Sam Gagner returns to the lineup after missing the first 13 games of the season with a broken jaw. He should give the Oilers special teams a boost.
Gagner was tied for the team lead in PP points last year with 15. He can move the puck quickly and accurately. He also was on the PK last year, and he should help a floudering PK unit, by having the experience to be in the right lane on the PK.
Where will Gagner play? For the past ten days we’ve speculated where Gagner plays when he returns. Marc Arcobello has filled in admirably for Gagner scoring 10 points in 13 games, averaging 17:48 TOI and winning 52.7% of his faceoffs.
For tonight, Arcobello will move to the wing and Gagner will play centre.
Eakins felt Gagner has earned the right to play centre, and that’s why he will be in the middle of Yakupov and Eberle. Gagner also sat in on the PK meetings this morning, so expect to see him on the PK.
Ales Hemsky had a great start, but his production has dropped off with only one point in his last six games. Hemsky has produced some quality chances, but he needs to start shooting again. He did have three shots vs. the Kings, but in the previous five games he only had four shots combined. He was averaging two shots a game through his first seven games, and he needs to get back to that pace.
The fourth line has been much better since Ben Eager replaced Mike Brown. They need another strong game tonight against a physical Toronto team.
The Leafs are winning with solid goaltending and special teams and timely goals. The Leafs have been outshot in ten of twelve games, but they are 6-4 in the games they’ve been outshot and 2-0 when they had more shots.
The Leafs’ PP is 3rd in the NHL at 26.7%. They’ve scored 12 goals on 45 attempts. The Oilers PP is 24th with 6 goals on 45 attempts.
The Leafs are 6th in PK at 85.1%. They’ve allowed 7 goals on 47 kills. The Oilers are 29th in PK, 75.5%, having allowed 12 goals on 49 attempts.
Joffrey Lupul will be a game time decision for the Leafs.
If Lupul can’t play Troy Bodie will draw in.
- The Oilers have surrendered the most ES goals in the NHL this year, 31. They are 6th in goals for at 5-on-5 with 25, but they need to be better at ES. Of course, some of those goals were attributed to bad goaltending early this season.
- Eakins feels his team is starting to play with more structure, especially defensively. He admitted that he’s asked his D-men to do things on the PK that they aren’t used to, but feels they are starting to feel comfortable with the changes and expects the PK to improve. If the forwards can get in proper lanes, then teams won’t be shooting as often. The Oilers are allowing way too many shots at 4-on-5.
- Ryan Smyth could be ready Saturday vs. the Detroit Red Wings. His groin feels better, but they don’t want to rush it. It looks like he will play either Saturday vs. the Wings or next Tuesday in Florida.
- The Oilers need to create more second chances on the PP. If you watch the good PPs, most of the best chances are off of rebounds or the second scoring chance. The Oilers have to start moving the puck quicker and get some traffic in front.
Eakins might have to look at using Ryan Jones or Boyd Gordon on the 2nd PP unit to have a body in front. David Perron will go to the net on the first unit, but they can’t have five perimeter guys on the 2nd unit.
- Devan Dubnyk’s ankle is still bothering him, so Jason LaBarbera will be the backup tonight.
- Anton Lander was sent back to OKC this morning. Tyler Pitlick had a full length leg brace on this morning. No official word on how long he’ll be out for, but don’t expect him back very soon.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Gagner’s return sparks the Oilers to a 5-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Leafs score on the PP, and the Oilers PK continues to struggle. The atmosphere at Rexall will be great as Oilers fans try to drown out the Leafs fans.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nick Schultz has scored a point vs. every NHL team except Toronto and his former team Minnesota. Schultz ends that drought tonight when he threads the needle to a streaking Nugent-Hopkins, who then beats the defender and James Reimer for his team-leading 5th goal of the season.
When: Friday November 22nd, be there before 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Pint Off Whyte (81ave and Calgary Trail)
Theme: Bad Christmas Sweater Party….
Why: It is fun and we raise money for the Inner City Children’s Program
Cost: $30 and in return you get free drink at the door, $20 GC from Oodle Noodle and $20 GC from the Pint.
We sold 70 tickets yesterday. Awesome. If you want to go be sure to secure your spot. It will sell out fast.
You can purchase your tickets here.