October 19 2010 01:40PM
Tom Renney juggled his top three lines in practice this morning at Millenium Place, but was this just a way to get the attention of his players, or will Renney keep these new combinations in tact for Thursday's game v. the Wild?
After practice Renney hinted this might have only been to keep guys fresh, and to get a chance to see how guys reacted and played with new linemates, but I don't see why after being away from the ice for two days Renney would just put together lines for the sake of it.
The Oilers aren't generating enough shots of scoring chances, so it doesn't seem like a stretch that he would try some new combinations.
Ales Hemsky will have Shawn Horcoff in the middle and Magnus Paajarvi on the left side. Horcoff and Hemsky haven't played that much together over the past two seasons due to injury, but they know how to play with one another, and Paajarvi has the speed to play with both of them. I'm curious who will shoot the puck amongst the three of them though?
Dustin Penner will stay with Sam Gagner, but now they will have Jordan Eberle on the right side. This combination intrigues me. Wayne Gretzky used to say this game is all about finding two-on-ones on the ice, and Gagner and Eberle think and play the game in a similar fashion.
Neither of them is overly fast or strong and they have to rely on their instincts and use their linemates to create chances. They might lose the odd battle due to their size, but I'm curious to see how they work off each other. Eberle and Gagner need to read off each other, use quick give-and-goes and distribute the puck quickly to have success. Gagner is the natural passer and Eberle likes to shoot, so we'll see if they can build some chemistry along with Penner.
Taylor Hall will now play with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule. They have speed to burn, but will they move the puck quick enough and will they stay close enough so they can support the puck properly?
One practice doesn't show you much, and Renney did suggest he switched the lines to change things up and get a look at different combinations. But speaking to the players after practice, they all seemed to think these would be the new line combos come Thursday.
With so many days off between games Renney does have the luxury of trying some new looks, but I suspect this was more than a test run, and we will most likely see these combos on Thursday.
Yesterday Renney hinted that it might be easier to have two "veterans" and one rookie on each line, so it shouldn't surprise us that the new line combos have exactly that. I suspect this will be the first of many "line juggling" from Renney this season. I doubt he will find three combos that all produce at the same time, and in a season where the Oilers are trying to develop six forwards, I think new line combos will be the norm rather than the exception all season long.
FINE CAUSES BARBS
Tom Gilbert has never been considered a physical defenceman, never mind a cheap shot artist, so his $2,500 fine surprised quite a few people. Gilbert was careful with what he said about the fine, but you could tell he didn't really agree with it. He thought he was just making a play on the puck.
His teammates had some fun with him today with Ladislav Smid announcing that he will probably see a lot more wingers come down his side in order to avoid the "dirty" Gilbert. During interviews Gilbert had a hard time not laughing as Jason Strudwick walked by giving him the gears about his new reputation.
I don't think the fine will affect Gilbert other than in his wallet. He rarely is a physical presence, so I doubt he will think twice the next time to goes to hit a player, and I don't see him garnering any sort of reputation around the league either. The fine looked to be a weak attempt by the league to get a player's attention.