GDB: 35.0 A DEBUT AND A RETURN

Jeff Petry was the Oilers first draft choice in 2006, 45th overall. After being drafted he spent one more season in Des Moines in the USHL, then three years of NCAA at Michigan State University, 32 games in Oklahoma in the AHL and tonight he will make his NHL debut. Petry looked decent at the rookie camp in Penticton in September, and showed even better at main camp and in the preseason, and this evening he will become the 5th Oiler to make his NHL debut this season.

When he was recalled on Monday many thought he would replace a banged up Tom Gilbert, but  Gilbert’s ironman streak will continue tonight. Gilbert hasn’t missed a game since being recalled in March of 2007 and has played 292 consecutive games. Jason Strudwick will come out for Petry.

Petry probably won’t be here very long, because Jim Vandermeer was skating this morning and it looks like he should be ready to play again soon. Petry will most likely get a taste of NHL action, return to the AHL and after the trade deadline he’ll get recalled. An injury to one of the current seven D-men is one of the two ways you will see him stay here longterm.

The other way he’ll stick is he plays exceptionally well.

Shawn Belle got into four games earlier this year, but he didn’t stand out. The harsh reality is that for Petry to stay he needs to grab the coaching staff’s attention. I don’t think Belle did that and if you look at how Vandermeer played after Belle left, and then Strudwick when Vandermeer went down you can argue that Belle didn’t play any better than those two during those stints.

Petry is a different story though. He is a puck moving D-man, and he’ll be paired up with Ryan Whitney so he will have a great opportunity to stand out. The Oilers still need another solid puck-moving defender and Petry fits that mold.

I hope he plays so well the coaches have to keep him, but he can’t just be average, he needs to make a few great plays to stand out and get noticed. Belle didn’t do that when he was here, and that’s why he went back to the AHL, so let’s hope Petry can stand out and force the coaches to keep him.

HEMSKY BACK IN, BRULE TO IR

After missing 13 of the past 14 games, Ales Hemsky’s groin is healed and he’ll skate on a line with Andrew Cogliano and Dustin Penner. The Oilers went 6-5-2 without Hemsky this year, but they have really started to miss him lately. Most teams will play well for a short time without a star player, but eventually his void becomes apparent. The Oilers went 2-1 when Hemsky was out the first time. Then he played in Montreal and got three points. He went back on the IR the next game v. Toronto and the Oilers won three of the first four without him. They have only one won of their past six games, and it has become obvious that they miss Hemsky.

Hemsky is a competitive player and with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Linus Omark putting up some decent numbers, I expect it will push Hemsky and he’ll produce. Look for him to have a solid game tonight.

Gilbert Brule has been placed on the IR, retroactive to December 20th, thus freeing up a spot for Hemsky. No word on how long he will be out, but Tom Renney and Steve Tambellini will have to make some interesting decisions in the next few days because Brule and Vandermeer both skated today and they won’t be out very long.

The Hall-Gagner-Eberle trio remains the same as does Paajarvi-O’Marra-Omark, while somehow JF Jacques remains in the line up tonight to play with Colin Fraser and Ryan Jones. Zack Stortini will take a seat in the pressbox again. I’m going to try and find out exactly what Renney sees in Jacques over Stortini at this point, because I don’t see it.

ALBERTA FLAME OUT 

Eight years to the day that Darryl Sutter was hired as GM, he was essentially fired earlier today. Ken King said he asked Darryl to resign, which is the polite way of saying he was fired. Sutter leaves interim GM, Jay Feaster, with a mess of a team. It will be interesting to see who he trades first, Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff. If the Flames are going to rebuild they have to move those two and start from scratch. It is fitting that the Oilers host the Flames on New Years day, as both teams are hoping that 2011 brings them a brighter future. The Oilers are about four years ahead of the Flames in terms of a youth movement, and I’m guessing Oiler fans will enjoy kicking the crap out of the Flames for the next few years.

BLOODY TUESDAY

GAME DAY PREDICTION: On January 27th, 2009 the Sabres strolled into Rexall and crushed the Oilers 10-2. The fans were chanting, "We want ten," in the 3rd period. It was an ugly Tuesday night. Fast forward 23 months later and the Sabres aren’t that good, and the Oilers are, er, more exciting. Still smarting from their loss in Vancouver and jacked up by the return of Ales Hemsky the Oilers prevail 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 16-12-1 in their first home game after the Christmas break, and a stellar 7-2 v. eastern division teams. The Sabres are missing their leading scorer Derek Roy, lost in Calgary last night and they’ve only won seven of 31 meetings in Edmonton. The Sabres are only two points up on the Oilers, and the Oiler players aren’t interested in helping their draft standings so they will win.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In a move that no one say coming, the Oilers Octane calenders will be available starting tonight. Despite missing a great opportunity for a stocking stuffer for Wanye, BM and most of the other guys with too many calluses will gladly purchase one. In the 3rd period, Taylor Hall will score his first career hat-trick, and Rexall will become euphoric. Fans without a hat won’t want to feel left out, so they will start tossing their Octane Calenders on the ice. Their intentions weren’t meant to suggest the calenders weren’t nice, but more of an ode to Hall, but a few of the girl’s moms will be upset and write a letter to the Journal editor complaining about how truly callous come hockey fans are. (I’ve always wanted to use callous and callus in the same paragraph….squeeeeeee for me…)