GDB MINUS FIVE: HOME ICE

After last night’s gutsy and surprising win over the Canucks, Wanye woke up this morning and sent me his proposed parade route. It was filled with his typical bright colours, arrows, unique drawings and I noticed it was the longest parade route I’d ever seen. It started in Clareview, ripped through Beverly, came down Gretzky Drive, through downtown, had a pit stop at the Liquor on 109 and then finished at the Legislature grounds. Clearly he had designed it after downing his 17th BL after watching Gregory Stewart pot the game winner in Vancouver last night.

Tonight it is the official unveiling of Taylor Hall. You’ve seen him on the podium in June. You’ve seen him at the presser for his entry level deal. You’ve seen him bartending at Oil City. You’ve seen Kevin Lowe hand him #4. You’ve seen him in the rookie tournament, and Tuesday in the Joey Moss Cup, but you’ve never seen him lineup against another NHL team until tonight.

Wanye isn’t the only one with visions of parade routes, Shirts off for Horcoff signs, or Squee for Eberle banners. Admit it, this off-season and one pre-season win has you firmly in the driver seat of the bandwagon. And why not, the best part of being a fan is believing and having hope. There will be lots of time to ask for Tom Renney’s job, or why Horcoff can’t be shipped to Siberia, or that after Hall’s five game goal-scoring drought you claim you wanted Tyler instead.

Enjoy the victory, hell, it was over the supposed Northwest champions and possible Western Conference winners. Maybe the Oilers will be the surprise story in the NHL. Maybe they will have three rookies with 50 points. Maybe the person who possesses Nikolai Khabibulin’s voodoo doll passed away. Dare to dream…dare to dream.

Your expectations have been lower than Lindsay Lohan’s at last call, so with every win it is only natural to feel like the Oilers are winning back your love. And your love should grow a bit more tonight, because the Oilers are dressing a solid NHL lineup compared to Tampa Bay.

Sam Gagner will centre Hall and Ales Hemsky.
Dustin Penner will be on the left wing with Andrew Cogliano in the middle and Magnus Paajarvi on the right side.
Liam Reddox/Colin Fraser/Gilbert Brule will skate together, while Steve MacIntrye will play for the second straight night and make sure no one runs Tyler Pitlick of Linus Omark.

The defence will consist of Smid/Foster, Belle/Plante and Petiot/Gilbert.

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal, and JDD will back him up.

Tampa Bay will ice a lineup similar to the one the Oilers used to defeat the Canucks last night.

Harju/Persson/Purcell
Ashton/Wright/Connolly
Tryell/B. Jones/Hall
Malone/Pouliot/Downie

Ohlund/Clark
Vernace/R. Jones
Mihalik/Gudas

Ellis
Tokarski

 

It looks like Marc Pouliot continues his nine-lives routine as he’ll line up with Ryan Malone and Steve Downie. The rest of the forwards won’t be pushing Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos or Marty St. Louis for a job anytime soon.  Watch Gudas though. He likes to run guys in the neutral zone. It’s too bad we don’t get to see any of the big three, but that’s NHL exhibition hockey.

PARTING SHOTS

The harsh reality about last night’s win is that none of the three goal scorers have a hope of making the Oilers. It was a great thrill for hometown boy, Ben Ondrus, to score in his first game in an Oiler uniform, but he won’t crack the lineup coming out of camp.

Renney was satisfied with the effort last night. He felt they played his system rather effectively. Obviously he’d like Dubnyk to be able to catch shots from the blueline, and Horcoff to bury those open-net opportunities, but he left the rink content with the effort.

Tonight most of us will be watching Hall, Paajarvi and Omark rather closely, but Renney wants to see how his young veterans; Cogliano, Gagner and Brule perform.

While Wanye and Co. continue to map out the parade route and subsequent party stops, Renney is excited to see how his young guys react. When asked if he would say anything to Hall prior to his first NHL preseason game Renney replied, "I asked him if he had any questions. He said he was fine. It lasted 30 seconds. I just want him to play."

It sounds like the coach is like all the fans; he just wants to see the kid play.