September 18 2013 09:29AM
Before we get carried away let's remember it is only preseason, but Dallas Eakins will be looking for a better effort from the Oilers tonight in Vancouver compared to last night's display in Winnipeg. The Jets had 12 NHL regulars in their lineup while the Oilers had six; Gagner, Yakupov, Jones, Smid, Petry and Grebeshkov, but Eakins has preached being competitive since day one of camp, and if Richard Bachman doesn't stand on his head in the middle frame the score would have been much worse.
The Oilers will dress a more skilled lineup tonight, and Eakins will be hoping for a more competitive result.
Most coaches don't put much stock into the score in the first four or five preseason games, mainly because many of the players aren't regular NHLers, but they are hoping to see improvement in system play, individual competitiveness and watching the veterans find their timing.
Last night's lineup had more "bubble boys" than regulars, while tonight's roster contains more NHL skill and experience.
We know who nine of the forwards will be, but Eakins will need to add a few forwards who played in Winnipeg.
Nugent-Hopkins isn't playing, while Miller and Khaira are questionable due to nagging injuries, so that means at least one, and potentially three, forwards will play back-to-back.
Tyler Pitlick has only played one game thus far and prior to his strong showing last night, I thought he was a good bet to play both games. "“There’s something there with that kid. We just have to see if we can bring it out,” said Eakins last night. If one of Miller or Khaira can't play I'll guess Pitlick replaces them.
Marc Arcobello or Anton Lander will fill RNH's spot. Arcobello played almost 18 minutes last night, while Lander played just over 14. Both have played two games, and neither did much last night, but one of them will play. Sam Gagner won't play back-to-back, and Eakins would likely rather get another look at guys who are fighting for a spot than Ryan Martindale who is destined for the minors.
I'm guessing the top three pairings below will make the trip:
Belov won't play until Saturday most likely, while Ference and J.Schultz need some playing time together. Nurse has really impressed his teammates in practice and in the preseason. In conversations with forwards, D-men and even goalies all of them have raved about his smarts, skating ability and decision making. The Oilers won't rush him into the NHL this season, but they will want to see him at least two or three more times, if not more.
Rimmer is the best young goalie the Oilers have, and he isn't officially their property. He's outplayed Tyler Bunz and Olivier Roy, and they might want another look at him before deciding if they offer him a contract. Rimmer is one month younger than Bunz and a year younger than Roy, and if he plays well he could secure a two-way contract, or at the very least a 25-game deal.
It is clear Dubnyk is the starter, so making sure he is sharp for October 1st is a bigger concern than signing Rimmer, and he likely starts and finishes tonight. The issue is how much playing time does he need? Will he need to start at least two, if not three, of the final preseason games?
He could start this Saturday, next Tuesday and next Friday and likely be ready. I'm sure he and Eakins have discussed how much playing time he needs. I asked Dubnyk if he felt he'd need more preseason action than usual to get accustomed to his new pads, and he said no.
He acknowledged the shorter pads feel different, especially when he butterflies because the top of the pads don't touch like they did last season, but he didn't think he'd need more playing time to adjust.
The other forward line will be Joensuu/Arcobello/Pitlick. It makes sense to have bubble guys playing back-to-back, and if Pitlick wants a legitimate shot at making the team, he'll need another strong game. Also, likely you will see Arcobello and Gordon switch lines, so Arcobello plays with Hemksy and Perron.
D. Sedin- H.Sedin - Kassian
Shinkaruk - Richardson - Hansen
Gaunce - Santorelli - DeFazio
Stuart - Horvat - Jensen
Garrison - Bieksa
Andersson - Mullen
Negrin - Tanev
THOUGHTS FROM LAST NIGHT....
- Bachman was the best Oiler and he kept the game close, especially in the second period. In my eyes he is a slightly better NHL backup option than Yann Danis.
- Pitlick was the best forward. He was strong on the puck and assertive.
- Joensuu, Lander, Hamilton, Arcobello and Omark didn't do much to gain an edge in the race of the bubble boys. Joensuu was okay, but he didn't stand out like he did in Edmonton on Saturday. Omark got a late assist, but if he is going to play in the top-nine he's going to need to generate more scoring changes. Lander's footspeed might cost him a spot on the roster.
- Larsen was much better than he was in Calgary on Saturday, and he showed his playmaking abilities more than Grebeskhov last night. Both of them have NHL experience, and until we see Belov play, they are battling for the #6 spot. Grebeshkov has the advantage in experience, but their final preseason games will determine who skates beside Nick Schultz on October 1st.
- Yakupov had four shots and he looked sharper than he did in first game. I'm guessing he'll play with Hall, Gagner or Gordon in the next few preseason games to find some chemistry.
- Lander was 56% in the draw, while Arcobello was 58%. Neither of them stood out for me, but in a game where they didn't stand out, both were solid in the dot.
- If Will Acton has a strong game tonight, he'll take the lead in the battle for the 4th line centre.
- Tonight's game is on Sportsnet West at 8 p.m. MST.
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