It seems the Oilers are expecting a more physical game tonight, and coach MacTavish doesn’t want to be out-muscled, so they made a last minute decision and will add Adam Huxley to the line up.
At practice the morning the lines were:
Nilsson – Cogliano – Trukhno
Eberle – Brodziak – Lerg
Sestito – Spurgeon – Stortini
Potulny – Brule – McDonald
Gilbert – Grebeshkov
Roy – Strudwick
Taylor – Young
Those were the lines at practice, but when the bus was being loaded, Huxley’s bags were thrown in, and it seems that Lerg won’t be making the trip. Lerg has had a very good camp so he will probably play tomorrow against Florida. But tonight Huxley will draw in, and it’s expected that Darcy Hordichuk, Rick Rypien, Byron Ritchie and others will dress tonight for the ‘Nucks.
One of the biggest criticisms of MacTavish has been his unwillingness to allow tough guys to play their role. We all remember the game in 2005 when he told Georges Laraque not to fight Brian McGratton, but it’s hard to come up with other examples in recent memory. If anything, MacT’s coaching fuse has become shorter the past few years, especially when it comes to the Canucks.
Last year, the Canucks and Oilers had as close to a melee as we will see in today’s NHL, when they had 14 fighting majors. Remember last February, when even Sam Gagner got in the action going after Ryan Kesler? Well expect the rivalry to be more heated this year. It started last night when Mason Raymond took a run at Gagner. Even though he missed, the Oilers responded with Benson, Peckham and Smid all trying to get at Raymond.
MacTavish doesn’t want to be out-muscled tonight so Huxley draws in at the last minute. I guaranteed that Benson would go last night, and tonight that guarantee is even easier to make.
Huxley, the pride of Wainwright, will be looking to dance early. I don’t expect the game to match the 14 majors we saw last year, but MacT wants to make sure no one tries to run Nilsson, Cogliano, Brule, etc. While the Oilers don’t have a bona fide top-ten tough guy, I expect them to be in the top third in fights this season. Most of those fights won’t make the highlight reel, but they will show up.
Look for Cogliano’s line and the G pairing to get lots of PP time tonight. After seeing the #1 unit, 83,10,26,44 and 71 get most of the PP time last night, expect the same for Cogliano and company tonight. I expect the kids line and the G-men to be the #2 unit most of the season, sprinkled in with a mix of Penner and Pisani at times.
Expect a strong game from Gilbert Brule tonight. Brule is not only making his Oiler debut, but he’s doing it in his hometown.
“I’m excited to get started. I had lots of good junior years in Vancouver so I’m comfortable going there. I need to make a good first impression, and I’m sure I might only get three or four games so I have to make them all count,” said he said.
Brule is also well aware that the only opening right now is the 4th line LW, and while he will play centre tonight, he is comfortable playing the wing if needed.
“The past two years in Columbus I played the wing, and in junior I switched from wing to centre now and then. I just want to make the team, and I don’t care where they put me as long as I’m in the line up.”
Brule could make a good first impression tonight if he showcases his gritty side. It has become obvious that MacTavish recognizes the Canucks are a tough team to play against. They have loads of agitators, and if Brule can create some offence, lay some hits and be involved physically tonight, he could get the coach’s attention.