After a rather calm Battle of Alberta last night, the Oilers and Flames meet for the 2nd and final time this preseason, and with Darcy Hordichuk dressed you can expect some fireworks. The veteran has been a wrecking ball in his two games thus far, so you know he’ll be trying to set the tone early with a big hit.
Tonight’s lineup includes a few guys who are close to making the team, and I’ll be watching them closely.
You can watch tonight’s tilt on Roger’s Sportsnet and here’s who you’ll see lining up against the Flames.
Teemu Hartikainen had a strong game last night, and he’s one of only three players playing back-to-back, Cam Barker and Theo Peckham are the others. Hartikainen’s size must be intriguing for Tom Renney, and you can bet he’s curious to see how the big Finn plays on consecutive nights.
As we get closer to the start of the regular season, it seems more and more likely that the Oilers might be without Ryan Whitney, so Barker needs be ready and capable of taking on a bigger role. He’s looked okay thus far, not horrible, not great, but okay. He has to be more of an offensive presence as the preseason winds down.
Lennart Petrell has caught Renney’s eye. They like his smarts and versatility on the PK. He’s a big guy with a long stride, which sometimes looks like he isn’t working hard, but he has shown great strength along the boards and in the corners. He’s pushing for a 4th line spot.
Gilbert Brule needs to get noticed tonight. He wasn’t very good in Saskatoon and he needs to make statement that he can be relied upon this season.
I’m also curious to see if Linus Omark rebounds after a less-than-stellar performance on Tuesday. Omark will need to be better, or he might lose his starting spot to Hartikainen.
Nothing new on Sam Gagner other than he injured his ankle last night. He’ll be re-evaluated today and they are hoping it is nothing serious. Gagner’s injury, regardless of how long he is out for, has opened the door even more for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Nugent-Hopkins has three assists in three games, and he’s looked good. He will play at least two, and maybe all three, of the the remaining preseason games and everyone in the organization will be watching him closely.
Regardless of how long, or short, Gagner is out, I think Nugent-Hopkins will start the season with the Oilers. He hasn’t looked out of place, but I want to see him play every shift against NHL caliber D-men and see how he looks.
Here is the Phlegms projected lineup:
Glencross – Jokinen – Moss
Tanguay – Horak – Kostopoulos
Baertschi – Byron – Bouma
Bancks – Stajan – Desbiens
Babchuk – Brodie
Bouwmeester – Butler
Henry – Smith
Not a veteran laden lineup, so the Oilers should be competitive.
- Ryan Jones continues to produce without much icetime. Only Gagner, due to injury, saw the ice less than Jones last night, yet Jones scored a goal. Many people doubt that Jones can contribute like he did last year, but his game doesn’t change. He goes to the net hard, doesn’t take many outside shots and is always around rebounds. If Jones can continue to produce in limited minutes, he’ll become even more valuable. Garbage goals are just as good, and happen more frequent, than pretty ones. Jones is all garbage, and the Oilers need a few more guys like him.
- I thought Andy Sutton looked alright in his first preseason action. The guy is huge and will take up space. If he plays 45-55 games the Oilers should be okay, but if he has to play much more then injuries will have plagued them again.
- Taylor Hall has 11 shots in three games. He finally scored last night, but if he continues to create quality chances like he has in three games, he’ll become the first Oiler to score 40 goals since Petr Klima did in the 1991/1992 season.