The Oilers young forwards, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1st, 2011), Taylor Hall (1st, 2010), Magnus Paajarvi (10th, 2009) and Jordan Eberle (22nd, 2008) will take on the Senators young blueliners led by Erik Karlsson (15th, 2008), Jared Cowan (9th, 2009) David Rundblad (17th, 2009) and Brian Lee (9th, 2005).
The Oilers are stocked with young potential offensive stars, while the Sens backend is filled with the same sort of potential, which makes me wonder if they would considering swapping one for one in a year or so?
I doubt either side will look at that this year, but it is clear their foundations are being built at opposite ends of the ice.
Karlsson is in his 3rd season with the Sens and he keeps getter better, at least offensively. He tallied 26 points as a rookie, potted 45 last year and he already has 17 in 19 games this year. He is still a work in progress in his own zone, but he is a wizard on the PP. He is tied with Brian Campbell for the league-lead in points by a D-man and is 5th in the league with 9 PP points. He’s averaging over 25 minutes a night and according to his head coach, Paul Maclean, he is making huge strides in his own end. He is one of the league’s best young D-men.
Cowen is feeling his way into his first NHL season. He’s never played a game in the AHL, and after four years in Spokane he jumped directly to the Senators. He’s playing over 16 minutes a night in their 3rd pairing and according to Maclean, "He’s been steady, and like most rookies he’s had very good games and some nights he’s struggled. Good news is that he’s had many more good games."
The Sens are high on Rundblad. They traded their 2010 first round pick, 16th overall, for him and he’s played 13 games as a rookie. He won’t play tonight, and the Sens are contemplating whether he’d be better served playing more minutes in the AHL.
Lee is still a work in progress having spent the past three seasons split between Binghamton and Ottawa, but lately he’s played better according to his coaches.
Similar to the Oilers young forwards, the Sens’ blueliners have progressed at different rates and right now Rundblad and Paajarvi seem to be in similar positions. Both have lots of potential, but both might be better served honing their skills in the AHL.
Renney will put the kids back together tonight, and he’ll play Paajarvi on the wing rather than in the middle. It is clear the Oilers need some sort of production from their 3rd line as Paajarvi and Belanger have 0 goals and 3 assists between them. They haven’t shown much chemistry thus far, and I’m surprised Tom Renney hasn’t tried Paajarvi with Lander.
- Cam Barker will have ankle surgery this week and he’ll be out until March. Barker doesn’t know when the injury occured, but I wonder if he injured it while skating in sand? I keed I keed.
- If Paajarvi continues to struggle I don’t see why the Oilers don’t let him find his game in OKC. He isn’t just struggling offensively, he is struggling away from the puck and in his own zone. I don’t see any negative in letting him rediscover his game and work out the kinks in the AHL.
- Ryan Whitney is getting closer and Renney will monitor his situation to see if the Oilers need to add a 7th D-man for their upcoming road trip.
- Sam Gagner has back spasms and is listed as day-to-day.
- The Oilers have been great at home thus far going 6-1-1. Their PP is 3rd best on home ice at 22.2%, and they’ve outscored their opponents 20-13. The Sens have given up 32 goals on the road thus far, but they’ve won their last two away from Ottawa.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will continue their solid play at Rexall, but despite the Sens sitting 29th in goals against the flood gates won’t open tonight. The Oilers win 2-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oiler forwards have combined for 153 hits. Nick Foligno and Chris Neil have 104 between the two of them. I know hits aren’t the most accurate stat, but it is clear the Oilers rarely crash and bang. The Sens forwards will have 14 more hits than the Oiler forwards.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With the first snowfall of the season fans will be in a snarly mood. During the Oilers first PP, they won’t register a shot and the "shoooooottttt" birds will come out. On the next PP Ales Hemsky will stun the crowd and rip home his first of the season. Instantly those who yelled shoot will turn to their buddy and say, "See I told you it would work," thus ensuring we get to hear "SHOOOOOOOTTTTT" for years to come.