The Oilers will have their pregame skate in Edmonton this morning, and then fly to Winnipeg this afternoon to take on the Jets. That would never happen in the regular season, but that’s life in the preseason.
For many of the veterans it is another opportunity to sharpen their skills, while those on the bubble hope to impress Dallas Eakins, and for some it is likely their final preseason game.
After Saturday’s split-squad games vs. the Flames the Oilers have had a few days to try and learn Eakins new systems. It will take a few games before every player is completely comfortable with the new system, so expect a few defensive breakdowns.
When you look down tonight’s roster it seems easy to pick who falls into the category of veteran sharpening his skill, bubble boys and guys destined for reassignment.
Gagner, Jones, Yakupov, Smid, Petry, Grebeshkov and LaBarbera are safe bets to be on the team.
Lander, Joensuu, Omark, Hamilton, Arcobello and Larsen are in battle for a roster spot up front or on the backend.
Martindale, Abney, Bachman, Pitlick and Davidson will be heading to OKC eventually.
It looks like Klefbom will start the season in OKC, which will allow him to get comfortable to the North American game, and I won’t be surprised if his recalled at some point this season.
Moroz will be heading back to junior, likely on Wednesday, and get set for the Oil Kings season opener this coming Friday.
Joensuu, Hamilton and Arcobello had strong first games, but playing well early in preseason isn’t as important as playing well late when the rosters are filled with more NHL caliber players. They will need to build on their strong start to stay ahead of the pack.
Omark, Lander and Larsen were okay in their debuts, but a strong performance tonight could put them right back on track. Tonight is Pitlick’s first opportunity to impress the coaches, and he feels he is ready to take a serious run at a roster spot. Davidson has impressed early in camp, but he’ll need some more seasoning in the AHL before he’s ready for a regular
Tonight’s game will be streamed live on the Oilers website at 6 p.m. MST.
Tonight’s lineup will come from this group of forwards and D-men. It sounds like the top three lines and top four D-men will dress, and then the 4th line and final D pairing will be decided at the morning skate. When I get confirmation I will edit the lineup to the usual 18 skaters.
***Edit*** Here is the Jets lineup.***
DALLAS THE DOER
Yesterday on my radio show, Ryan Jones talked about gaining confidence, trying to get back to his style of play and the impact Eakins has had on the organization.
Jason Gregor: It’s pre-season and I’m not sure if there are any studies that say that if you score in the pre-season, it carries over but it’s always good to score for a guy like you. Does it build confidence when you get a goal early in the pre-season?
Ryan Jones: It has to. Even if you score in shinny hockey or in practise you get a little bit more confidence. So it has to. You know what, that goal just reiterates what I have to do to be a successful player.
I’ve said all along that I’m trying to get back to the way that I was playing a couple of years ago which made me successful and that’s exactly what I did in the exhibition game; just be a pain in the ass. Sorry, can I say that? Be a pain in the butt [laughs], get to the front of the net because there are so many guys throughout this line-up who are so good with the puck and there is no sense in me, once I can get in there. Bang a body, get the puck on their stick, it’s useless for me to crowd those guys.
So to get in front of the net, to crowd that net area, to allow them to have a little bit of space, to allow them to bring it to the net is the most ideal thing that I can do. Especially when I’m playing with [David] Perron. Once I got in, I made a hit and the puck goes to him there’s no sense in following that guy around. He’s skilled enough to make plays and get it into the net so I just made it a point to put my butt in the goalie’s face and try to make as much havoc as I could. We had a tonne of grade ‘A’ scoring chances out of me doing it.
Gregor: Do the goalies look smaller with the smaller pads? Have you noticed it at all?
Jones: It’s funny because when we were skating in Minnesota and Josh Harding wore them, I thought that he looked tiny. When he put his pads together and stood in the net, it just looked like there was so much open net. Other than that one time, I haven’t really noticed.
You know what? They all look gigantic in there. It seems like every time I come down to shoot there are very little openings but like I said, that’s not my game. Usually they’re on their back or their sides or their knees when I’m chipping pucks in so they pretty much all look the same for me.
Gregor: Dallas Eakins has come in and made some subtle things; the locker room is different, the pictures are down, he has a big focus on nutrition, he’s a real task master on wanting the guys to be in shape. Did this team need a real culture change and have you noticed it from your head coach?
Jones: I have noticed it. You want to know what, there are doers and talkers and we’ve unfortunately had a lot of people who were great talkers. And I mean even to you guys, they answered all of the questions the right way but it seemed like it was never different in the room compared to when I came here all of the way through last year.
Yeah we got a little bit better, we got younger, we got more skilled, but even in the locker room with the guys there were a lot of guys who seemed to talk the right game but nothing ever seemed to get done.
I haven’t heard Dallas say very many words outside of what you guys ask him, but he just does everything. He shows us in this locker room what he wants to be done by example. He wants something done, he goes out there, he shows us, we do it. And he demands that out of us. That’s what this locker room needs. He’s going to demand everything out of everybody and Dallas, as far as I can tell, is exactly that guy. From what I’ve heard, and briefly seen, he’s a player’s coach, he’s demanding and his accountability is second to none.
Gregor: He talked earlier about how he likes longer practices and he likes to push guys. What did you think about the practice?
Jones: [Laughs] They are fairly long, but you know what, they’re detailed and you’re not just out there wasting time. You’re never out there just doing a shooting drill to do a shooting drill. Everything that we did out there on the ice today was a team game, some sort of aspect of what we’re going to need to do to win and be a successful team. At the end we got to do a shoot a puck but everything else was a backcheck or a forecheck or faceoffs. There’s no wasted time when you’re out there and that’s good because it keeps you on your toes and it keeps your mind in every single practice, that’s what we need. We can’t have any guys sleeping at any point in time.
Jones’ comments on Eakins being a doer, and not just a talker spoke volumes. I think we’d all agree that for the past few seasons we’ve heard a lot of talk, but we never saw the action match the words.
Eakins has shown he isn’t afraid to make changes. Will changing the paint and decor of a room make the Oilers play better on the ice, unlikely, but it illustrates that Eakins won’t be sticking with the status quo. Yesterday’s practice was uptempo the entire time, and it will be interesting to watch how they practice throughout the year.
I’ve written on many occasions the past few years how different the Oilers practices were compared to other teams. Chicago and Detroit had quicker paced practices, especially their puck drills.
He wants to change the culture in his dressing room, and he will make his players more accountable on the ice. He’s outlined a new workout routine that he expects the players to follow. He’s given them an outline for what he expects on practice days, as well as game days.
Some players won’t be impacted by the changes, because many of them had pre-skate work out routines as well as post-game routines, but it will be different for some. It is no longer optional.
- ESPN ranked the top-50 D-men in the NHL and J.Schultz was the only Oiler to crack the list at #40. I was surprised to see Ekman-Larsson and McDonagh ahead of Pietrangelo, albeit only a few spots, but overall I’d agree with most of the rankings. Your thoughts? Schultz is ranked a bit high, if you go off last seasons numbers, but I suspect they added his potential when ranking him. His overall game will be much better this year compared to last season.