START ME UP: DROP THE PUCK ALREADY

Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney called the only shot that made any sense when he named Devan Dubnyk his starting goaltender against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rexall Place tonight.

Dubnyk, as anyone who knows him would expect, handled the news with his usual composure when asked about getting the nod ahead of Nikolai Khabibulin minutes after leaving the ice first at the morning skate.

"There’s no way of getting around it. It’s exciting,” said Dubnyk after peeling off his gear. "It is a little more special because it’s the opener but it’s that much more important to approach it like a regular game. You don’t want to let yourself get too wound up."

EARNED THE CALL

Dubnyk, 25, was flat-out better than Khabibulin in pre-season, but hockey conventions being what they are — due respect shown for good, veteran pros like Khabibulin and all that — there was some doubt as to who Renney would throw out against the Penguins.

"There is a point in time where you have to give that young guy a chance to assume that responsibility and see how he deals with it ,” Renney said. "We’re still growing people here.

"Khabby is going to play a lot for us, but in the growth of a young player, we need to do this to see where he is."

Renney made something of a statement — a welcome one, at that — with Dubnyk as his choice. Now, it’s time for Dubnyk to make one of his own against a Pittsburgh outfit that’s scored nine goals without Sidney Crosby in the line-up in jumping out to a 2-0 start.

"I don’t want to go out there and think that this all of sudden means I’ve been handed the starting job," Dubnyk said. "It’s one game.

"It’s exciting for me and it’s certainly an honour to be able to start the season but it certainly doesn’t mean I’m playing 82 games this year. I still have to earn every minute I get here."

PAD SAYS 26 FOR SMYTH

Ryan Smyth begins his encore with the Oilers tonight and I was flattered that he hasn’t forgotten a tradition we used to have back during my days on the beat, when he was a kid making a name for himself.

I’ve told the story before, but once more for those who haven’t heard it. Before the start of the 1999-2000 season, Smyth and I were chatting and he asked me how many goals I figured he’d score that year. I wrote down 28, circled it and showed him. He scored 28 that season.

After that, at some point during every pre-season, Smyth made a habit of asking me what my trusty notepad was telling me. To be honest, I was hit-and-miss, but after getting it right that first year, Smyth was hooked. "So, what does the pad say?" Smyth asked this morning.

The pad says 26.

THE WAY I SEE IT

— Having talked to former Oiler tough guy Steve MacIntyre at Kinsmen Arena a day or two before he left for training camp with the Penguins, I’d be giving him a wide berth at Rexall Place tonight.

Of course, Darcy Hordichuk, isn’t me, and that’s why I get the feeling we’ll be seeing the fearless old scrapper willing to throw down with the hulking MacIntyre at the first opportunity, as nuts as that sounds.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hordichuk, almost always outsized and overmatched physically when the gloves come off, initiate pleasantries with MacIntyre, even if he’s blinking and blowing snot bubbles the first time they line up.

— Jim Matheson figures three straight road games, including a late one last night in Calgary, in a span of four nights might have the Penguins a little bit weary and he’s picking a win for the Oilers tonight.

Tough to bet against the hall-of-famer, who’s seen it all, but I’m thinking the Pens win it 4-2.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • No Crosby and Malkin and three games in four nights or not, the Oilers showed some resolve.

    Dubnyk hung in after allowing a softy and Nugent-Hopkins didn’t tie it with skill and vision but his willingness to go into traffic and bang in his own rebound. Good signs.

  • Oilers Craig

    Lets trade for Webber and give up some first rounders then trade Pitlick and Harkinenn (spelling) for another top 4 defenseman. Stanley Cup here we come!. In reality great game and we were lucky we battled through Smyths elbowing major. Going to be an exciting season and yes Hopkins should start looking for a place.

    • smiliegirl15

      I think that was on purpose. Can’t afford to lose Hordichuk this early in the season. I’m all for showing them there’s a new sheriff in town but going up against MacIntyre would have been like a banty rooster going up against a turkey.

  • Oilers Craig

    I didn’t want to see Big Mac fight Hordichul they are in two different leagues. Brownlee why do you have to always be the voice of reason? The Oil are in first place in the NW, show some emotion!

  • Oilers Craig

    Robin..If you were a paying customer do you think you would of got your money’s worth after watching tonights game? If you were going to buy an Oilers jersey whose name would get on the back?

  • ~We should send that RNH kid back the WHL.~

    Honestly, the only reason RNH goes back to Red Deer is to Visit his former billets next spring. This kid isnt looking back.

    Best Oiler for two of the three full periods was RNH with Hall and Hemsky not far behind. Smyth call was bogus. Sportsnet analysts suggest that Horcoff wont finish the season as a centre, he was noticeably absent from the PP. Linus Omark played less than 12 mins and looked benched for most of the 3rd. That goaty bastard can go any time now.

    • BArmstrong

      Benched for most of the third?

      Let it go man – he doesn’t kill penalties, and in the third, the Oil were given 3 minors and a major.

      What are you gonna do if Omark turns into a point a game guy? You’ll be happy no doubt if that point a game is for the Blue Jackets:)

      • Omark played about 7 mins of even strength and when his line was out there early in the 3rd he was stapled to the bench.

        It’s game 1 and my goat had a poor game. Better get used to this.

        Point a game? You think Omark has an upside that would make him more productive than Hemsky? Dream on.

        • BArmstrong

          Hemsky doesn’t put up many points on the IR list.

          I agree that it’s very unlikely Omark ever achieves a point per game status – but you have a bias in favour of Hemsky, and against Omark – I don’t think either player is who you think they are.

          But hey, Hall and RNH looked good through anyone’s eyes – so we share that:)

          • This season is going to be the Hall and RNH show.

            I’m calling it right now. RNH ends the Oilers Calder trophy drought.

            If Hemsky had a little more of Eberle’s finish he would have had a goal or two, all from RNH plays. This season has potential.

            When Gagner gets back he might add a little more offensive pop to the 2nd line and the Eberle Smyth duo could start to be more dangerous as well.

      • French Toast Mafia

        What if omark doesn’t turn into a point a game player and continues to score at his 1 goal every 10 games pace? It could go either way so it’s pretty easy for Archie to doubt him

    • OilFan

      can’t see how horcoff couldn’t finish at center. He was 17-9 on faceoffs last night, Belanger was 9-9, and Hopkins was 3-17 or something. Oilers still aren’t deep in faceoff men so they should move Gagner to wing when he comes back. They should not move a veteran drawman to the wing it doesn’t make sense.

      Also Hopkins and Hemsky looked really good together as Hemsky finally has someone to help carry the load in terms of a elite puck handler. Hemsky actually looked a lot better now that he’s not having to carry the puck for 10-20 seconds every shift, he has options now. In terms of guys to deal Omark doesn’t sound as crazy anymore. Paarjarvi and Omark don’t actually have unbelievable chemistry and Lander and Paarjarvi seemed to play just as well together if not better due to their two way play.

      • I think its crazy too, but lets not forget that this is from the mouths of the Sportsnet analysts, not me.

        Horcoff will be the 4C at years end, but he’ll play plenty because of his PK and defensive zone duties. Lander will be back in OKC for at least half the year, but injuries will bring him back. And the longer Hemsky plays with RNH the better the odds get for the Oilers re-signing him.

  • Jerk Store

    Did anyone else think Paajarvi looked sronger and faster by a lot? Didn’t exactly have a stellar performances from Horc (the play killer) and Omark (later for the U-tube stuff, just play the game) to compliment him, but I thought he looked great. Mirage?? Too many $8.00 beers?? Vision skewed by tears remainining from Smyth standing O during introductions??

  • Clyde Frog

    I think Smyth got the extra penalty love for not taking care of his stick during the infraction. He hit him on the way up, down and on the ground with it, lol…

  • paul wodehouse

    …true tests still to come again and again and again…toothless flightless birds not the competition i was thinking about…

    RNH… one down 8 to go…

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    On one play in the first Hall looked like he had Jets on his feet! He “Blew by” 3 Pens players like they were standing still and they were trying to keep up with him. I can not even imagine the wrecking crew he will become. I can not see him settling for less than a Stanly ring before 5 years are up! I was in Awe!

  • BArmstrong

    What the heck was that last I saw? A penalty kill that went 1-10. Not bad. Much improved for one night. The Oilers looked like they were playing thier first game of the season. Hall to Nuge. Eberle whiffed on a great chance. Oilers didn’t look overmatched on a night when Malkin and Crosby were not in the lineup. Thankyou very much. We’ll take what we can get.

  • Wow! Thats all I can say about RNH and Hall. The swedes played well especially MSP and Lander. Hemmer was top notch as well, good to see him flying around. Jones and Belanger were awesome on the defensive side and PK. My goat again is the Captain Horc, MY GOD HE WAS BRUTAL!!! How is this guy still in the NHL!! Petry and Pecks struggled a bit but I thought the rest of the D was decent. Barker played pretty well in my opinion.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    wow a great pk,the power play looked good,had some shaots and got set up(no goals but that will come)dubynk played great,rnh and hall looked awesome,we won some faceoffs been a while since we could say that.lets face it over the last 4 years they would have found a way to lose that game,but tonight they found a way to win!!it feels good again to wear an oilers jersey.props to belanger,jones hemsky and smid as well,barker was ok so a good outing,lets go oil

  • I was somewhat ambivalent on the Dubnyk/Khabi thing but DD played superbly. Square to the shooter and so calm and composed, he reminded me of a giant rollie without the stick losing, flailing theatrics that befell Rollie when the trainwrecks started in the Oilers D zone.
    the Oilers have accumulated some kids that wizz ice water, eberle, rnh and DD seem unphased by the moment. For that matter add in Lander…. that guy was a rock last night, most notably when killing the smyth major.

    I dont know what Katz is paying Rexall to rent that place but if thats what we can expect for an ice surface this year, hold back the checks. Unacceptable.

    ~i guess they have bigger issues to deal with at the moment~