The Oilers recalled Teemu Hartikainen today and sent Lennart Petrell to OKC. Unless Hartikainen is going to play in the top-three lines I don’t see him making much of an impact. Realistically what more should we have expected from Petrell. He was 3rd on the team in hits, 49, and he was a solid shot-blocker, especially on the PK. Some will say he was getting killed 5×5, but didn’t people say the same about Ryan Jones last year? That stat has some merit, but it clearly doesn’t always equate the truth.
If Hartikainen slots in on the 4th line, it will be very difficult for him to make an impact and be a difference maker, although tonight might be a good night to start him on the 4th line.
Tonight will be his third game in three nights, and fifth in seven so limiting his icetime might be a smart move for one game. He has also only played four games since being out with a separated shoulder. He was out for six weeks, so maybe there won’t be that much rust, but we’ve witnessed that is takes a few games, or months, before some guys get back up to speed. The dilemma for Tom Renney is there is no winger you would demote out of your top-nine for Hartikainen at this point. The obvious choice would be Eric Belanger, but is Renney willing to sacrifice faceoff wins at this point.
I say why not, because even though Belanger is winning 56.7% of his draws it isn’t leading to much offence. Losing faceoffs hasn’t limited Ryan Nugent-Hopkin’s production so why not move Gagner to the middle and have Hartikainen on your 3rd line after tonight?
Sending a player to the minors, especially one who has been here all year, does create a ripple, albeit a minor one, in the dressing room. I doubt it is a miracle worker and will suddenly ignite the Oilers and have all of them collectively playing better, but it is clear they need a shake up.
I know many fans are demanding a trade be made, but do any of us really believe the return would be that good at this juncture. Ales Hemsky seems to be the new "trade him" flavour of the year, but now isn’t the time to move him, unless you want to get little in return.
I’m still not in favour of moving Hemsky, unless I can get top-six winger or a top-four D-man , or a bonafide prospect in return.
There is no debate that Hemsky is struggling, but he is also a proven top-six forward and those are hard to find. Remember when the Oilers and their fans thought Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner were going to be legit top-six guys. Some can do it for 40 games, but very few can do it for numerous years and Hemsky proved he could. He is still only 28 and while his shoulders are a concern, what if the surgery works and his shoulder problems are a thing of the past? Do you believe he couldn’t be a 65-70 point player again, I believe he can, and I’d wait a few months to see if he regains that form before moving him.
The Oilers crushed the Hawks 9-2 the last time these two teams met and Joel Quenneville said this morning, "It’s hard to forget that game. I suspect we’ll be much better." It would be near impossible to be worse, but the Hawks will be ready for the Oilers and they’ll come out flying in the first ten minutes. Rather than try to calm the storm I’d like to see the Oilers attack v. the Hawks and match their emotion.
The Hawks are 12-4-1 since the Oilers routed them at Rexall.
Based on this morning line combos it looks like Renney fired up the Render and came up with some new line combinations.
Smyth – RNH – Eberle
Hall – Gagner – Hemsky
Lander – Horcoff – Jones
Eager – Belanger – Hartikainen
Same D pairings as last game and Devan Dubnyk starts again. Dubnyk needs to be better than he was in the 2nd period on Long Island. Dubnyk was solid in the 3rd, but the game was over then. He can’t allow weak goals, like the Matt Martin one, every second game if he wants to become a legitimate starter.
Bumping Belanger down to the 4th line was a no-brainer, hell I was even smart enough to see that, but if Renney doesn’t pull him off the 2nd PP then i’m completely lost on what the coach is seeing. If he starts the 2nd unit off a faceoff, then let Belanger take it, and once the puck is out of the offensive zone bring him to the bench. He isn’t a catalyst on the 2nd unit. At the very least give Gilbert some of Belanger’s 2nd unit minutes, just to see what he can do.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will score three, but they’ll still lose 5-3 and any hope of getting eight points (what Renney wanted at start of trip) on this road trip will be done.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers fans will go from loving hearing the Chelsea Dagger song at Rexall (after Canada scored) to once again hating it. I’m still a bit perplexed that Hockey Canada couldn’t have come up with a song that was connected to an NHL team.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eric Belanger scores a PP goal and after the game Renney calmly states, "That’s why I play him on the PP." Okay seriously no way that happens, but wow that would be a golden post-game quote if it did. Oilersnation would erupt if they heard it…