He’s only played 22:51 minutes so far this year, but after missing 11 straight games Ales Hemsky returns to the lineup, and for the 2nd straight season he’ll comeback in Montreal. He missed three games before returning to the lineup on December 1, 2010 and quickly tallied a goals and two assists in over 18 minutes of icetime. The Nation was excited to have him back, but after that three-point night Hemsky sat out the next ten games.

There are two things we know about Hemsky.

1. He’s a world class player. He is one of the most exciting players in the game and is a difference maker when he plays.

2. He’s become injury prone. In his first four post-lockout seasons he missed 37 games, but in the past two season and start of this year he’s missed 106 games.

Hemsky and the Oilers are hoping his string of bad luck is over.

Despite their great start, it is clear they miss Hemsky’s offence. The Oilers are 25th in GPG (goals per game) at 2.23. They’ve only scored 18 goals at EV which is 29th in the league. Their powerplay is saving them right now with 10 PP goals which is 8th most.

They’ve been winning with solid team defence and exceptional goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin. The 39-year-old continues to shock the NHL with a spakling 0.98 GAA and 0.963 SV%, but the Oilers can’t expect him to maintain those numbers. They will need some offence if they plan on staying in a playoff spot.


Tom Renney has decided that Magnus Paajarvi will be the first player, in what will likely be a regular rotation, to take a seat in the pressbox. The Oilers finally have 13 healthy forwards, which gives Renney some leverage when it comes to asking more from his players.

I’m sure many won’t agree with Paajarvi sitting out tonight, but the obvious choices were either him or Gagner. The 4th line has played very well and done everything Renney has asked of them. I’m sure we will see one of them take a seat in the pressbox soon, but Renney needed to make a statement. Paajarvi’s role is to produce offensively, not like a top-six forward just yet, but he needs to add more than one point in 13 games.

I don’t think he’ll be in the pressbox very long, maybe a game or two, but it didn’t hurt his development last year when he spent a game up there, and I don’t see this benching ruining him either. Right now Taylor Hall and Ryan Smyth have earned more icetime, so when he gets back in, Paajarvi is going to have to produce 5-on-5 and earn more icetime.

I’d be surprised if 91 wasn’t back on the ice in Boston or Detroit.


I was hoping to see Paajarvi play with Gagner and Hemsky, but Renney is going to re-unite Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Smyth and Hemksy instead. It makes sense to put them together, but I also felt that having 83 on a different line could potentially give them three lines with an offensive threat.

Ryan Jones will move down and play with Eric Belanger and Sam Gagner, while the young guns and the 4th line remain the same.


Jones and Gagner might switch wings.

They didn’t skate any pairings this morning, but word out of Montreal is that Barker is ready and it looks like Colten Teubert will come out. I’m guessing Renney will use the following pairs because then he has a right and left shot on each pair.




  • The Habs are one of the least aggresive teams in the league. P.K Subban is physical, but after him they won’t offer much in terms of crash and bang. I’d like to see Renney give his 4th line an early shift to see if Ben Eager can ignite some fire in the Oilers. They’ve been very passive with only seven first-period goals. Of course they’ve only given up three (best in the league), but I’d like to see them attack more early on.
  • I’ve been asked by numerous people on twitter what is the over/under on how many games Hemsky plays before he is out again. I hope it is 50, because he is one of the few players that lifts me out of my seat. I’ll set the line at 16, but that’s more the optimist in me.
  • I’ll be broadcasting live from the Pint Off Whyte today. The Nation’s newest writer, Jason Strudwick, will join me from 5 to 6 p.m. today, and if you come to watch the game tonight, you’ll have a chance to win Club seats for the Habs return visit to Edmonton on Thursday March 8th. We’ll have some other prizes as well.


GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 3-0 v. the East this year with wins over the Penguins, Rangers and Capitals and they will stay perfect after a 3-2 win tonight. The streak will end in Boston though.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hemsky will pick up two points in his first game back, and Hall will end his four-game goalless streak.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Darcy Hordichuk will instruct Teubert and Paajarvi to pick up enough Chien Chauds for the team. Smyth will be the last guy getting on the bus and realizes there isn’t one left for him. Smyth will calmly announce this dilemma and Teubert and Paajarvi will play a best of three rock -paper-scissors to see who has to run and grab one. Paajarvi tells Teubert he is going to go with rock, and Teubert doesn’t believe him and gets his scissors crushed. In round two Paajarvi tells him he’s going rock again, and this time Teubert gets his paper cut by Paajarvi’s scissors. "Rookie," yells Paajarvi as he celebrates with a fist pump.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Is J. Shannon an idiot or a terrible Homer… the Oil as the top Canadian team, the Leafs the second best?? Is he crazy….?

    Look I love this run as much as the next Oil fan. But I’m not delusional. The Leafs will be lucky to make the playoffs. same with the Oil.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        (the following is tongue in cheek as I expect your statement was)

        Well… I’m firmly in the two-brained hockey fan camp.

        One brain is all SQUEEEEE!!! and NOOOOO!!!! pure ID. The Oil are the greatest of all time, forever and always, period. This brain loves to huddle with other crazed fans, loves getting fed Oiler mania, loves to rock to EPIC SAX GUY and destroy all things not Oilers.

        The Other brain exercises rational faculties and attempts to evaluate merit without bias. This brain hates to be fed a bunch of crap by a so-called paid career professional analyst.

        These brains, for the most part, enjoy peaceful co-existence. Occasionally this needs to be reinforced by a DMZ or one side totally overwhelms the other.

        • bhlazo

          True, my response was more tongue in cheek than logical but there is a side of my brain (not sure if it’s right or left) that subscribes to the school of thought that believes in the ‘once bitten twice shy’ adage. however, the other side of me, the kool aid guzzling side prescribes to the ‘don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’ saying thingy. As true as it is that the oilers have given us ‘false hope’ in the past, i believe restraining yourself when it comes to enjoying the oilers current success for fear of where they’ll probably end up come seasons end is much like denying yourself a second chance at love because you were once heartbroken and don’t want to experience that feeling again. You’ll never really get the most out of the current good situation if you are always looking out for the perceived inevitable outcome. So for now, the Oilers are the best Canadian team. Even the TSN power rankings have them 4th. Who’da thunk?!!

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            Oh, I totally get it. I loving the run… most fun I’ve had since 2006!!

            I just don’t like being pandered to. It’s like when your 10 and all your friends are over and everything is awesome and then your mom comes down stairs and tries on her best kid slang… It sounds terrible.

            In short: If Wanye tells me the Oil are #1 it is 100% true; If a sportsnet analyst tells me, he’s trying to be “cool” and it sticks in my craw.

          • bhlazo

            I agree with you there, but compared to sportsnet flames commentators, oilers ones aren’t so bad. Think of the statement as a balance sheet statement rather than a debt ratio analysis. As of right now, based on the standings……….

            I do agree with your statement though, common sense would dictate that the Oilers and Leafs arent the top 2 Canadian teams but common sense would also dictate that what the 2 teams are doing is nonsensical.

          • Romulus' Apotheosis

            I hear you on the flames analysts too (brutal)… Funny how much we agree…

            I’m not letting Shannon off the hook, but happy to let it go and enjoy the run…

            Now to take out Dallas and reclaim #1 in the West. Let the plotting begin.

          • bhlazo

            Get someone to slew foot Souray and then have said person fight Souray making sure to keep hemet on coz’ that automatically attracts his fists…cue DFL for Stars

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    So… are the Refs. part of a conspiracy to test Hemsky the hard way? what was with those no-calls (esp. in the 1st)?

    also. Gags looks terrible. Hemsky looks sound. Belanger is there to win FOs. He is the only one winning them right now. Horc has turned his initial stats upside down in the circle, instead of winning at a healthy clip he can’t buy a win.

  • John Chambers

    That cycle shift from the kids with 5 mins left in the 3rd was a beaut. No major scoring chances, but just a quality possession shift late in the game with the lead.

    Whoever gets on the kids for not putting up points on the pp needs to have their eyes forced open Clockwork Orange-style to watch this shift on constant replay for 72 straight hours. Then they might get it.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    anyone got a hit count? I think we got out hit. Hemsky took the brunt of it. Hall on Gionta was a real beaut though… someone needs to make a gif of that and play EPIC SAX GUY over top of it… I’d die.

  • A-Mc

    Gagner needs to sit, he isn’t looking good at all IMO.

    At the end of the game, Renney played Hemsky, Lander, Jones. Their first shift, the line gets a scoring chance.

    Next game I’m going to keep an eye out for a Hemsky, Lander, Paajarvi line; even if it takes until the end of the game for Renney to try it out.

    I’d be comfortable with that line.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Yea… The Old Oil Line looked good tonight… but that third line…. peeewww! still stinking it up…

      Thing is… it is not like the third line hasn’t already been changed up (some combo of: MP, Omark, Gags, Belanger, Jones… is that it?) so far none of those options have looked good. Not sure any given change will make a difference, but something has got to give.

      Couple of observations.

      Jones doesn’t seem to lose his steam despite the line he’s on… seems like a good option for the third (originally I thought he’d only work on the fourth).

      MP has eaten his shorts. Omark has eaten his. It is time for Gags to do the same. He was terrible tonight. send a message Renney.

      I think it’s time to weigh the cost/benefits of switching Belanger and Lander.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Watched a bad stream so take this with a grain of salt… but did it look to anyone else like Hemsky got a stick on that Gilbert goal?

    Either way… I think we can say that was a big statement by Ales. He didn’t look like he was coming off an injury 17:08min… way more than I thought! and he was out there in the last few minutes. nice.

  • The Farmer

    Nice win, nice win indeed. I hate to be a downer though but this is one of those classic games where a team is coming to the end of a really good stretch of games played, and they get lucky in the last one to sneak a win out before they go on a losing streak. Khabby cant keep it up forever. They need to find a way to get the kids more ice. Belanger on the point on the powerplay is ridiculous. If you want him out there to win the draw and gain posession fine, but dont put Gagner in for the draw.

    Sometimes I wonder if NHL coaches want so badly to prove that they know something the fans and media dont that they do things that are totally counter productive. Sometimes the thing that is the most obvious is also the most effective.

  • Light, Sweet, Crude

    I got to go to this game, thanks to a great guy I met over on Lowetide’s site, who was in montreal for the occasion. Thanks pal!

    Pretty sloppy play all round. We noted that nobody’s passes were really connecting and there was whiff after whiff on the shots.

    Individual effort got them the lead, and a deflection kept it that way.

    Hall is playing very, very badly. Not good to see. He’s getting frustrated and lashing out with poor timed efforts. It almost seems like he’s dragging down Nuge and Eberle because they have to get back and cover for him constantly losing the puck 10 feet past the other team’s blue-line. I think he’ll snap out of it because we all know the kid can play, but these last two games have been stinkers.

    But, Don’t worry, be Khabby, (is the phrase I coined tonight on the way out of the bell centre as a busker played that jam on his sax)

  • Jerk Store

    Last year whoever Jones played with got better. Not so much tonight. He just seems to play a complimentary style with his forecheck. Would definitely switch 57 and 20. Alternate 89 and 91 until one gets going.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    What if, Khabby’s unsustainable goal tending is sustainable?

    What if, The kids find the scoring touch on the road like they have at home?

    What if, Hemsky and Whitney can stay healthy?

    What if, The wheels never fall off?

    Could this be the year?