The good news about split squad games is that it eliminates two preseason games in one night. Todd McLellan is not a fan, because he didn’t get to watch 20 players up close to see how they reacted on the road against a more established NHL roster, and I can understand his frustration, but selfishly, I like getting to the meat of the preseason games.
The Jets lineup tonight will be similar to the one the Flames dressed in Edmonton on Monday, only a few NHL regulars, but it does give us another opportunity to see how the Oilers and McLellan are adapting to one another.
The more I watch McLellan’s practices and listen to him talk, the more impressed I am about his approach to the game, but also his strategy on handling players. He is more experienced than Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins and Todd Nelson, he’s more aggressive than Tom Renney and he’s more in touch with the game and his players than Pat Quinn was during his time in Edmonton.
McLellan also has a much better roster to mold than those five gentleman. His coaching acumen combined with more talent will make the Oilers a much more competitive team. I’m skeptical they can improve by 35 points to make the playoffs, but I’m expecting a significant improvement in the standings, and more importantly in their overall team game.
It will be a nice change of pace to cover some positive story lines for the first time in almost a decade, and I’m curious to see which players continue to improve and which players Peter Chiarelli decides are not part of the long-term solution.
The Oilers have improved in many areas, but they have one glaring weakness that needs to be addressed.
Hutchison and Comrie
**The Jets lines are projections. Those are the 18 skaters, but pairings and lines not guaranteed.**
- McLellan used today as a regular practice day instead of a morning skate. Group A was on the ice first and then Group B took to the ice. Tonight’s roster will be a mixture of both groups. McLellan used the skate to focus on offensive possession. They worked on cycling off the boards, out of the corner and when and where he wants the players to go to create offence. He also worked on forwards positioning in the D-zone. They will play closer to the goal, and he stresses support. He wants the forwards closer, so the D can make shorter passes.
- Teddy Purcell sat out again. He likely won’t play this weekend either. Iiro Pakarinen is also nursing some sort of injury. He has yet to play a preseason game.
- Tonight is the first of three straight games where the Oilers will play 3-on-3 overtime. The NHL mandated 45 preseason games would go to OT, regardless of the score in regulation. It allows teams to get used to the new OT format. I’ve been talking about 3-on-3 for years, ever since I used to call AJHL games and they played four minutes of 4-on-4, and three minutes of 3-on-3 in OT. It was very exciting, and I’m certain NHL fans and players are going to love the new format.
- OKC was one of the best 3-on-3 teams in the AHL last year, and Todd McLellan has been watching their game film with Gerry Fleming to find out what worked well for them.
- McLellan didn’t get to see the RNH or Letestu lines or any of the D-men, except Oesterle, live on Monday, which is why you are seeing much of the Calgary lineup in Edmonton. He is a big believer of watching the players in person to get a feel for how they react and play. Smart move.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers defeat a watered-down Jets lineup 4-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl continues his strong Young Stars/preseason by scoring a goal and adding an assist.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Slepyshev scores a nice goal and a few Nation commenters will suggest he should get a long look to start season.
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