The Oilers play four preseason games in the next six days, and for players on the bubble like Anton Lander, Jesse Joensuu, Martin Marincin, Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse, Brad Hunt, Steve Pinizzotto and Tyler Pitlick, this week will decide whether they start the season in the NHL, AHL or CHL.
The Oilers got spanked 5-0 by the Chicago Blackhawks in Saskatoon last night. It was not a stellar performance by the Oilers. Joensuu hit two goalposts and was the Oilers’ best forward, which isn’t saying much.
Yakupov had a few chances, but he also struggled in his own end. Yakupov, Lander, Teddy Purcell and Marc Arcobello have played two games, but the Oilers have been shut out in both of them. They haven’t generated much offence thus far.
The D corps struggled, especially after Andrew Ference left the game after blocking a shot. Marincin was below average and so far he hasn’t looked great in the preseason. Some of that might be due to him playing and practicing both the left and right sides, but he shouldn’t be playing like a guy who has a guaranteed roster spot in Edmonton, because he doesn’t. He needs to play better. He was paired with Martin Gernat, so that is a factor. Gernat is not close to being NHL-ready. He must improve his D zone play if he ever hopes to play a regular season game. He isn’t strong enough right now. He loses too many battles.
The Oilers lineup won’t be much more experienced tonight.
Pitlick played very well in Winnipeg last week and tonight he gets rewarded by playing alongside the Oilers two best forwards. He is in a battle with Joensuu for the 4th line RW spot and he needs another strong game. If he maintains his intensity and consistency he has a great shot of making the final 23-man roster.
I expected Nikitin and Fayne to start the season as the Oilers shutdown pair, and it looks like that will be the case. Hunt has played very well, and while he is still a longshot, the Oilers like his ability to move the puck. He and Nurse both need a strong game.
Aulie has to play better. Eakins said he feels Aulie just needs to play games. For me, that opens up the possibility of him starting the season in the AHL, just so he can get back in the groove of playing every day.
The Jets will counter with an extremely young lineup:
Trouba is the only right-shot D-man dressed tonight. The Jets, like the Oilers, have more left-shot prospects than righties. The Oilers should attack those playing on their off-side tonight.
- Thru four preseason games Klefbom has looked better than Marincin. Can Marincin play well enough this week to keep his spot? “I’m not sure Marty has hit his stride yet in camp. He’s had to move around a lot, playing both the left and right side. Right or wrong that is how it is with so many left shots in camps. He’s lumped in with a small group of others and it will be a battle for the final spots,” Eakins said regarding Marincin.
- Lander needs to do more if he wants to be more than the 13th forward. He looks hesitant offensively. Right now Draisaitl and Yakimov have been slightly better than Arcobello. This week the opposing lineups will feature tougher competition and we will get a better idea of where players stand. Lander has to be better if he wants to start the season in Edmonton.
- Jeff Petry skated today, and he is getting closer. Sounds like he will play at some point this week. Andrew Ference’s arm is fine, said Eakins. He expects he will be ready later this week as well.
- Fasth and Scrivens will rotate starts for the remaining four games. Fasth starts tonight with Brossoit as the backup. Scrivens starts Wednesday.
- The Oilers reassigned five players to OKC today. Curtis Hamilton, Jason Williams, Martin Gernat, Kale Kessy and Iiro Pakarinen. Pakarinen has the best chance to be recalled during the year. Eakins really likes him, but said they spoke this morning and Pakarinen agreed that he has to adjust to the pace of the game. Guys attack quicker here than in Europe.
- Eakins didn’t mince his words regarding Gernat’s strength. “He is still far below what it is going to take to be an NHL player when it comes to strength and endurance. I know some people embrace what I talk about regarding strength and conditioning, and others snicker, but what we see off the ice is what we see on the ice. That has got to be his commitment. He has some things you can’t teach; he can skate, he moves the puck well and he has skill, but he has to get stronger and play a simpler game with much more will.”
- The harsh reality of playing in the NHL is that if you are not committed in the off season, you won’t succeed in the regular season. It is the toughest lesson most young players need to learn.
- It is hard to get an accurate read on players when they are playing against so many non-NHL players. The final three games give us a better evaluation of players on the bubble. Having a great game tonight is much different than doing it against regular NHL players.
GAME DAY PREDICTION:
The Oilers remain undefeated at home in the preseason with a 5-2 victory. Hall and RNH combine for five points.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:
It is easy to see the difference between NHL D-men and the young defenders the Oilers dressed last night. Oilers fans will be impressed by Mark Fayne’s defensive play. He plays his first game in Edmonton tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION:
In honour of the Nation Network acquiring hockeyfights.com today, we are privy to two spirited tilts tonight. Moroz and Lowry have an entertaining tilt.
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