DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE: EDITION XVII

Jason Gregor
September 09 2013 10:46AM

The Edmonton Oilers main camp opens Wednesday with medicals, and their first on-ice sessions will be Thursday and Friday at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park. Both days will be open to the public and Thursday's session starts at 8:45 a.m.

Tomorrow the Oiler rookies take on the U of A Golden Bears at Clare Drake at 7 p.m, and if this past weekend was any indication the rookies will be in tough to keep it close. The rookies were outscored 17-6 in three games, which means little in the long term growth of the organization, but the rookies will need to be much better to avoid getting embarrassed by the Golden Bears.

As the Oilers enter their 34th season, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered.

Here are some questions that I have entering camp.

1. How will Dallas Eakins ensure his players compete?

Eakins is a very demanding coach, and he repeated his stance on work ethic this past weekend in Penticton.

"You will either compete hard or you will not play. I do not care how old you are, how much money you make, how much term you have left on your contract. You will compete, or, your minutes will be cut until you buy in. That’s the way it’s going to go.”

I don't discount that Eakins means business, and he'll be more demanding and in-your-face than Tom Renney or Ralph Krueger were. I sense his no-nonsense approach will work with the Oilers, because the players are sick of losing. All the players, especially the young, skilled forward, liked Krueger, but I don't think they need to like Eakins; they need to respect him and play hard for him. If Eakins can get the Oilers to play with more emotion, tenacity and determination, they will be infinitely better.

I've said numerous times during the past four seasons, that on too many occasions the Oilers didn't match the work ethic of their opponents. If Eakins can get them to do that, he'll be ahead of the game.

2. Which RW moves to the LW?

The Oilers will not be rushing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, thankfully. Nugent-Hopkins will not be playing any exhibition games according to Craig MacTavish, and we will likely see Taylor Hall play centre for the next month. Hall prefers wing, but maybe after five preseason games and a month of regular season action he might find he likes playing centre. We'll see.

Regardless of whether how long Hall plays centre, it is possible one of Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky or Nail Yakupov will slide over to left side until Nugent-Hopkins returns.

Yakupov seems the most likely, since he shoots left and he played there last year, but is it possible that Dallas Eakins keeps all three of them on the right side, and uses Jesse Joensuu and Ryan Jones on the left side with David Perron?

Eakins has mentioned he likes to have variety on his lines, so maybe he'll mix in guys like Jones and Joensuu, who aren't as skilled as Eberle, Yakupov and Hemsky, but offer other elements, like going to the net (Jones) and size (Joensuu).

Who would you move to the left side?

3. Which Jeff Petry will we see?

From January 15th to April 07th, 2012, Petry played 37 games and produced 18 points. That was the best stretch of his young career. He played almost 24 minutes a game, he moved the puck well, and he even stepped up and delivered some heavy hits. He ended his second NHL season playing very well.

However, last season Petry wasn't able to build on that. He struggled, and the Oilers are hoping it was due to not playing from September to December. Last year, Petry only had 12 points in 48 games, basically half the production he had from January 2012 to April 2012.

The Oilers need better and more consistent play from their top-four D-men, and I feel Petry is key ingredient. Most expect Andrew Ference to be consistent. Ladislav Smid is what he is, and while they'd like him to move the puck better, they usually know that they'll get on a nightly basis. Justin Schultz has loads of potential, and he will more consistent than he was last year, but Petry is the one who could really impact the performance of their top-four.

The Oilers need him to play like he did early in 2012, and if he does, they will have a much better chance of staying in the playoff race.

4. Which forwards will kill penalties?

The Oilers penalty kill was 9th last year, and for the 3rd consecutive season they were top-five in TS (Times shorthanded), so unless they start taking fewer penalties, their PK forwards will play a key role.

Three of their top-four PK minute leaders,Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belanger and Lennart Petrell are gone. Ryan Smyth led the Oilers in PK minutes last year, so I'd assume he'll be one of the top-four.

Boyd Gordon will replace Horcoff, while Sam Gagner and Jones played 35+ min on the PK last year. Those could be the top-four PK guys, but it will interesting to see if Eakins uses Eberle or Hall on the PK. Hall has averaged 2 seconds a game in his NHL career, while Eberle sits at 23 seconds, so neither has really been used in that role.

I'd rather those two play more on the PP and EV, than on PK, where the minutes are more taxing and the chance to score is infinitely lower.

Whoever wins the 4th line centre job, Anton Lander or Will Acton will likely be another guy Eakins uses on the PK.

5. Is Dubnyk ready to play 65 games?

Dubnyk might be passing Gagner as the most polarizing player on the Oilers. Some feel he's good, his numbers back that up, while others feel he lets in too many "soft" goals, which is also true. Dubnyk like most of the Oilers needs to find consistency in his game. Of course he'll allow a weak goal now and then, all goalies do, but the key is limiting the weak ones.

Dubnyk faced the 2nd most shots in the Western conference last year, 1132 in 38 games, with only Antti Niemi facing more, 1220, albeit it in 43 games. Dubnyk was one of only nine goalies to start 30 games and have a SV% of .920 or better. If the Oilers team defence improves, in theory his job should become a bit easier.

I see Dubnyk as a solid starter, and if he cuts down the soft goals, he could become a very good to great starter.

6. Who will be the 4th line centre?

If Hall stays at centre, then the 4th line battle is between Anton Lander, Will Acton and Marc Arcobello. I don't see Arcobello filling this role, because he's an offensive guy. If Hall doesn't like centre, then Arcobello could slot in on the 2nd line to start.

The Oilers pro scouts really like Acton; however, their track record in recent years hasn't been stellar. Eakins coached Acton the past two seasons in Toronto, so they should have a comfort zone. The scouting report on Acton is that he's good on faceoffs and in his own end.

Lander is in an interesting place. Would he be better off playing first line minutes in OKC, playing EV, PP and PK, or is it best to have him in the NHL? If he is noticeably better than Acton, then he sticks, but if it is close, I'd go with Acton and let Lander develop his overall game in the AHL.

7. Who is Anton Belov?

We don't know much about Belov. When I asked Steve Smith about him, even he admitted he doesn't know much about him. MacTavish watched him play last year and he's very high on Belov. According to MacTavish he skates and moves the puck well and uses his size. Based on that description he's exactly what the Oilers need, but can he adapt to the NHL?

Belov is having Visa issues, and might miss the first few days of camp, but when he shows up he's the player I'm most interested to watch; mainly because he is a true wildcard.

PARTING SHOTS...

 

  • The Flames and Oilers will play simultaneous split-squad games on Saturday night, 7 p.m. in Calgary and 8 p.m. in Edmonton. When you watch the preseason games, keep in mind the NHL will be trying out the hybrid icing that is essentially a race to the faceoff dot. If the defender reaches the dot (closest to were the puck is) first they will blow the whistle, but if the attacking forward reaches the dot first the race for the puck continues. At the end of the preseason the players will vote on it, and if they like it, then it could be implemented during the regular season. 
  • Smart move by the Flames to announce Mikka Kiprusoff retirement today. Allows him to say goodbye to fans and the city, but also guarantees there will be no, "Is Kiprusoff coming back" story lines during the preseason. It is going to be interesting to watch the Flames goaltending situation. Currently, Joey MacDonald has the most NHL experience. If Karri Ramo struggles, I wonder how long before Brian Burke "nudges" Jay Feaster to find a goalie?
     
  •  It doesn't sound like any NHL veteran will be coming to Edmonton on a PTO. That could change by Wednesday, as players get desperate, but as of today it doesn't sound like one will be coming to training camp.
     
  • A decision that some hockey parents will need to consider now that more girls are playing hockey.
     
  • I'm confident I won't have to wax my legs,thankfully, but since I agreed to this bet I have to honour why word and let you know that if I raise $2,000  by midnight (I'm currently at $1,700), then I will wear a (T.M Pasnak designed) dress during the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event tomorrow morning to raise awareness for family violence. You can make a donation here. $300 bucks from the Nation shouldn't be that difficult to raise. 

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 Quicksilver ballet
September 09 2013, 02:24PM
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The Oilers are in desperate need of more than one overachiever/Colin Kaepernick type, a kid who was forced into the lineup because of injury, only to show he was a more than decent player at the pro level.

Kessy, Khaira, Yakumov or Miller, when along side of actual pro caliber players who knows what's hidden from the coaches view. Hopefully there's a Kaepernick type or two hidden in all these kids who've been drafted over the last 7 yrs.

Ah, who am I kidding.

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#2 Will
September 09 2013, 11:38AM
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Dubnyk reminds me of a poor man's Luongo. He's a big tall guy without much athletics that thrives on taking away the angles and lowering the percentage of goals.

It would be good to train with Luongo off ice in the summer to pick up some pointers. Hopefully the Oilers bring in a badly needed new goalie coach who can help Dubnyk all but eliminate his soft goals.

As for the questions facing the Oilers this year, it's so nice to see questions that if answered no could destroy the team. Last year the question was will Whitney return to form? The answer was now and our defence was completely overloaded.

This year maybe that question is can our centres stay healthy? If the injury bug hits down the middle, the Oilers will not have a lot of strategic options.

I am really looking forward to seeing what Grebby and Belov can do in training camp, and then in pre season. Could be good for Yak to get some more Russians on the team.

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#3 pkam
September 09 2013, 12:18PM
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Is Dubnyk ready to play 65 games? A question we should have it figured out 2 years ago when fans are patiently waiting during the process of the rebuild.

It doesn't matter one way or the other now, the question whether Dubnyk is the guy or we have to search for a starting goalie will be answered by the end of the season.

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#5 Hall Awaits
September 09 2013, 11:02AM
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Perron / Hall / Eberle Joensuu / Gagner/ Yakupov Smyth / Gordon / Hemsky Hamilton / Acton / Jones Brown, Eager

Ferrence / J.Schultz Smid / Petry Grebeshkov / Belov N.Schultz

Dubnyk Labarbera

That's how I think it all shakes out for October 1.

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#6 Oilers42
September 09 2013, 11:14AM
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2.Omark

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#7 Racki
September 09 2013, 12:13PM
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It's silly to me that Krueger didn't give Petry more PP time. Perhaps because he didn't have enough options for defensive minutes. But you can't complain about Petry ' s point production when he was utilized as more of a shutdown dman role last year. That should change, as his offensive skills are wasted. He's a good hybrid imho

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#8 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 09 2013, 12:28PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

J.Schutlz is better on the PP, why give it to Petry just to help his totals. You play the best guys in specific situations.

Petry only had 6 PP points the year before. He can produce decently without them. His flaws last year weren't just his low offensive totals.

His overall game needs to return to what it was in 2012.

There is no reason Petry should be #4 for d-man on the PP.

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#9 HallFever
September 09 2013, 10:56AM
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Who would you move to the left side? Yak is too good on the right side. I would go with Joensuu if he has a strong camp. No to Smyth in the top 6.

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#10 Lochenzo
September 09 2013, 11:31AM
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Aishwarya Rai! The perfect boost to a lame Monday morning.

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#11 pkam
September 09 2013, 12:21PM
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'It doesn't sound like any NHL veteran will be coming to Edmonton on a PTO.'

Any idea what is the reason behind this?

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#12 A-Mc
September 09 2013, 12:28PM
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oh. and... #GOilers! #GOmark!

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#13 pkam
September 09 2013, 11:39AM
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So nobody thinks Omark is an option for 2LW? I'll give him a try over Smyth.

Another option is to sign Brenden Morrow for a year if he is still available and not too pricey. I think he is an ideal 3LW who will give us some size and grit, he can also fill in the 2LW short term when needed. Why not invite him to PTO and see if it works out. Salary cap shouldn't be a problem. We have 24 players now and about 1.3M left. If we sign him, we have to cut 2 players which should at least save another 2M and I think we can have him for 3M or less.

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#14 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 09 2013, 11:53AM
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Maybe giving Petry more than 35 seconds a game would help his offensive totals?

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#15 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 09 2013, 12:03PM
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Interesting article on women's hockey, never realized it was so hard for a girl to play with girls after playing with boys.

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#17 Digger
September 09 2013, 12:23PM
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I'm fine with giving Petry more PP TOI (and he almost certainly will now that Whitney and Potter are gone, both of whom had more PP TOI/game than Petry last season), but he simply has to start hitting the net more with his point shot if he wants to stay there.

He's got a very hard shot, but it's been very inaccurate. IMHO it's the #1 reason why his point totals are mediocre in relation to his skillset.

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#18 Ducey
September 09 2013, 12:32PM
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Nice article on girls hockey, Gregor.

I have 2 daughters playing hockey, and the comments from Davidson are very helpful.

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#19 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 09 2013, 03:27PM
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I'd move Hemsky to the left side.

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#20 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 09 2013, 03:36PM
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And give Petry more powerplay time.

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#21 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
September 10 2013, 09:16AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Whitney was terrible at EV, but he's a better PP guy than Petry. Much better passer.

Petry only had 6 PP points in 2011/2012 and he still produced. Rather than make excuses for him, why not expect him to play better? Has Petry played so well in his career he just deserves chances?

I see nothing wrong with EARNING his icetime.

What did Potter do to get gift wrapped timed his rookie year? Or what did Whitney do to continue getting PP time even though he was a terrible player everywhere else?

At some point you have to reward your best d-man with some gravy time.

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#22 ColourMeImpressed
September 09 2013, 11:21AM
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No Yak on the left side, please. He was completely lost out there last season. If a hockey scrub like myself can tell the night-and-day difference between LW Yakupov and RW Yakupov, I'd expect the coaches to figure it out sooner.

Just another reason why Kreuger wasn't getting the job done last season.

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#23 Geoff
September 09 2013, 11:27AM
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The great thing about dubbie is that he doesn't need to be the greatest thing ever. His way of playing his position is so simple and efficient that it's just as effective as the guys who flail about in an almost random fashion lol. We only really need a solid goaltender between the pipes anyways /shrug.

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#24 Tikkanese
September 09 2013, 11:42AM
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Let Omark play the 2LW till Nuge is back and the lines can go to normal and end that debate once and for all either way.

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#25 A-Mc
September 09 2013, 12:26PM
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I love all the change that has happened on the team. I think it'll be a good step forward with regards to the intangibles (Work ethic, experience, attitude). I have no idea if it'll show in the standings, but i definitely feel good about the changes that were made.

Easily my favorite signing was Andrew Ference. This city needs more guys that show up immediately and do things with the community because they want to and not because the media are going to be there. *remembers the strangely creepy pictures of a shirtless Laraque, holding babies*

[November Project @Nov_ProjectCAN]

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#26 Ducey
September 09 2013, 12:34PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

J.Schutlz is better on the PP, why give it to Petry just to help his totals. You play the best guys in specific situations.

Petry only had 6 PP points the year before. He can produce decently without them. His flaws last year weren't just his low offensive totals.

His overall game needs to return to what it was in 2012.

I expect all the D will improve if they have some semblance of a defensive system. Ralph's system was a gong show.

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#27 Smokey
September 09 2013, 04:47PM
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Play Hemsky on the penalty kill more...He's suppose to be a third liner and a leader, let him be the 4th penalty killer, and let him lead. Having a skilled player who can doopsie doodle on the penalty kill would keep defenseman honest.

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#28 D
September 09 2013, 06:53PM
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Somebody really wants to see your legs waxed Gregor. That was one massive anonymous donation there.

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#29 voom04
September 10 2013, 12:27AM
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Seems to me they re always sayin somethin about a goalie lettin to many soft ones in, usually goalies that go on to win u know what, not always the best goalie in the season, but a goalie that gets in a zone and peaks a t the right time, I think we have one of those cujo balfour luongo in florida, that guy in philly hex somethin, broduer absolutely him probably billy smith osgood moog fuhr to no pelle lindburgh hasek at some point f**c all of them

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#30 bazmagoo
September 09 2013, 12:17PM
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Haven't commented for a while but just want to say it's great to see so much competition for spots coming up at this years camp. Honestly can't remember the last time there was this much competition for jobs, it can only be a good thing in my opinion.

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#31 Ivan Drago
September 09 2013, 01:04PM
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Hemsky is a long term vet. Therefore his experience should allow him to adjust to his off wing easier. Yak likes to play on his off wing, that's where he belongs imo

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#32 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
September 09 2013, 03:39PM
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And no to Hall ands Ebbs or Nuge on the PK......maybe in a few years........for now let's get them all into top ten of scoring.....

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#33 Oiler Al
September 09 2013, 05:46PM
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Yak on the right side will score you more goals than Hemsky! 75% of the time Hemsky ends up on the left side anyway after one of his cruises through the zone, behind the net and on to the left boards, where he looses the puck.¨Sometimes he will go to the net, but not often. If Hall moves to center,is he better at that position than Gagner, Accarbelo, or Gordon,if it is a short term deal, till RNH comes back.

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#34 exsanguinator
September 09 2013, 06:37PM
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Dubnyk is a fine goalie on a terrible team. I don't really see what the fuss is about. He sees more shots than almost every other goalie, of course he's going to let in more softies. The longer season might have an impact on his play but that's what the LaBarbera pick up was for. LaBarbera probably isn't going to steal too many games but he's not going to lose a lot either.

Even if they split 50-32 it's not going to hurt the team too much in the goaltending department. Goaltending is not the issue with this team. It's team defense.

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#35 Oilfan
September 09 2013, 08:09PM
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I am still hoping for a PTO for Steckel.

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#36 madjam
September 09 2013, 01:38PM
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Thanks for the update on main camp . Finally , something to help the adrenalin going again , after the snoozefest rookies put us thru .

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#37 Racki
September 09 2013, 03:26PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Huh?

Did you watch the Oilers PP...They use four fwds and J.Schultz on 1st unit and then four fwds and a D on the 2nd unit, unless it is the final 15-25 secs of a PP and they used two.

Not sure why you think he needs to be 4th...

Also, if you want Petry playing on the PP and on the PK and EV, then he will play 24-26 minutes. Those types of minute eaters are proven #1 D-men, which Petry is..

His point ... Petry was #4 in d pp mins last year behind the terrible Whitney and even Corey Potter. Ideally Ference (and another) eats enough pk mins to afford Petry more PP time

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#38 madjam
September 09 2013, 07:02PM
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Wonder what kind of shape the boys will be in for opening camp ?

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#40 Milly Vanilly
September 10 2013, 12:29PM
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Any details on how long camp goes on thursday/friday? I imagine two on ice sessions? And does it start at 8:30 both days?

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