We used to see the MacBlender almost every second game, but tonight is the first time we’ll see the Render, as Tom Renney hit BLEND and HIGH for the first time and came up with some new line combinations in the hope his offence can get out of neutral.
The new combinations have a dynamic player on every line so at some point one of them will be facing the Hawks’ 3rd D-pairing, so we’ll see if either Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall or Ales Hemsky can take advantage of a more favourable matchup.
If you go by production the Oilers first line will be:
Smyth – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Hall – Horcoff – Jones
Paajarvi – Gagner – Hemsky
Eager – Belanger – Lander
Smid – Gilbert
Peckham – Petry
Chorney – Teubert
I see the potential for success in the top three combos. You have a dynamic player on each line and you have a grinder on the top two, Smyth and Jones. I’ve been calling for the 91-89-83 combo since Hemsky returned to the lineup, so I’m curious to see how they look. As much as Paajarvi and Gagner need to get going, Hemsky needs to up his game as well. Since his return I haven’t seen him dominate a shift, never mind a period or a game.
With their blueline reduced to two veterans and four sophomores or rookies the Oilers will need to get great goaltending and their offence must wake up if they have a hope of beating the Hawks tonight.
Yesterday on my show Jason Strudwick told me a funny story about the Hawks and Oilers, that was very fitting considering the roster for tonight’s tilt.
"It was the Hawks first home game after the Olympics (2010) and they were honouring all the guys who won medals. They congratulated the Canadians first, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, tourney MVP Jonathan Toews, then Patrick Kane, and even guys who didn’t get medals like Marian Hossa and Tomas Kopecky.
"We (Oilers) had just traded three D-men, Steve Staios, Denis Grebeshkov and Lubomir Visnovsky. Ryan Whitney didn’t arrive in time for the game. I looked at our blueline, which had myself and Tom Gilbert while the rest were rookies: Arsene (Dean), Chorns (Taylor Chorney) Motin (Johan) and Pecks (Theo Peckham) and I thought to myself ‘We are going to get killed tonight.’
"At the first whistle I skated past Keith and said, ‘Take it easy on us tonight we’re a bit short-staffed.’ He looked at me and said, ‘Don’t worry we’re all tired from the Olympics.’ He said it like he actually believed it, (Strudwick laughed hard at this point). After the 2nd period we were tied at two, and we felt like we just won the Olympics (laughs again)."
The Hawks scored three third period goals and won 5-2, which shouldn’t surprise you considering they won the Cup later that year and the Oilers had Arsene and Motin in the lineup.
Tonight’s D corps isn’t filled with scrubs like Motin and Arsene, but they are very young and inexperienced and with the Hawks laying an egg in Calgary last night, you can bet Joel Quennville will have his team ready to play tonigh.
- In case you missed it, Linus Omark broke his ankle and is out for six weeks.
- Corey Potter will be out a month according to Tom Renney.
- Andy Sutton is expected to be out for 7-10 days.
- Whitney is stil skating in the baby blue jersey (non-contact), so he likely won’t be available at the earliest until Friday or Saturday in Minny or Colorado.
- The Oilers will be in tough over the next week. They place the 1st place Hawks tonight, 5th place Stars on Monday, 4th place Preds on Tuesday and the 2nd place Wild on Friday. If they don’t win at least one, they will likely find themselves in 13th by next Saturday. They need to find a way to win one or two of these four to avoid ruining their great start.
- They have to start shooting the puck. The Oilers are 30th in shots averaging 25.2/game. Twenty teams average 29 or more. I know shots don’t guarantee goals, but when you aren’t scoring looking for the pretty play rather than firing pucks on net is a recipe for lack of success.
- If Paajarvi doesn’t get his game going on this road trip, the Oilers would be foolish not to send him to OKC. It won’t hurt him.
- Even with Eric Belanger winning 59% of his faceoffs the Oilers are still only 23rd in the league at 48.5%.
- If you have season tickets and are planning on staying home because of the cold, don’t just waste the tickets. Give them away on here, on twitter or anywhere. There are thousands of Oiler fans who never get to go to a game and they would love the chance to go. So don’t waste your tickets.
MIRROR, MIRROR ON THE WALL
GAME DAY PREDICTION: After a dreadful performance in Calgary last night, the first place Hawks will test the young Oiler blueline. Teubert will land six hits, but it won’t be enough to stop the Hawks from leaving Rexall with a 4-3 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The game is on HNIC so the Nuge will continue to dominate on nationally televised games. In his previous three HNIC games he’s tallied five goals and six points, with five of those points coming at Rexall. The 18-year-old tallies 1-1-2 tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During the first Octane appearance, an excited young girl will try and warm up the building by jumping up and dancing with the girls. Unfortunately our tipsy rookie dancer will take a tumble down six stairs before coming to a stop. She immediately stands up, brushes herself off and proudly walks back to her seat. Turns out Wanye went to school with her and immediately he is mocking her on twitter. The rest of the game Wanye and his minions try to come up with witty #hashtags documenting her fall.