Ales Hemsky will suit up for his first action of the preseason tonight, and yesterday he thought he might have to be the shooter on his line. Hemsky said he was going to skate with the Ryans, Smyth and Nugent-Hopkins and was prepared to add a new wrinkle to his game.
"I think i’m the shooter on the line right now. Smitty doesn’t shoot too much (laughs) so we’ll see tomorrow. I’ve got a new stick so I’m planning on firing more."
Realistically the only pure shooter the Oilers have is Jordan Eberle. Taylor Hall’s game is more dynamic, but Eberle is the best pure sniper they have. Shawn Horcoff had one 53-game stretch where he buried 21 goals, but otherwise he’s never been one. Linus Omark doesn’t shoot enough, same with Paajarvi at this point, so the Oilers will need Hemsky to shoot more this season.
I’m sure you are saying, "Gregor are you seriously expecting Hemsky to shoot more?" I know that’s like saying I’ll suddenly grow some locks, or Brownlee will quit smoking, or Willis will question advanced statistics, but right now I’d take Hemsky becoming more of a shooter over any of the aforementioned scenarios.
Hemsky won’t have to change his style too much tonight, because he’ll be going back in time to be re-united with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth, but with a new stick he was serious about shooting more.
Tonight’s lineup consists of 12 guaranteed regulars, a few highly probables and some good-but-not-yets. Who do you put in the latter two categories?
Smyth – Horcoff – Hemsky
Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Tyrvainen – Belanger – Jones
Green – Lander – Keller
Sutton – Gilbert
Smid – Fedun
Chorney – Petry
Tom Renney hinted that he’d like to give Danis at least a period, but Khabibulin’s play will determine if Danis sees the ice.
Taylor Fedun has really impressed the coaching staff, especially on the powerplay, eventhough he won’t make the team. He has, however, played his way into the conversation for potential callups, as long as he can continues his steady play down in OKC.
CLOSE TO REGULAR SEASON
Thankfully the preseason is winding down, so we can get a better evaluation on players like Lander, Petry, Fedun and Nugent-Hopkins because they are facing proven NHL players. The Coyotes will have five of their top-six D-men dressed tonight.
Keith Yandle, Rostislav Klesla, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Michal Roszival and Adrian Aucoin will play with Chris Summers rounding out the D-corps.
Up front you’ll see close to a full Coyotes roster as well.
Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, Daymond Langkow, Raffi Torres, Body Gordon, Kyle Chipchura, Laura Korpikoski, Mikkel Boedker, Viktor Tikhonov, Brett Maclean, Paul Bissonnette and Andy Miele.
Mike Smith, arguably the weakest starting goalie in the league, will start in goal.
- Sam Gagner has a sprained ankle. Renney said it is more of a "mid" sprain instead than a high ankle sprain. He is out for the remainder of the preseason, and after that he is week-to-week.
- With Gagner out for the remainder of the preseason, I’ve noticed many think this guarantees Anton Lander a spot on the opening night roster. I still don’t see both Nugent-Hopkins and Lander being here to start the season, and with Lander eligible for the AHL, I just don’t see him making the final roster. Gagner’s injury does open up an opportunity, but Renney hinted he is going to be patient with Gilbert Brule, and I don’t see any reason to have Lander in the pressbox to start the season. Let’s see how he does against more NHL-caliber competition.
- Ben Eager is hoping to ride the bike later tonight, and if he passes that test he would love to play one game this weekend. He said his neck was more worrisome than a concussion. His neck has been really stiff after the Tulupov hit in the Joey Moss Cup, but it has loosened up and he is confident he will be ready for October 9th.
- Are hitters concerned they won’t be able to deliver a bodycheck without being suspended? Andy Sutton explains why he isn’t that concerned. "I’ve always believed that if you play the right way and play hard you’ll always get ahead. I’m never the guy who goes out targeting heads, despite my height difference, but you definitely are more mindful of it. You don’t want to put your team in a position where you are gone for a few games, and you don’t want to lose that salary, but at the same time you have to play on the edge. It is a fine line and you have to walk it well to be successful as a physical defenseman."
- We always hear how it would be hard to get rid of head shots based on the size difference of players. Sutton explained what he feels is the proper way to allow contact that isn’t considered a head shot. "As long as the arm is tight to the body when you make the hit, I think you’re going to be okay. I think when the arm is off the body, that is when the problems arise. When I’m going in for a hit, or contact, I’m really aware now of trying to keep my arm tight to my body."
- I’m curious to see if Brendan Shanahan will see things the same way.
P.S…The only remaining preseason game on TV is Saturday in Vancouver…*** Thanks for the update.