It’s a fair bet that Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins did not and will not quote Shakespeare when talking to his team today, but doubtless both he and fans of the Oilers would like to see the spirit embodied in Henry V’s speech as they play the Vancouver Canucks tonight.
“Lend The Eye A Terrible Aspect"
But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect… Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
David Perron did a pretty good job of that sort of thing last night, and has all season. It’s not just that he’s driving scoring chances (though he is, and that’s the most important thing) but that he’s tenacious and battles at both ends of the rink. I thought Eakins summed him up nicely this afternoon:
"He doesn’t want to win. He needs to win. This kid is carrying our team right now." – Coach Eakins on Perron, leads team with 14 goals
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 13, 2013
It’s something the rest of the lineup needs to imitate. Taylor Hall has been that kind of player before, hard and physical and clearly giving it his all on the ice, but he wasn’t last night and hasn’t been all too frequently this season. With a tired Oilers team facing a rested contender in Vancouver, they desperately need that kind of play from Hall.
We don’t know what the Oilers’ lineup tonight is going to look like, but we do know from the team’s official Twitter feed that Devan Dubnyk will start and that Boyd Gordon is both ready to play and likely to play.
I liked the shift that Eakins made late against Boston, moving Jesse Joensuu to Sam Gagner’s line and Hall to play with Mark Arcobello and Ales Hemsky, and I would keep those trios together tonight. In the absence of official information, I’ll just post the lines I would run if I were in Eakins shoes tonight:
- F1. David Perron – Ryan Nugent- Hopkins – Jordan Eberle. They’ve just been too good to split up. I was tempted to bump Eberle down to Hall’s wing in an effort to get the latter going but I would not want to mess with this trio.
- F2. Taylor Hall – Mark Arcobello – Ales Hemsky. Hall and Hemsky have played well together in the past, and Arcobello had great chemistry with Hall in Oklahoma. More than that, Arcobello has outplayed Gagner all season and deserves this shot.
- F3. Jesse Joensuu – Sam Gagner – Nail Yakupov. Joensuu looked really good versus Boston and adds some nice things to this extremely soft minutes line.
- F4. Luke Gadzic – Boyd Gordon – Anton Lander. Assuming that Ryan Smyth is still injured, this would be my choice for the fourth line tonight. Gazdic played well against Boston and if you’re packing around an enforcer this game is one where he might be good to have. Gordon/Lander gives the line two faceoff men and this unit would be used almost entirely as a defensive zone line.
- D1. Andrew Ference – Jeff Petry. Petry looked pretty good last night and none of the options for this role are ideal; this is what the Oilers have.
- D2. Anton Belov – Justin Schultz. This pair had some nice moments together and would be the Oilers go-to offensive zone unit.
- D3. Nick Schultz – Corey Potter. Philip Larsen had a bad game last night, and the demotion of Martin Marincin suggests that Potter’s ready to play. Ordinarily, I’d keep Larsen in on the third pair, but because this is a back-to-back there’s some value in having fresh legs.
- G1. Devan Dubnyk. We know that Eakins is rolling Dubnyk, and the bottom line here is that we know Jason LaBarbera has no future in Edmonton. It makes sense to use the guy who a) has been better over the long term and b) will still be on the NHL roster after Ilya Bryzgalov gets healthy.
Game Day Prediction: Four games ago I was pessimistic about the Oilers chances against a hot Colorado team and predicted a 5-1 loss. Edmonton won 8-2. Tonight I predict another 5-1 loss.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: This is the first time Zack Kassian will play the Oilers since breaking Gagner’s jaw with his stick, and Edmonton won’t forget that. Gazdic will drop the gloves with Kassian the first chance he gets, and moreover he’ll fare better than Ben Eager did last season.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Gagner, demoted to the third line and rapidly falling out of favour with Oilers fans, will enjoy a very solid game in his new role and do most of the work in setting up Edmonton’s lone goal, which will come from Jesse Joensuu.