The Oilers wrap up the preseason with a tilt against the Dallas/Texas Stars tonight in Oklahoma City. The Oilers currently have 27 players remaining in camp, 23 of them are healthy while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Corey Potter and Denis Grebeshkov will start the season on either the IR or LTIR.
It is the final opportunity to impress head coach Dallas Eakins, and tonight’s lineup will be very close to what we see next Tuesday when the Oilers open their 34th NHL season against the Winnipeg Jets.
Unfortunately, the Oilers will once again face a lineup with half a roster of AHL-destined players. The Stars still have 20 forwards and 10 D-men in camp, and last night vs. the Avalanche the Stars dressed about 95% of their opening-night roster, so tonight the Oilers will faceoff against Luke Gazdic, Lane MacDermid, Travis Morin, Chris Mueller, Brett Ritchie, Colton Sceviour and others. The Stars will dress two forward lines of NHL players, but it likely won’t be their best lines.
Usually the final preseason games involve more NHL-ready lineups, thus allowing the players to fine-tune their skills as well as giving the coaches a better sense of where their team is at. Eakins won’t have that luxury this year.
Eakins mentioned he only worries about how his team plays and I respect that, but if your opponents aren’t NHL caliber, is it possible to get an accurate gauge on your team’s play? It is easier to defend the aforementioned Stars than it would be trying to shut down Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Ray Whitney, Erik Cole, Valerie Nichuskin and Shawn Horcoff.
The Oilers will see a few of those players tonight, but not all of them.
Perron and Joensuu switched spots in practice yesterday and they’ll stay that way tonight. That is interesting considering Perron and Eberle have played very well together. Jordan Eberle leads the NHL in preseason points with 8, while Perron leads the league with 5 preseason goals.
I suspect Eakins is just experimenting. Before leaving Edmonton he said he wanted three balanced scoring lines, and putting Eberle with two guys who played a combined eight NHL games last season seems to contradict that. I’m going to guess he’s just looking at different combinations.
The Oilers know what they have in Andrew Ference so he’ll get the night off. Belov playing with Justin Schultz tells me he’ll be on the opening night roster, likely in a pairing with Nick Schultz. .
The Oilers haven’t spent much time practicing their powerplay, but yesterday they did.
The first unit consisted of Hall,Hemsky and Smyth up front with J.Schultz and Yakupov on the points. Yakupov on the right point was a focal point in the previous games, and I’m sure we’ll see him unleash his one-timer frequently. Smyth replaces Horcoff in front of the net. I understand wanting to use Yakupov’s one-timer, but they should also focus on getting Hall in a good shooting lane. He’s got an excellent snap/wrist shot.
The 2nd unit will be Eberle, Arcobello and Joensuu as forwards with Perron and Belov on the point. Belov has a bomb of a shot, while most of the puck movement should go between Eberle and Perron.
When Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner return, the Oilers PP should get even better.
Texas Dallas lineup:
- The Stars new green jerseys look fantastic. I rarely like a new jersey more than the old one, but these ones look great, especially on TV.
- Nichuskin has looked great in the preseason, and he’ll start the season in Dallas. If he has a good season, I’m sure some will rip the Oilers for taking Darnell Nurse instead of him. Like most draft years, I think you have to wait at least five years to gauge players, and sometimes even longer, especially when comparing a D-man to a forward. It will be a good debate.
- Remind you to watch my fellow Nation writer, Jason Strudwick, this Sunday evening on Battle of the Blades. Struds informed me that his first outfit is, umm, outside his comfort zone. Can’t wait, it will be fun. Break a blade Struds.
- Please do me a favour and sign up for Streakcred. I’m getting sick of Wanye texting me every ten minutes reminding me to add a link in my story. The early bird special is on right now for only $15 a team, and it’s addicting. The best part is that in addition to winning some cool prizes, you will also be helping out The Inner City Children’s Program. Show the world how smart you are, and help kids eat a healthy meat. It’s a win-win. You should sign up here.