The Oilers play the Arizona Coyotes tonight looking to continue their red-hot preseason. The Oilers are 5-0, and while the results mean nothing in the standings, these wins do mean something for the psyche of this team. Winning feels good, and they haven’t experienced much of it the past five seasons.
The more they win, the more they’ll believe in themselves and their coach. It is another necessary step on the road back to respectability, and the Oilers will ice their most NHL-ready roster of the preseason.
I didn’t watch their morning skate. i spoke to a few people after and I’m waiting on confirmation of the exact lines. I will update when I find the exact combinations. I do know Max Domi and Dylan Strome will play, so fans will get to see two of the Coyotes best young prospects.
- Slepyshev has a great opportunity to impress the coaches. He uses his size well and has a great shot. Can he keep up with the speedy duo will be the question. The other challenge is Slepyshev doesn’t speak any English. There is the universal hockey language on the ice, but discussing things on the bench can be a challenge. Nikitin and Yakupov have served as translators thus far and they will during the game tonight.
- Schultz will play with Sekera for the first time tonight. When I asked McLellan if he is just looking at something new or if he will go back to the Sekera-Fayne, Schultz-Klefbom combos, he replied, “I don’t think we will go back. We want to see Sekera with a puck mover.” He then added he expects their D combos to change during the season. He is still looking for the right combos.
- There has been no decision to strip Andrew Ference of the captaincy and give it to Taylor Hall. If the Oilers and Ference decide he will no longer wear the “C”, I don’t believe they will announce a replacement right away.
- Tonight could be the deciding factor in who wins the backup goalie job. Nilsson has yet to allow a goal, and I sense he has a slight edge over Scrivens. It is difficult to evaluate goalies after 50 games, nevermind only two preseason games, but that is the reality facing McLellan.
- McLellan hinted there would be a few cuts after tonight’s game or early tomorrow. Mitch Moroz and Iiro Pakarinen skated this morning, and if they are deemed healthy I’d expect them to go down. I also think this will be Davidson’s final preseason game and he’ll be sent to Bakersfield.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers keep rolling with a 4-1 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall and McDavid combine to score four points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Schultz has a strong game alongside Sekera and fans are torn. The “Jultz” fan club shows signs of dissension within their ranks. The diehards get upset with those who are starting to like Schultz’s game. I suspect the “Jultz” crew will have some internal struggles all year. When Schultz struggles, which he likely will in a few games, they will be unified, but after a string of solid games their club will start to soften. Nothing comes easy for diehard Oilers fans.
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