GDB 17.0: BRACING FOR THE BOLTS

Jason Gregor
November 07 2013 12:06PM

When you are a 28th place team every game is tough. Two days after a 4-3 OT victory over the 27th place Florida Panthers, the Oilers at least have some momentum heading into a showdown with the 10th place Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Oilers, most likely Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry, will have the pleasure of trying to shut down the dangerous duo of Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis. Stamkos is 2nd in NHL scoring with 20 points, while St. Louis is tied for 17th with 16.

Those two have scored 40% of Tampa Bay's goals, and only twice this season have both of them been held pointless. The Bolts lost both games, 3-1 and 5-0, and both losses came against the Bruins.

The Oilers don't have a Zdeno Chara, so it is unlikely the Oilers can shut out Stamkos and St. Louis, but they will need to contain them.

The Bolts have five players with 4+ goals, while the Oilers only have two, Gordon and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Twenty different players have scored a goal for the Oilers this year, but they need get a few more players scoring consistently. It is difficult to win regularly without a few go-to players, but the Oilers will get a huge boost as Taylor Hall returns to the lineup.

LINEUP...

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

Hall will play his first game since being injured in Ottawa and Eakins is hoping Hall can jumpstart two struggling players, Gagner and Yakupov. Hall is the best option to do that.

The only aspect of the line juggling that I question is moving Ryan Smyth to centre. Smyth struggled mightily last season playing in the middle. He excels on the wall, not in the middle of the ice. You can't expect him to contribute when he is playing centre.

There is no way you could demote Mark Arcobello or Boyd Gordon to the 4th line. They've arguably been the two most consistent forwards all year. There is no way Eakins could retain respect within the room if you demoted them, yet played struggling players like Yakupov, Gagner, and recently recalled Linus Omark ahead of them in the top-nine.

Smyth at centre has to be a short-term experiment. He is better on the wall.

I'm most interested to see who Eakins will use to try and contain Stamkos and St. Louis. Gordon is his best defensive forward, but with his wingers I'm not sure that is a matchup Eakins wants to run. I'm guessing he'll try to get the RNH line out against them.

Ference-Petry
Smid-Larsen
N.Schultz-Fedun

There is no reason to switch up the D pairs. Petry and Ference are the Oilers best option to face 91/26. I liked Larsen's game in Florida, especially on the PP. Fedun and Schultz won't outmuscle many players, but both play smart, positional defence.

Dubnyk

Tampa Bay is getting solid goaltending. Dubnyk needs to match Ben Bishop's play to give the Oilers a chance. 

YAK SUPPORT....

Yesterday head coach Dallas Eakins and Craig MacTavish made it clear that Nail Yakupov wasn't being shopped.

“Nail Yakupov is not being shopped, he’s not going anywhere and I wanted him to hear that from me, look me in my eye, and let him know that we’re attached at the hip," Eakins said after he had a heart-to-heart chat with Yakupov on the ice in Tampa Bay that had some speculating the first pick in 2012 might be a healthy scratch.

While scouting the Rangers/Pengiuns game, MacTavish said this to the media, "We very much believe Nail will evolve to become that dynamic, electric player — become one of the most entertaining guys in the game. I told that to Igor (Larionov) (Yakupov's agent) and I told that to Yak. Development is very rarely a straight line. It has ups and downs.”

It was smart for the coach to tell a young player who is struggling he believes in him, but the harsh reality of pro sports is that if you aren't performing you likely won't be playing much. Yakupov didn't see the ice for the final 9:30 or regulation, and the 1:55 of OT, while the Oilers were trying, unsuccessfully, to protect a lead.

That isn't surprising, considering he's not a defensive stalwart just yet, but if he continues to sit for long stretches, and continues to struggle offensively, will the Oilers consider a stint in OKC?

MacTavish wisely said development is rarely a straight line. Yakupov isn't the first sophomore to struggle, but due to his age they could let him gain some confidence in OKC. Yakupov has high-end skills, so he could score tonight and no one will worry about his offence, but if his slump continues the Oilers should consider OKC a viable option.

QUICK HITS...

  • Unless they acquire another goalie the Oilers need to stick with Devan Dubnyk. Jason LaBarbera is not going to perform better, so tell Dubnyk he's your guy, and tell him to stay focused the entire game. Challenge him to be consistent.  
     
  • The Oilers have actually played pretty well at ES on the road this year outscoring teams 26-25. They've been decent at ES, but they've been outscored 9-3 on PP. Their PP is only 9.4% on the road. Their PP looked much better in Florida, and if it can get going, they might start to pull out some wins away from Rexall.
     

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Four of the last five games between these two teams in Tampa have ended in 3-2 scores with each team winning twice. In those four games Oilers won, Tampa won, Oilers won and Tampa won, so based on extensive scientific research (none whatsoever) the Oilers continue that trend tonight with a 3-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Omark scores, because Oilersnation thrives on drama/debate.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After opening the Florida broadcast with a muscle shirt and shorts, Mean Gene Principe starts his segment standing along the boards at the zamboni entrance. He does a quick spin-o-rama then walks towards the camera talking about the return of Hall and Omark's recall from OKC. As he gets closer, he tosses it upstairs to two guys who are "classy" and "no joke", Louis Debrusk and Kevin Quinn, and then stares into the camera and drops the mic. BOOM.

** Principe was playing off the words of the Tampa Bay Lightning players after Omark's infamous SO goal on December 10th, 2010, when they whined about his move being a joke and Dan "cancelled my twitter account" Ellis claimed it "wasn't very classy."

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR 

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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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#1 TayLordBalls
November 07 2013, 12:11PM
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going for 2 in a row!

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#2 mayorblaine
November 07 2013, 12:11PM
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we must be show casing Ryan Smyth...~

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#3 A-Mc
November 07 2013, 12:18PM
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I dont care who scores, just score! and score more than the other team. We need a 5 game winning streak in the worst way.

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#4 Rocket
November 07 2013, 12:21PM
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I'm amping to see how Stamkos lights The Oilers up. Watching him play against Hall (maybe) should be fun to watch.

Also, I wonder how Hedman is doing? He was drafted high but since then I haven't really heared much about him.

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#5 Taylor Gang
November 07 2013, 12:23PM
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You don't realize how bad of shape we're in until you realize that even on a 5 game winning streak we'd still have a losing record.

Still, the time is now to go game by game.

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#6 Bruner
November 07 2013, 12:26PM
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My prediction: A 5-4 victory for the Oil. Dubnyk continues to let in a plethora of goals

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#7 Jay
November 07 2013, 12:26PM
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This will be 3 games in a row now that I didn't watch these losers, and I'm in a much better mood!

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#8 Citizen David
November 07 2013, 12:38PM
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Rocket wrote:

I'm amping to see how Stamkos lights The Oilers up. Watching him play against Hall (maybe) should be fun to watch.

Also, I wonder how Hedman is doing? He was drafted high but since then I haven't really heared much about him.

Hedman is a legit number one in my mind. Not a lot of offence but Defense is super solid. He's the best case scenario of what Klefbom can be.

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#9 Oiler63
November 07 2013, 12:40PM
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So Dallas Eakins, like Kreuger, thinks Smyth can play well at center? Wait a minute, who is the real coach here? Why could two different coaches (assuming they are both smart people) come out with the same stupid idea? Is this Lowe coaching again?

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. -- Albert Einstein

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#10 Oiler63
November 07 2013, 12:42PM
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Rocket wrote:

I'm amping to see how Stamkos lights The Oilers up. Watching him play against Hall (maybe) should be fun to watch.

Also, I wonder how Hedman is doing? He was drafted high but since then I haven't really heared much about him.

Hedman and Adam Larsson are the reason why Seth Jones was drafted No. 4.

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#11 Hemmercules
November 07 2013, 12:51PM
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I would swap Arco and Gagner in those lines. I was never crazy about Gagner at centre, a rusty Gagner at centre is even worse. Break him in on the wing with some shelter and reward arco for his hard work.

Snipers feast on Dubnyk, facing Stamkos and co. is scary. Oil compete tonight but fall 5-4.

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#12 BorjeSalming-IanTurnbull
November 07 2013, 12:56PM
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The broadcasting crews for radio and TV are so bad that I always watch the opponent's broadcast. It's the only way to keep me sane.

Gene Principe = Buzz Killington

Bob Staufer = Mediterranean Chicken

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#13 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
November 07 2013, 12:58PM
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I think Stamkos is gonna ventilate Dubey tonight. I hate to say it, but he's lighting it up (as usual), and that half hearted wave Dubnyk made on the tying goal last game has me worried.

Here's hoping Hall comes out flying, if he and Yak can get it going we should be able to roll with the Bolts.

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#14 reaperfunkss (2nd tier fan)
November 07 2013, 01:03PM
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Dubnyks problems are not mental lapses. They are the deficiencies in his game such as he does not track the puck exceptionally well. Has little to no reflex speed. Depends totally on his size so in this it is not so much him making the save as it is the puck hitting him.

When challenged with a shot that takes skill to stop he more often than not fails. Eakins knows this i think MacT knows this but Lowe needs Dubnyk to come through and so he can prove himself right.

The foundation of this organization is so busted that management spends more time "selling us" on how good they are than proving how good they are by having a competitive team.

I am hoping for the best tonight but history doesnt give me much hope

Side note Just saw the 30 on 30 about Spanos and the Islanders and found the state of the islander fans very interesting.

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#15 Spydyr
November 07 2013, 01:04PM
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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:Stamkos lights up Gagner's line.

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#16 Will
November 07 2013, 01:07PM
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I also think tonight will be another night of how many goals do the Oilers need to actually win a game. Here's a question, what is the lowest amount of goals the oilers needed to win a game.

Why do I get the feeling the answer is 4.

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#17 pkam
November 07 2013, 01:07PM
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I am still a bit disappointed that we didn't get Jon Cooper to coach the Oilers.

He has been a winner everywhere. Never get fired even once, just moved up the ladder from one job to another. I don't know how he did it, I just know he did it every single time.

Tampa was 2nd last in the East last season, now they are 2nd best in the East. Under his coaching, Lightning will probably win the cup in a few years.

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#18 pkam
November 07 2013, 01:08PM
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Will wrote:

I also think tonight will be another night of how many goals do the Oilers need to actually win a game. Here's a question, what is the lowest amount of goals the oilers needed to win a game.

Why do I get the feeling the answer is 4.

The Oilers did win the Sens 3-1 with an EN earlier this year.

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#19 Smokey
November 07 2013, 01:14PM
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I don't get why if you got four centers that why you play a guy outta position who plays well on the boards. Eakins has enough horses to roll four lines 5x5. Play your top two lines consistently, and make your 3/4 lines battle it out who will play more down the stretch.

Instead you got Gagner who is non-existent on the dot, who will probably go 2-14. Stamkos will get this match-up and the Oilers will get roasted in their own zone. The fourth line will continue to play 5 minutes, with Smyth getting a shift on the PP, and a few on the penalty kill. Tampa's got two Oiler lines to destroy tonight. I'm predicting a 5-4 Oiler loss, with Stamkos with the trick.

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#20 Smokey
November 07 2013, 01:18PM
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pkam wrote:

I am still a bit disappointed that we didn't get Jon Cooper to coach the Oilers.

He has been a winner everywhere. Never get fired even once, just moved up the ladder from one job to another. I don't know how he did it, I just know he did it every single time.

Tampa was 2nd last in the East last season, now they are 2nd best in the East. Under his coaching, Lightning will probably win the cup in a few years.

Had a good coach in OKC who almost made it to the Calder Cup playoffs. I think if Nelson made it to the final dance he would of gotten consideration with the Oilers this year. Frankly he appears to be the only decent coach we have in the organization.

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#21 PChan121
November 07 2013, 01:20PM
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Dubby with the SO tonight!!! BOOK IT LOL!!! ....... One can dream!!!!

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#22 Reg Dunlop
November 07 2013, 01:22PM
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The lightning rely heavily on their top line. The oil don't have a Chara. So what? Has everyone forgotten the concept of shadowing? Assign Gordon and MarkArc to wear Stamkos and StLouis like hair shirts. Forgo any offence to shut down Tampa's threats. Follow them EVERYWHERE, scrum it up with them every whistle.

The oil won't do this and will lose 5-1.

Yak is here to stay. At least until he joins his doppelganger Nik Zherdev in USSR. Hello lottery.

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#23 Gordie Wayne
November 07 2013, 01:25PM
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Gagner should not be playing ahead of Arcobello at this time (especially coming off of a 2 goal game) and Smyth should not be playing center. I would include Gagner on the PP, but until he gets his timing back I would change the lines from:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

TO:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Arcobello-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Jones
Smyth-Gagner-Gazdic

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#24 nick
November 07 2013, 01:26PM
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Smokey wrote:

Had a good coach in OKC who almost made it to the Calder Cup playoffs. I think if Nelson made it to the final dance he would of gotten consideration with the Oilers this year. Frankly he appears to be the only decent coach we have in the organization.

Good Post, Eakins is a disaster, Todd Nelson should have been the guy up here if MacT found an urge to fire a guy after 48 games.

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#25 Dog Train
November 07 2013, 01:26PM
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This will be a tough game. If we can somehow limit Stamkos and St. Louis, then we'll have a chance. Easier said than done but that's where Dubnyk needs to step in and make some big saves. Come on big guy, stop the puck!

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#26 Romulus' Apotheosis
November 07 2013, 01:27PM
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"Unless they acquire another goalie the Oilers need to stick with Devan Dubnyk. Jason LaBarbera is not going to perform better, so tell Dubnyk he's your guy, and tell him to stay focused the entire game. Challenge him to be consistent."

Do you mean Labarbs won't perform better than DD (I agree), or than he has so far (seems impossible)?

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#27 Chainsawz
November 07 2013, 01:29PM
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Anyone else getting sick of the verbal no-trade promises? First Gagner, now Yakupov. What valuable trade chip does MacTavish have in mind to drastically improve the blueline or goaltending?

Despite their inept managment, I feel a 2 game win streak coming on!

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#28 tileguy
November 07 2013, 01:34PM
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Gordie Wayne wrote:

Gagner should not be playing ahead of Arcobello at this time (especially coming off of a 2 goal game) and Smyth should not be playing center. I would include Gagner on the PP, but until he gets his timing back I would change the lines from:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

TO:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Arcobello-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Jones
Smyth-Gagner-Gazdic

I would as well except switch Jones and Smyth.

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#29 Spydyr
November 07 2013, 01:34PM
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"Unless they acquire another goalie the Oilers need to stick with Devan Dubnyk. Jason LaBarbera is not going to perform better, so tell Dubnyk he's your guy, and tell him to stay focused the entire game. Challenge him to be consistent.

Didn't paying him like a starter tell him he was their guy?

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#30 nick
November 07 2013, 01:36PM
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Citizen David wrote:

Hedman is a legit number one in my mind. Not a lot of offence but Defense is super solid. He's the best case scenario of what Klefbom can be.

Don't disagree with your statement on Hedman, pretty solid defenseman but in today's NHL cannot be a number 1 D-man because of the lack of offence. Everyone is caught up on the catch phrase of this decade and that is "puck moving D-man". Hedman would be a good number 2 guy.

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#31 6rings
November 07 2013, 01:39PM
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How is it that a #1 pick does not know how to use his teammates? After all the games he's played over the, top notch skill , and all thd coaching he can't look up for an open linemate?

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#32 pkam
November 07 2013, 01:40PM
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Normally, you expect the healthy player to help those who return from an injury. But we expect Hall to jumpstart Gagner and Yakupov in his first game back after out 2 weeks? Isn't it too much to ask from a 21 year old?

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#33 @stevegregson2
November 07 2013, 01:42PM
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I am a bigger fan of this line up than many the oilers have iced this year. I like that Hall and Yak will play together with Gagner. I've never been sold on Gagner's Defensive abilities and I hope with Hall back and a re-energized yak playing with him, they will skate like the wind and keep the puck in the O zone.

My biggest concern is this. Has anyone heard what the diagnosis of halls knee injury was/is?? I heard swelling on an interview, but no actually telling if it was sprain, tear, bruise etc. I see the worst case scenario being Hall has come back early from a injury that should require surgery. Maybe he can play at 80-90%, but will still need surgery in the offseason. Either way, there's a lot that can go wrong with knees. I hope for the oilers sake that they aren't being reckless. I'd like to see hall okay more than half the season. The oilers silence on this injury does scare me. Trying not to get my expectations up too high for his return because it may not last.

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#34 Lochenzo
November 07 2013, 01:45PM
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I was worried about going with the smaller D in Florida, but I'm glad they proved me wrong with Larsson and Fedun both scoring. Petry jumps up a fair bit, so now there's one guy on each pair that can join the rush.

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#35 Lochenzo
November 07 2013, 01:50PM
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@@stevegregson2

I think that Gagner's less than stellar defensive work is why they got Perron. Perron pretty good defensively and the Gagner-Perron combo in the preseason looked pretty good. Too bad they have yet to play with each other during the regular season.

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#36 Bucknuck
November 07 2013, 01:54PM
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I think this should be an interesting game to watch. I am at a loss why you would play Smyth at centre when you have five centres healthy in the lineup. Seems dumb to me. If Gagner and Yakupov are struggling, put them with Gaz and there's your low minutes line. I just don't get it.

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#37 pkam
November 07 2013, 01:58PM
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Smokey wrote:

Had a good coach in OKC who almost made it to the Calder Cup playoffs. I think if Nelson made it to the final dance he would of gotten consideration with the Oilers this year. Frankly he appears to be the only decent coach we have in the organization.

I am not sure who is better between Eakins and Nelson. My guess is they are very close.

But most interesting, Jon Cooper lead the Norfolk Admirals to Calder cup 2 years ago. A team with many small but skillful players just like the Oilers, where many posters here will consider it a midget team.

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#38 **
November 07 2013, 02:06PM
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Obvious game day prediction: Dubnyk let's in yet another softie top shelf above his left shoulder.

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#39 Zarny
November 07 2013, 02:07PM
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pkam wrote:

I am still a bit disappointed that we didn't get Jon Cooper to coach the Oilers.

He has been a winner everywhere. Never get fired even once, just moved up the ladder from one job to another. I don't know how he did it, I just know he did it every single time.

Tampa was 2nd last in the East last season, now they are 2nd best in the East. Under his coaching, Lightning will probably win the cup in a few years.

Eakins didn't win an AHL championship but had equally as impressive records as Cooper.

So why do you think Cooper would be any better than Eakins?

You don't think Cooper would be trying to get the kids to play 200 ft hockey?

You think the kids would be any better at playing mistake free hockey under Cooper than Eakins?

Not likely.

The Oilers problems aren't coaching. Eakins is a good coach. The young kids simply haven't accepted the fact that all of the top lines have players as good as they are and they can't make mistakes or get caught cheating trying to score goals.

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#40 bulldog12
November 07 2013, 02:09PM
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Lightning have scored 7 more GF and allowed 27 less GA than the Oilers in 10 games Oilers better get the message soon or we already know the outcome of this game Eakins said Omark needs to buy into the teams defensive strategy ???? Am I missing something here

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#41 vetinari
November 07 2013, 02:09PM
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Eakins seems to like at least one veteran (5 years+) per line but I think that i'd switch Arcobello (sorry, Arco) with Smyth. Otherwise, keep the fourth line to 6 minutes or less of ice time or they'll get slaughtered when Stamkos' line hits the ice.

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#42 pkam
November 07 2013, 02:10PM
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Gordie Wayne wrote:

Gagner should not be playing ahead of Arcobello at this time (especially coming off of a 2 goal game) and Smyth should not be playing center. I would include Gagner on the PP, but until he gets his timing back I would change the lines from:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

TO:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Arcobello-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Jones
Smyth-Gagner-Gazdic

The problem is Gagner is not physically fit to play. In the last game, his jaw hurt after taking a big hit to his shoulder.

He never plays physical even when he is healthy, how can you expect him to play in the 4th line with a broken jaw?

I don't understand why they didn't let him rest for another week or 2.

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#43 Zarny
November 07 2013, 02:11PM
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Smokey wrote:

I don't get why if you got four centers that why you play a guy outta position who plays well on the boards. Eakins has enough horses to roll four lines 5x5. Play your top two lines consistently, and make your 3/4 lines battle it out who will play more down the stretch.

Instead you got Gagner who is non-existent on the dot, who will probably go 2-14. Stamkos will get this match-up and the Oilers will get roasted in their own zone. The fourth line will continue to play 5 minutes, with Smyth getting a shift on the PP, and a few on the penalty kill. Tampa's got two Oiler lines to destroy tonight. I'm predicting a 5-4 Oiler loss, with Stamkos with the trick.

Umm no.

Eakins has 3 NHL lines and a bunch of AHLers on the 4th.

Which is one of the key problems with the Oilers...zero depth...anywhere.

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#44 westcoastoil
November 07 2013, 02:13PM
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Hemsky-RNH-Eberle Hall-Arcobello-Yakupov Omark-Gordon-Gagner Smyth-Acton-Jones

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#45 Zarny
November 07 2013, 02:15PM
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pkam wrote:

The problem is Gagner is not physically fit to play. In the last game, his jaw hurt after taking a big hit to his shoulder.

He never plays physical even when he is healthy, how can you expect him to play in the 4th line with a broken jaw?

I don't understand why they didn't let him rest for another week or 2.

Because as good as Arcobello has played he's nowhere near a #2 C in the NHL. And depth at C is the Oilers biggest weak spot...which is saying something.

Gagner is physically fit to play or else he wouldn't be dressing. His jaw hurts? So what.

Pretty sure Sid's jaw hurt when he came back too.

This isn't house league.

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#46 loweblows
November 07 2013, 02:17PM
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get another win and the next player that tries to take out RNH's knees please retaliate accordingly-to my count there has been three knee contacts on RNH that the defender deliberately threw out-as for gazdic call out the person that threw out the knee, not the other teams toughie!

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#47 Craig1981
November 07 2013, 02:25PM
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Gordie Wayne wrote:

Gagner should not be playing ahead of Arcobello at this time (especially coming off of a 2 goal game) and Smyth should not be playing center. I would include Gagner on the PP, but until he gets his timing back I would change the lines from:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Gagner-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Arcobello
Jones-Smyth-Gazdic

TO:

Hemsky-RNH-Eberle
Hall-Arcobello-Yakupov
Omark-Gordon-Jones
Smyth-Gagner-Gazdic

But didn't he score those 2 goals on the wing after not scoring any at center? Food for thought

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#48 Old School G
November 07 2013, 02:25PM
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In regards to our smallish skilled guys getting run all over the rink.

Perron, when healthy, demonstrates nightly how to intimidate the opposition while being the smaller guy in the scrums most of the time. Watch how he does it and act accordingly.

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#49 EasyOil
November 07 2013, 02:26PM
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#50 A-Mc
November 07 2013, 02:27PM
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Zarny wrote:

Because as good as Arcobello has played he's nowhere near a #2 C in the NHL. And depth at C is the Oilers biggest weak spot...which is saying something.

Gagner is physically fit to play or else he wouldn't be dressing. His jaw hurts? So what.

Pretty sure Sid's jaw hurt when he came back too.

This isn't house league.

Alright, then if we can't use injury as an excuse, Arco still deserves that 2c spot based on performance alone.

Same Gagner: 3gp, 0-0-0 -6
Mark Arco.: 16gp, 2-10-12 +1

It sways even further Arcobello's way if we factor in FO%, which he's quite good at - especially compared to Gagner.

The AHL midget centerman is tied for team lead in points and has a +1 with a 52.9 FO%. He deserves to play anywhere in the line-up other than 1C (while nuge is healthy).

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