Taylor Hall will get an MRI on his left shoulder today, but the sophomore feels he won’t be out that long. Hard-hitting Ryan Wilson crushed Hall in the first period of Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Denver. Hall returned for a few shifts, but left the game permanently after taking a harmless looking crosscheck in the 2nd period.
The injury comes when for the first time in over a decade the Oilers had two legitimate scoring lines, and now we’ll see if Magnus Paajarvi or Sam Gagner will get promoted into the top-six. If you based it on play, Ryan Jones or Sam Gagner would get the promotion, but if the Oilers are looking at the bigger picture and chemistry, then it should be Paajarvi.
If Hall was healthy Paajarvi might have been sent to OKC to get some playing time, but with Hall out we’ll see if Renney gives the 10th overall pick in 2009 a look in his top-six. Paajarvi’s play hasn’t been very good so far this year, but he’s still really young and playing with Horcoff and Hemsky should boost his confidence.
Paajarvi is hoping he’ll get that opportunity tonight. “I definitely think I’m ready for it (opportunity), and hopefully I’ll get that chance tonight. I would love to play there. I think you have to really want that, and I want a chance to be more productive and help the team win.”
Based on practice this morning he won’t be on the PP.
1st PP Unit
Eberle, RNH, Horcoff, Jones and Gilbert
Smyth, Gagner, Hemsky, Whitney and Belanger
Renney didn’t run any line rushes this morning and none of the players were saying what the combos would be, but Hall is out, Andy Sutton is day-to-day while Ben Eager left practice early. It looked like Eager tweaked his back, so he likely won’t dress tonight.
Here’s my best guess for tonight’s lineup.
Smyth – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Paajarvi – Horcoff – Hemsky
Gagner – Belanger – Jones
Hordichuk – Lander – Petrell
Smid – Gilbert
Whitney – Petry
Peckham – Teubert
The Oilers are 2-0 v. the Preds so far this year and they’ve outscored them 9-3. Khabibulin will get the start after a very average outing by Devan Dubnyk in Colorado. Khabibulin is still top-five in both GAA, 1.87 and SV%, .936 and considering Dubnyk is surrending 2.88 GAA I suspect we’ll see Khabibulin four or five games in this six-game homestand.
- Hall faced Wilson lots in junior and he’s been on the receiving end of some big hits from him over the years. “If you talk to him, as I did, he was mad at himself about how he took the play on. He knows this player and has played against him before. I’d rather encourage a player to tone it down rather than extract something out of him that he doesn’t have,” said Renney when asked about Hall’s style.
- Gagner’s game improved on the road trip. Partly because he’s finally caught up to the pace of the game after sitting out most of preseason. He also told me that he thinks the fight helped him become more engaged. “I don’t know if it (fighting) makes me play better, but I’m going into traffic areas more. After getting punched in the face, going into the traffic areas seems easier,” he laughed. On a few levels it makes sense, but most importantly if Gagner believes he’s got more space on the ice because of it, then dropping the gloves once or twice a year isn’t a bad idea.
- Here is footage of Jason Strudwick’s goal. He indeed did go top shelf, and his celebration wasn’t bad at all.
- The Preds have lost three straight and after being has high as 4th in the west, they now sit in 11th, three points out of the playoffs. Barry Trotz said his team needs to be more urgent and aggressive. Should be an intense game tonight.
- The Ducks gave Randy Carlyle a three-year extension this summer, but something has to give in Anaheim. The Ducks have lost five straight, they are 11 points out of 8th spot and only one point ahead of the lowly Columbus Blue Jackets. With two coaches getting axed today, Maurice and Boudreau, I wonder what Bob Murray will do in Anaheim. His star players have been below average. Corey Perry has 18 points and is -10, Ryan Getzlaf has 16, but he’s -13, while Bobby Ryan only has 11 points and is -6. Something has to give in Anaheim.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 7-2-1 at home and lately they’ve shown the ability to bounce back after a loss. Oilers win 3-2. Ryan Jones continues to produce as he bangs home another goal from within a foot of the goal line.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Much of the comments section will be filled with a debate over who should play on the 2nd line. Many will be furious that Jones is on the PP, despite the fact he has six more goals than both Gagner and Paajarvi.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After Strudwick and Smid ended two-year goal-scoring droughts on Saturday, Gagner, Belanger and Paajarvi will feel even more hit to score. In 58 games they’ve combined for 0 goals. They have a friendly wager amongst them, and Gagner wins the bet (homemade dinners) when he scores in the 2nd frame.