GDB 71.0: Miller makes debut

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Andrew Miller will make his NHL debut tonight at the young age of 26. Miller was not drafted. He played in the USHL at 20, then spent four years at Yale before signing with the Oilers in April of 2013. He scored eight  goals and 34 points in 52 games in OKC last year, but he’s emerged as a solid AHL point-producer this season tallying 25 goals and 56 points in 58 games.

He was recalled by the Oilers today, on an emergency basis with injuries to Matt Fraser and Luke Gazdic, and will slide into the lineup against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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Miller will undoubtedly be nervous and excited, but his nerves should be calmed by skating alongside former OKC teammates Anton Lander and Ryan Hamilton. We’ve seen numerous players make their NHL debut with the Oilers during the past nine seasons, and many have had success right away.

Jordan Eberle had a goal, turned out to be TSN’s goal of the year, and an assist in his NHL debut against the Flames.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made his debut vs. the Penguins and tied the game late in the third period.

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Teemu Hartikainen picked up an assist against in his first game vs. the Coyotes.

Linus Omark tallied an assist and scored his famous SO goal vs. the Lightning in his NHL debut.

Taylor Fedun scored in his first two NHL games vs. the Panthers and then Tampa Bay.

Luke Gazdic scored on his first NHL shift against the Jets.

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Oscar Klefbom had an assist in his first game vs. Minnesota.

Others have scored in their second game, Nail Yakupov, Iiro Pakarinen and Justin Schultz amongst others, so I won’t be surprised if Miller tallies a point tonight.

Amidst another lost season, it is always exciting watching a player reach his goal of playing in the NHL. I’m sure he and his family will enjoy it.

LINEUP

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Miller is the only change up front. The top line of Eberle/RNH/Pouliot is on fire, especially Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. Eberle has 13 goals and 35 points in his last 33 games, including 11 in his last five games. Nugent-Hopkins has ten points in his last five games, and 25 in his last 31 games.

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Yakupov has 6-7-13 in his last 16 games, while Roy and Lander have also chipped in nicely.

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Nikita Nikitin returns to the lineup after missing 21 games. He’ll take Keith Aulie’s spot beside Andrew Ference.

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Ben Scrivens gets his fifth consecutive start.

QUICK HITS…

  • Nikitin is an NHL defenceman, but he is not a top-four D-man, and just because his GM said he was doesn’t mean we should expect him to play like one. He is overpaid, but that isn’t his fault. I think Nikitin can help in your third pairing, but his contract and GM’s public comments will put a huge bullseye on his back. I’ve seen it before with Shawn Horcoff. I have no problem critiquing Nikitin’s game, he looked dreadfully slow early this season, but don’t pile on him because of his contract and unrealistic expectations from the organization.
  • Eberle has moved up to 32nd in league scoring with 55 points. He likely will finish in the top-30 for the third time in his career. He’s a lock to play for Canada at the World Championships, and I think he’s proven to his naysayers, although he’s done it before, that he can produce without Taylor Hall.
  • Benoit Pouliot has tied his career high in goals, 16, despite only playing 46 games. He has been a solid free agent signing. I’ll admit I was skeptical when he signed, but so far he has looked very good. He is a good complement to Eberle and RNH, and when Hall returns I’d keep Pouliot on the top line.
  • Lander has five goals in his last nine games. He has filled Shawn Horcoff’s role from 2013 on the 1st PP, standing in front of the net, very well. I’d like to see what he could do 5×5 with some NHL wingers.
  • Nazem Kadri has been suspended four games for his head shot on Matt Fraser. Not a surprise. He was a repeat offender and it was obvious contact to the head.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Hockey Buzz

Columbus may not be in the playoff hunt, but their next few games will certainly have an impact on the playoff race. Both Vancouver and Calgary are either a) jockeying for position or; b) trying to squeak their way into the playoffs, so these will be important games.

Up first are the Oilers, who are tied for 2nd last with 50 points, and just three points behind the Sabres for last place.

Edmonton is coming off an impressive win against the Maple Leafs, however, they’ve lost eight of 10, and are still without their best player in Taylor Hall.

They certainly aren’t without skill, though, as they are led by Jordan Eberle (11 points in his last five) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (10 points in his last five), who both enter tonight’s game red hot.

Columbus will try to counter-act that firepower with some of their own. Obviously Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno are the key cogs, but Scott Hartnell has scored in four consecutive games (five goals in that span) while Marko Dano has four points in his last three – including two against Edmonton – playing alongside Alex Wennberg, who has also been good.

Neither of these teams are particularly good defensively, and the goaltending matchup looks to be Curtis McElhinney vs either Ben Scrivens or Viktor Fasth, both of whom have sub .900SV%, so there could be plenty of offense in this one.

TONIGHT…

BackesCarvesTheTurkey

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers haven’t won two straight since January 17th and 20th vs. Florida and Washington (both in the SO). They haven’t won two consecutive games in regulation since November 7th and 9th vs. Buffalo and NYR. They end their regulation winning drought with a 4-2 victory over the Blue Jackets.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 19-4-1 at home vs. Columbus. They haven’t lost at Rexall since January 10th, 2010. Eberle has 15 points in 13 career games, while RNH has 14 points in nine games. They continue their hot-streak producing two points each.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Martin Marincin ends his goal scoring drought. He scores his first NHL goal (SO aren’t official goals) in his 74th NHL game. Miller gets an assist.

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  • “They haven’t lost at Rexall since January 10th, 2010”

    I was at that game. If I’m not mistaken, Raffi Tores got the game winner. In fact, I think he may have gotten his only career hat trick that night.

    Man I’ve been to some terrible Oiler games.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      Nikitin was a good choice but I think we can give Eakins this title for the 14/15 season and at least the next five seasons after that.

      Or maybe just rename it “The Eakins”

  • Prongers Promises

    Here’s to Principe somehow punning out the fact that “Miller” was not “Drafted” – as in Beer draught.

    I bet 67 bags of expired chicken strips he incorporates that in tonight. Do I have any takers?

    • vetinari

      Hmmm. I’m thinking you’re close but he will go with “Miller Time” instead.

      I am prepared to wager nothing more than bragging rights though. Also, I have to work late tonight and will likely skip Gene’s pregame routine so you can easily come back here later tonight and outright lie to me and I will be forced to believe you.

      • Prongers Promises

        I was thinking Miller Time before I went off the board with the drafted shtick. Gene likes to think outside the box. He is crafty and articulate with his trade.

        I would never lie. What type of nation member would I be if I came out and lied!

    • Jaxon

      I think you’re probably closer but he could also go with a pun about Miller’s weight. At 181lbs he is the lightest player on the team, you might say he’s “Miller Lite”.

  • Lyxdeslic

    I wonder how well Miller and Lander will do together. I find the more I watch Lander the more impressed i am with his game. He seems to have decent hands and an ability to generate offense while playing responsibly in his own end despite playing on a line with two career AHLers in Hamilton and Fraser. Props to the Swede, his emergence helps the center depth chart immensely.

    • I gotta eat some crow on that one. I was among the crowd that had written him off. Mostly my mistake , but watching this dysfunctional organization screw up so many things, I forgot what a developed player looks like. Looks to have a bit of a mean streak as well. Only pure luck we didn’t lose him on waivers. Now if we only had a GM that could admit his mistakes, learn from his mistakes and take corrective action. The list is long.

    • pkam

      I’ve always liked Antons compete and leadership. Also being of swedish descent myself I have a bias towards swede players and always happy to see them play for the oilers. If edmonton drafts mceichel, the center position will finally have some depth.

  • pkam

    Seeing how determined and committed Coyotes are going for McEichel, I think our best chance of drafting McDavid is winning the lottery. So just play 60 minutes of exciting hockey and don’t care about the win/loss.

  • justDOit

    I have a feeling that the Oilers are going to win another one……..damn Nelson!

    Maybe NN can help us tank and be his usual and cough the puck up a few times……..I’m hoping we see the real NN because right now he is making Mac T and Howson look real STUPID!

  • Spoils

    Too bad Hallsy isn’t back tonight.

    Question is, which line when he is?

    Clearly Pouliot – RNH – Ebs are working, so this is a great time to try having a second first line (like Malkin/Crosby create)… But who wants to mess with Roy and Yak?

    What about Hall-Lander-Purcell?

    tough call, any thoughts?

  • A-Mc

    Oilers will win this game because the only possible damage they can do to the 1 bright spot on the season, is to win and get further from McEichel.

    Oilers win 4-2 in regulation.

  • Petrolero

    “I think he’s proven to his naysayers, although he’s done it before, that he can produce without Taylor Hall.”

    For some reason Eberle has actually produced far more this season without Hall. Ditto for Nuge.

    Could be maturity.

    • The Soup Fascist

      Could also be the coach. Hall was forced to “chop wood, carry water” all year whenever he was in the lineup. I think Eberle and RNH have loved the Nelson factor

  • Yakcity7

    ELPH Please Oilers!

    I cant believe the nation is being fooled by Nelson and this group. I can go back over the last 10 years to so many different times when short segments of success as an individual or for the team and thought well they are turning the corner or now this player is going to take off only to be disappointed and start the following year 2-10-2 and finish in the lottery. Just go back down memory lane.

    Like Gags/Cogs/Nillson having a huge point streak when the team was 30pts clear of the playoffs

    Ralph coming in fixing PP and Pk and having a successful lockout season and then we fire him and hire Eakins and we all know how that went.

    Samwise having an 8point night vs Chicago and everybody getting a Woody and now hes struggling to stay in the league.

    Marty Marincin having a great end to the season last year and not even making the club this year.

    Lets face it This whole thing is broken and as much as its so great to see some players possibly turning the corner dont be fooled. MacLoser and Kblowe needs to be held accountable.

  • Yakcity7

    ELPH Please Oilers!

    I cant believe the nation is being fooled by Nelson and this group. I can go back over the last 10 years to so many different times when short segments of success as an individual or for the team and thought well they are turning the corner or now this player is going to take off only to be disappointed and start the following year 2-10-2 and finish in the lottery. Just go back down memory lane.

    Like Gags/Cogs/Nillson having a huge point streak when the team was 30pts clear of the playoffs

    Ralph coming in fixing PP and Pk and having a successful lockout season and then we fire him and hire Eakins and we all know how that went.

    Samwise having an 8point night vs Chicago and everybody getting a Woody and now hes struggling to stay in the league.

    Marty Marincin having a great end to the season last year and not even making the club this year.

    Lets face it This whole thing is broken and as much as its so great to see some players possibly turning the corner dont be fooled. MacLoser and Kblowe needs to be held accountable.

  • Isolate Anton Lander when you watch the game he is so smart, this guy is a player.

    Klefbom is becoming a very good player he is a horse out there.

    If only coach Nelson had a few more top flight players it would be interesting to see him coach a better group. The PP couldn’t be better than it is right now.

    If I had one wish for this season it is to knock Calgary out of the playoffs or at least beat them when they need the points the most.

    I feel bad for Fraser but Miller will be an upgrade skill wise and he will be living the dream.

  • Reg Dunlop

    Columbus has given up on the season, just like the Leafs. The oil have done so in previous seasons but they are under pressure this year to compete to the end. Oilers win tonight and lock down 28th place as the Coyotes are in free fall mode. It will be interesting, in a sick way, to see how Buf and Ariz try to throw the 2 head-to-head matchups. Do they both pull their goalies in the 1st period? Does the trainer spike the water bottles with barbiturates?

    The oil have proved that drafting first overall guarantees nothing, other than raising fan expectations. The hockey gods will reward those who treat the game with respect and smite those who intentionally lose for draft position. GO OIL and best of luck to Noah Hanifin on a long, healthy and successful Oiler career.