While Dustin Penner makes his return to Rexall Place tonight, the legendary Rod Phillips will say goodnight one final time and hopefully it won’t be another painful game for Oiler fans to watch.The Hall of Fame voice of the Oilers will call his 3,542nd game tonight, and while the return of Penner doesn’t match the emotion of a Gretzky, Messier, Coffey, Kurri, Fuhr, Anderson, Weight, Smyth, Pronger or even Comrie return it still has an interesting story line.
Rod won’t be nervous, but you can bet he’ll be emotional as the clock ticks down. Penner on the other hand, isn’t nervous at all, and sounded like he is really looking forward to playing his former team.
"I hope I get to take a few draws against Cogs, so I can improve my faceoff percentage," laughed Penner. "I expect to have some laughs/chirps with Struds, Cogs and maybe Smidder, but that convo won’t be very long and probably will just have lots of swear words," chuckled Penner taking a shot at Smid’s frequency to drop F-bombs during his on-ice barbs.
Penner is a witty guy, and if you happened to watch Oil Change you know that he isn’t afraid to chirp his former teammates during the play. He loved giving it to Ryan Getzlaf, and you can bet he’ll have a few zingers for many of his teammates.
Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start, and yesterday Tom Renney hinted that he will keep rotating goalies until they get a win, then the winning goalie might get consecutive starts. He also suggested you could see some line juggling, but didn’t tip his hat on what those combinations would be. He wants to see different guys in different spots, so expect him to switch up the lines during the game.
- I spoke with Renney about the decision not to use Linus Omark in the SO on Saturday night. He had spoken with the coaches and players, and the players told him that Hartikainen was pretty good in the shootout, so he put him in Omark’s place and had Omark slotted to go 4th. He wanted to give Jones a shot since he’s their leading scorer, and he also thought it was a great time to let Hartikainen experience that type of scenario. Renney has liked Hartikainen’s game and I get the sense he plans on him battling to be here next year, so he is hoping that Saturday’s experience might help Hartikainen next season. Renney is in a tough spot, because he has to balance exposing the kids to different scenarios/opportunities while trying to win games.
- I think Jordan Eberle will be a fine NHLer for a long time, but his game isn’t the same without Taylor Hall. Hall’s speed and explosiveness opens up the ice, and Eberle is great at finding the holes and slotting into the open lanes, but he isn’t a dominant one-on-one player like Hall. They have different games, and their games complement each other’s very well, but I think Eberle misses Hall more than Hall missed Eberle earlier this season.
- I didn’t have a major issue with Todd Bertuzzi’s elbow on Ryan Johnson, or that he didn’t get suspended. Chiadamo asked me on twitter if his pending case with Steve Moore had anything to do with him not being suspended? I don’t know the answer, and I’m not sure it would have any bearing on the case, but it was an interesting angle to consider. I didn’t think it was worthy of a suspension, but initially I thought the NHL would suspend him based on reputation and that it was close to a head shot.
- I really hope Teemu Selanne doesn’t retire, but if he does he sure is going out in style. What a game last night for the Finnish Flash. He has single-handedly ruined the Flames chances at the post-season.
- With Dan Hamhuis and Alex Edler out, I wonder if Canuck fans are getting a tad nervous. If the Canucks are healthy they will be my pick to win the Cup, but if those two aren’t ready for the start of the playoffs the Canucks road to the Cup will be much bumpier.
- Baseball season starts on Thursday and the Blue Jays open up on Friday. Do Nation readers get excited about baseball, or because the Jays have no shot to make the postseason with the high-spending Yankees and Red Sox is your interest level non-existent?
- I spoke to nine different scouts last night and only one felt there was a chance Ryan Nugent-Hopkin’s size might be an issue in the NHL. There is no guarantee he’ll grow, but most felt that he will play at 185 pounds in a few years. At the draft and even heading into camp last year, no one thought Jeff Skinner was ready to play in the NHL and he has proven them all wrong. Whoever drafts RNH might also get a surprise when they see him skate with NHL players. Of course his strength will be an issue early on, but his hockey sense could allow him to survive his rookie season.
PAIN TO THE TENTH DEGREE
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers played pretty well, all things considered, v. the Flames on Saturday and deserved a better fate. They will give it their all tonight, but there is too many former Oilers on the Kings and you know that former Oilers love to play at Rexall. Penner pots a pair and they win 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Many of you will turn on the radio in the final five minutes for one final chance to hear Rod Phillips.
NOT-SO-OBVIOIUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During the pre-game ceremony for Phillips, they will replay many of his greatest calls. I have a hunch Wayne Gretzky will send a video message thanking Rod for all his great calls. Many in attendance will get the lump in their throat that is normally reserved for jersey retirements and the pre-game ceremony will be more emotional than expected. A fitting tribute to a great broadcaster and a better guy.