GDB 7.0: SAMWISE TO THE WING

Sam Gagner will play the right wing with Eric Belanger and Magnus Paajarvi tonight. It will be Gagner’s first game since March 9th, and while he did dress v. Calgary in the preseason, it has been over seven months since he felt the pace of regular season action.

Gagner is fired up to play and isn’t concerned about playing the wing.

"We have a lot of depth and a lot of guys who can play in different positions. I’m not worried where I’m playing. I feel comfortable on the wing. I’m just excited about getting back in the lineup, and I’m playing with two guys with lots of skill who are solid at both ends of the rink, so I should have a lot of time and space to make plays."

Gagner will play the right side with Eric Belanger and Magnus Paajarvi. This isn’t Gagner’s first attempt as a winger, in fact, a major portion of the most productive stretch of his four-year career came as a winger at the end of his rookie season.

Gagner tallied 28 points in his final 28 games that year, and in 19 of those games he was a winger on a line with Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson.

Was Gagner more effective as a winger? Even he didn’t know the answer.

"A lot of that success was powerplay success as well. At that time we were the go-to guys and we were playing a lot. As a winger maybe I get more room offensively, I don’t know what it was, but I felt good and hopefully I can get some of that back again."

Trying Gagner on the wing wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision by coach Renney.

"I have watched some footage of him as a winger, and I had some good visits with him about it (playing wing). I actually talked to a former coach he had (I’m guessing MacTavish) about using him on the wing, and it seems like it is going to go fine."

The Oilers centres have played well, and with Belanger and Horcoff winning draws Renney didn’t want to put Gagner in the middle and risk losing more draws. Renney still might try him in the middle, but he’s really liked Lander on the 4th line and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is producing, so putting Gagner on the wing makes sense for now.

REST OF THE LINEUP

Linus Omark will take a sit beside Theo Peckham in the pressbox tonight. Renney likes Lennart Petrell as a PKer and a big body along the boards, and didn’t want to shuffle all his lines to bring in one guy. Now that the Oilers have some healthy bodies, you can expect Renney to move guys in and out if they aren’t playing well.

Hall/Nugent-Hopkins/Eberle
Smyth/Horcoff/Jones
Paajarvi/Belanger/Gagner
Eager/Lander/Petrell

Whitney/Potter
Smid/Gilbert
Barker/Sutton

Khabibulin

Nikolai Khabibulin will start for the 2nd straight game. He leads the NHL in GAA at 0.95 and is 2nd in SV%, 0.962 behind Jonathon Quick. Renney stated afterwards we shouldn’t read too much into it beyond tonight, meaning Dubnyk won’t be sitting out very long.

SHOOT THE PUCK

Renney had separate, and brief, one-on-one chats with Hall, RNH and Eberle at the morning skate and the message was very simple. Shoot the puck.

"They have it (puck) a lot, and they have it a lot where most people want it, so shoot it. Pretty straight forward. Be a little more selfish at times and shoot it."

He was asked if the Eberle toe-drag v. Minnesota was a prime example and Renney agreed. He likes their creativity, but they need to shoot the puck more, especially Eberle, because he has such an accurate shot.

It is clear this team is serious about winning. They were still annoyed about their two previous games because they feel they should have won them. The Oilers know they can’t get on any sort of losing streak if they expect to be in the hunt, and they sounded like a group that will play with some fire tonight.

We’ll see.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: For the sake of Oiler fans let’s see some offence and intensity. You’ll see an offensive explosion, but Oilers will lose 3-2. Yes right now two goals is an explosion.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kevin Weekes will be pumping Khabibulin and Lundqvist’s tires the entire game.Both are top-five in SV% and I’m sure you’ll hear about it mulitple times, not to mention he will suggest that "Tent City" was a great wakeup call for Khabibulin.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: I’ll be enjoying the game from the stands tonight celebrating a birthday with the fellas. I love sitting in the crowd and listening to the banter. I love the fan who gets fired up. The one who cheers loud and boos just as loud, or high fives strangers after goals. I like the fans who really enjoy going. However, like most of you, I can’t stand the SHOOOOT guy, or talk-to-the-players-as-they-make-plays guy, or the loud-talker-who-isn’t-watching-the-game-and-blabbing-about-their-life-problems guy/gal. The problem is I have a hunch one of the guys going to the game with us is the latter guy. If so, I vow to take pictures of that guy and mock him on twitter. No fan likes the annoying fan. Cheer loud, hell, boo loud, just don’t talk about your life-problems loud. Not at the game at least.

  • Is it just me, or does anybody else think the Oilers have looked dominant or at least defensively dominant for 85% of the season? It’s like watching a totally different team from last year. I think it’s time everybody acknowledged Khabi for at least starting the season being way more solid than anyone gave him credit for.

    Now let’s finish this thing!

    • OilFan

      Two words – Puck Support

      The forwards are finally coming down low to the corner boards to help the defence move the puck up the ice. Also less players standing around as the Oilers have kept their feet moving this season. The youthful mistakes and sometimes veteran mistakes still happen (part of the game). But the effort and the attention in the defensive zone is significantly better this year.

      Also I don’t agree with the Sutton comment. He’s 6’6 245lbs, he’s not going to move like Pat Kane, Hall, or RNH. He’s slow but he blocks shots, clears the net area, and is positionally sound and is an upgrade on Foster in the defensive end for sure. I wonder if Anaheim will keep trading defenceman with Edm because the deals seem to be working out well for Edm and Anaheim in the case of Visnovsky.

  • Clarence Oveur

    Yep, better send RNH back to Red Deer. Kid can’t hang…Please, tonight once again disproved that nonsense

    And to hell with the “wasting a year on his ELC” argument, it doesn’t hold water. You’re not “wasting” a year when the player can not only hang with the big boys, but can flat out drive the play.

    4-93-14…learn it, love it

  • OilFan

    Pk still looks good. Khabby has unreal again. Kid line looked good. What’s not to like ? Gagner looked slow but is excepted due to his time away from the rink.

  • Clarence Oveur

    This After Hours segment is got to be their best one yet.

    Makes me realize how much I missed Smytty. The guy just gets it, flat out gets what it means to be a professional hockey player.

    Chokes me up seeing how happy he and his family are to be back in Edmonton. You really don’t see that nowadays with pro athletes. You could cut Smytty open and he would bleed orange and blue. I doubt any of us will ever forget his contributions (and bodily sacrifice) to the Oilers from over the years.

    What a beautician…love the old shouldies and that shovel he uses for a stick.

  • The Farmer

    Nice win. I really wish Nugent Hopkins would get a little stronger though, it was painfully obvious tonight he has a hard time getting a hard wrist shot off ~

  • Eulers

    Khabi may be my goat, but this shut out shows I should shut the H-E-double-hockey-stick up for the night! And good for him too!

    RNH’s undressing of one of the league’s best goalies makes him look like the second coming of Gretzky.

    Even our terrible D, seems–against all odds–to be decent.

    Rejoice, and savour the moment, gentlemen!

    • OK look. RNH played a pretty solid game and his goal shot was all-world. But let’s not start comparing him to *he who shall not be named*. He didn’t put the same numbers up in junior and let’s face it, he’s not in the same league.

      I get it. RNH is 18 and a pretty damn good player compared to what we’ve seen around these parts for the last while. But until/if he throws up the stats, let’s lay off the fantasy talk, huh? Kthx.

      It’s a huge freakin’ universe quantum jump to “best that ever played the game”. Maybe we should respect that huh?

      • Kodiak

        I agree with not comparing him to the great one but we can all dream/hope that this team develops into the new-age “dynasty” we’ve been patiently waiting for the past couple of seasons. However I slightly disagree with the whole stats argument. Even Gretzky himself has stated that the game has evolved; the players have gotten bigger/faster with a greater hockey IQ. You’ll never see anyone come close to Gretzky’s stats, ever but what you might see is some new young Oilers with a similar style of play 😉

  • OilFan

    Sam isn’t a good third line checker. I imagine Renney wil try to find a way to get him on the second line but Horcoff is playing well so it’s a tough call. RNH is far to talented to drop a spot. This whole Gagner and Omark thing is funny, neither player is worth much to other teams and they are both tweeners. Now please someone tell me Sam is only 21 and is the next Pavel Datsyuk completely ignoring any lack of skills in Sams game!

    By deadline both plyers will be shipped out of town for depth on the blueline. Both will follow the current pattern of being mediocre players hyped up by draft status and kool-aid drinking fans.

    listening to the sports radio shows yesterday was so good. Mad props to all.

    • There are going to be a lot of lineup decisions after Hemsky comes back. I wouldnt even know where to start.

      The Jo Shmo line and the kids have lots of chemistry so I wouldnt be quick to break those guys up. I imagine Gagner will end up centering a line with Hemsky and Belanger will center a line with Eager. I feel like I’m looking at a puzzle with pieces from somewhere else mixed into it.

          • Douche Nietzsche

            How do you answer a question with another question?
            I don’t know.

            Gagner is not a better bottom 6 forward than Belanger, Gagner is not a better center than Belanger. I will go as far as to say, Lander has shown to be a better 3rd or 4th centre than Gagner, so far in his short career

            So, when Hemsky comes back, where do you imagine Gagner fitting in?

          • I see him centering a line with Hemsky on his right, but that’s as far as I can get. I dont know what else to do.

            Horcoff has been playing shut down center all year hard matched against the top lines, so that’s your “classic 3rd line”. Whatever line Hemsky is on is the 1st or 2nd by default. And the kids are too sheltered to be the top line. So if my twisted logic holds strong that would make Hemsky’s line the top line, and if Gagner is his center then that makes him the 1C.

            Maybe you put Smyth on the LW and Paajarvi or Lander plays with Horcoff’s line until a trade is made.

            It does seem like there’s not enough minutes to go around though

          • Douche Nietzsche

            I imagine, when Hemsky comes back he will be with Belanger and Paajarvi. The Joshmo line is a good thing and I dont see it being broken up.

            Lander, Eager and Petrell will only get better as a line in the next few games.

            Just as much as I see Omark not having minutes on this team, I see the same thing with Gagner. On the other hand, Gagner has more value, and acompanied with a good pick, I can see him traded for a decent 3-4 D-man.

            Omark is cheaper, his contract is better for the Oilers, and he is use to sitting in the pressbox as an extra player.

  • OilFan

    ~Where is all the Habby haters now ? All last season we read article after article and comment after comment trashing our MVP. Can we still void that contract ? Why isn’t Doobie playing are they trying to lose ?~

    • Why would the Khabby haters be saying anything right now? I don’t think it was a personal thing, he’s been pretty terrible for most of his stay here. We’re all still fans here after all, nobody would rather see him play POORLY.

      Lots of games to play this season though, I’d be shocked if NK ends up seeing more games and a better GAA when this thing’s done, but I’d be happy to be wrong too.

  • Watched Barker in person for the first time last night. The guy just isn’t… AGGRESSIVE. He’s not terrible, but he never makes the aggressive pass, or shot, or check, or rush. He comes across as a guy that doesn’t care enough.

    Hope he figures it out, he’s clearly got the ability to play if he wants to, but he has a minor case of Penner-itis.

  • Crash

    I’ve always said Khabby would bounce back this year, but I think Renney is going to run into the same problem as last year. Khabby is playing well early, so we play the crap out of khabby, his play drops off sharply when he gets overplayed. Put Doobie back in soon.

    • First of all, it’s “Gagner”.

      As to playing with Horcoff and Smyth, you’re absolutely right. Gagner with those two is a solid offensive line. Problem is, Renney seems to be using Horcoff and Smyth in a (primarily) defensive role.

      Still, I think Sam would be better off with PRV and Omark as those guys were just starting to get it. Belanger is a killer FO guy buy he can’t keep up with the Swedes.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I wonder if were the only team in the league who’s fans discuss whether a guy who was a point away from being his teams leading scorer … At 21 years old ( which is currently the lowest scoring team in the league) is good enough to be on the team.