this season. Let’s see if they respond to a Canuck team that has been playing with an edge most nights.

The lines for tonight look like this:

Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky

Nilsson – Cogliano – Gagner

Moreau – Brodziak – Cole

Strudwick – Pouliot – Stortini

You’d expect that Stortini will do anything to make an impression tonight and stay in the line-up. But guys like Cole, Brodziak and Moreau have to be physical every shift. If not, the Canucks will be running at Hemsky, Gagner and company all night.

Roloson will start in goal.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 R-DAWG
December 13 2008, 10:21PM
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Crawford is a retard!! How can your penalty kill numbers go way up if you only kill 2 penalties..ok 3

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#52 freeze
December 13 2008, 10:25PM
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I hope our other games this month go so well.

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#53 R-DAWG
December 13 2008, 10:26PM
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you know who I feel sorry for...even more than Marc Crawford's wife, is the poor bastards that in 4 minutes get to go out to a chunk of ice and hope it starts in the parking lot

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#54 freeze
December 13 2008, 10:28PM
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Gilbert-Souray for next few years is reassuring.

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#55 jeanshorts
December 13 2008, 10:37PM
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Beauty game tonight men. I wonder what kind of excuses the Canuck fans are going to come up with after this one. I thought they were supposed to be just as good without Luongo? Other than the last 18 minutes of the first period, I thought we played consistently all night. Good to see we can finally get ourselves going for more than one game.

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#56 nary a kurri
December 13 2008, 11:17PM
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I get nice fuzzy feelings listening to Tambo wax poetic about Gagner, which contrasts sharply with the nausea that watching him play caused through the game tonight. He really looks off his game, and doesn't look like an NHL player, let alone a second line NHL player right now.

I wonder if there's any chance that he might get relegated to the 4th line for a while, where his improved defensive play won't be stunted until his offense comes around.

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#57 Clarkenstein
December 13 2008, 11:23PM
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Gagner is nothing more than a very good Junior hockey player this year... nothing more.

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#58 Clarkenstein
December 13 2008, 11:25PM
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By the way, has anybody figured why Horcoff is on the first power play? By default maybe?? He does absolutely nothing and as soon as he touches the puck they are all over him because they know he has no hands. Mystifying.

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#59 Smokin' Ray
December 13 2008, 11:44PM
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Hor-coffup hasn't been very good this year. ***I don't care how many points he has, he stinks*** It seems like he has no effort anymore. He used to be one of our best PK guys. Now he's average. Maybe he should move down to the 2nd line and Cogs can move up with Hemmer. Let's give someone else a shot.

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#60 Leonard
December 13 2008, 11:56PM
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And I taught they are going to give Shremp a good, long look. You can feel 'love' between Shremp and Mc T. Can't you? He desided to play fighters today. How many goals they scord while fighting and 5 on 3 twice? But Mc T did it over K. Lowe objections.

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#61 atastypie
December 14 2008, 12:25AM
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Hey guys the Oilers won 3-0 tonight and the last 4 posts is way too much internet whining in a row

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#62 jeanshorts
December 14 2008, 12:54AM
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Leonard wrote:

And I taught they are going to give Shremp a good, long look. You can feel ‘love’ between Shremp and Mc T. Can’t you? He desided to play fighters today. How many goals they scord while fighting and 5 on 3 twice? But Mc T did it over K. Lowe objections.

Apparentely you didn't see Vancouver's last game when they ran Nashville out of their own barn. Or the last Oilers/Canucks game where we got absolutely trounced in all areas, especially physically. I know everyone has a giant hard on for Schremp and Brule, and I'm one of the people leading the Fire MacT Bandwagon, but he made the smart choice tonight. He put in two guys that may not be deterrents, especially Smac caliber deterrents, but they are guys that will answer the bell and that's exactly what they did. If you noticed, no Oilers got ran for the final two periods. Mission accomplished.

I'd much rather win a game, despite going 0 for 90000 on the PP, and leave the game with all our players intact, then have Ohlund running everyone's skulls into the end boards.

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#63 Ender the Dragon
December 14 2008, 03:08AM
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jeanshorts wrote:

If you noticed, no Oilers got ran for the final two periods. Mission accomplished.

Amen, JS. I'm with MacT on this. Everyone is all over him when he tries something and it obviously doesn't work, but when he tries something and it happens quietly just the way he planned, no credit. Good call here.

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#64 Chris
December 14 2008, 08:51AM
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Best game they have played all year. Credit MacT for loading up the lineup with every pound available. The Oilers were able to impose their will at home against a tired team coming off a seven game road trip...but hey, it's a good start. It gives me hope that with only a small move here or there for some more grit/ physical depth this team can really go on a run. MacT replaced two small forwards for Stortini and Strudwick (Both who fought) and Voila...Intensity. Validates what many have been saying all week...

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#65 Gord
December 14 2008, 12:00PM
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I missed the JL meeting as I was in attendance at RX1. My quick summary of a well played game, line by line:

Penner-Horc-Hemmer: Well played game by Penner - looked like a legitimate #1 LW in one his best-ever efforts Hemsky played well but wasn't at his best Horcoff was horrible - couldn't win a draw, won't hit anyone although had plently of opportunities, made poor decisions with the puck and looked horrible at every opportunity

Nilsson-Gagner-Cogs: OMG split thjis line up - they can't maintian possession of the puck because they are all 100lb midgets. They need some size and strngth on this line. I think moving Cole up to RW would be a HUGE benefit to this line. Cogs was the best player by a mile. Other than Nilsson's breakaway goal, I wouldn't have noticed him except for losing the puck along the boards or bad give aways in the offensive zone. Gagner looks like a 14 year old playing men's hockey. He just can not opperate without getting some extra room, which could be created by putting a big body on that line.

Moreau-Brodziak-Cole: Moreau and Cole looked great - fininishing hits, driving the net and making their presence felt every time they touched the ice. Brodziak looked horrible and seemed at times was replaced by Pouliot? who looked like a much better fit when he was skating with Cole and Moreau.

Stortini-Pouliot-Strudwick: Pouliot played well, despite a couple bad penalties Stortini looked great. Sure he isn't he best skater, but he made so big hits, he got to the dirty areas and played with aggression that I would like to see each and every night. Pouliot played well but he is a skilled player trying to play tough - 4th line does not match his skill set. Strudwick looked like a defenseman playing forward (as hard as that is to believe.) He made his presence known and was responsible defensively.

All in all, Horc was the worst player on the ice, Gagner and Nilsson weren't far behind. Penner, Cole and Stortini were the best 3 forwards as far as effort and determination.

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#66 Chris
December 14 2008, 12:32PM
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Gord wrote:

Nilsson-Gagner-Cogs: OMG split thjis line up - they can’t maintian possession of the puck because they are all 100lb midgets

I aggree with Gord. As a group, despite several oppertuinities, this "Kid Line" has been a bust. I'm wondering if last years stretch run magic is of the same ilk as Pisanai's 14 goal cup performance: a one off. I hope management is looking to trade for some grit, but in the meantime, like Gord said, move Cole up to play with Cogliano. Or they could rotate Schremp/ Brule (when avilable) in and out of the lineup as long as Mact remembers to take out a small body for every small body that goes in.

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#67 rindog
December 14 2008, 03:56PM
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@ Gord:

Horcoff always looks horrible. We are going to be regretting that signing for many, many years....

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#68 Bruce
December 14 2008, 07:51PM
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Gord wrote:

Horcoff was horrible - couldn’t win a draw, won’t hit anyone although had plently of opportunities, made poor decisions with the puck and looked horrible at every opportunity All in all, Horc was the worst player on the ice.

Oilers outshot Vancouver 11-4 and attempted 17 shots to Vancouver's 6 with "the worst player on the ice" out there at even strength. They also outscored Vancouver 2-0, which would make the "horrible" one +2 on the night. He had a hit, a takeaway and no giveaways on a night the Oil gave the puck away 20 times. Not his best night, but a positive contribution to a shutout victory.

Save your complaints for another night.

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#69 Gord
December 14 2008, 09:49PM
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@ Bruce: Just calling it as I see it. I could have put those stats up playing with Hemsky and Penner. Most Oilers had a good game - Horc didn't, which has become all too much of a regular occurance.

Did I mention how awesome Roli was? What a great performance!!!

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#70 Bruce
December 14 2008, 10:02PM
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Gord wrote:

@ Bruce: Just calling it as I see it. I could have put those stats up playing with Hemsky and Penner.

@Gord: Well either you're one hell of a hockey player or you have poor and/or biased vision. I'll consult Occam's Razor.

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#71 Gord
December 14 2008, 10:08PM
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@ Bruce: Nope, I'm not that great of a player, which is exactly my point - Horcoff was a long for a ride between two players who had a dominant game. Obviously you didn't watch the game if you think Horcoff played well or was even close to looking like a #1 centre. If any other Oiler had been given Horc's time and opportunities would have put up better stats.

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