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Oilerz

The Oilers haven’t allowed a goal in just over 147 minutes. I know it is the preseason, but thus far we have seen a significant improvement in their defensive zone awareness. We haven’t seen glaring mistakes, or five-star turnovers, and that has to be considered progress.

Oscar Klefbom, Mark Fayne and Lauri Korpikoski won’t dress this evening, but the much of tonight’s lineup will be the same when they open the season next Thursday in St. Louis.

LINEUP…

Hall-McDavid-Draisaitl
Pouliot-RNH-Purcell
Slepyshev-Lander-Yakupov
Hendricks-Letestu-Klinkhammer

Sekera-Schultz
Ference-Nikitin
Reinhart-Gryba

Talbot

Slepyshev will play his sixth preseason game, which is the most on the Oilers.

Lander, RNH, Schultz, Klinkhammer, Draisaitl, Yakupov, Pouliot, Korpikoski, Hendricks and Letestu have played in four.

Hall, McDavid, Fayne, Klefbom, Nikitin, Gryba, Reinhart, Gazdic, Davidson and Sekera have laced up three times. Ference has dressed in two, while Purcell has only played one due to injury.

Talbot will play the entire game tonight, and if I’m McLellan I’d play him the entire game on Saturday as well. My first priority is to ensure the starting goalie is ready.

Canucks (probable lines courtesy of the Canucks Twitter account)

Baertschi-Horvat-Virtanen
Burrows-Vey-Hansen
Kenins-McCann-Cracknell

Prust-Sutter-Dorsett

Hamhuis-Bartowski
Biega-Weber
Hutton-Sbisa

Those are the 18 skaters, but line combos and D pairs are not guaranteed.

Markstrom

This is the most NHL-ready lineup the Oilers have faced so far this preseason, but the Canucks are without their top line of the Sedins and Vrbata. I don’t see the Canucks making the playoffs this year, so defeating them won’t change my stance on the Oilers season (no playoffs), but tonight and Saturday will give us a better indication of where they stand compared to playing watered down lineups of the Coyotes, Wild and Jets recently.

QUICK HITS…

  • McLellan’s practices are all about pace. There is very little standing around looking at the whiteboard. When he does call them in, it is a brief meeting and then onto the next drill. I’ve said and written for the past six seasons the Oilers practices weren’t consistently uptempo enough. You earn the right to feel good about your game in practice, and McLellan’s pace is much quicker than I’ve watched the past six seasons.
  • Even their PP drills are quick. When you are watching the game tonight (it is on TV), watch how they breakout on the PP. They have at least seven different breakouts. Also pay attention to their puck retrievals and their focus on shooting.
  • Justin Schultz has 11 shots in four preseason games. He is averaging 2.75 per game. The coaches have been encouraging/promoting/demanding him to shoot more. Last season he had 122 shots in 81 games, 1.5/game, which is low considering he was 21st among D-men in PP TOI, and 26th in overall TOI. It is early, but Schultz has made some small adjustments to his game which have made him more effective.
  • Watch the PP in the offensive zone and see how much motion they have. McLellan and Jay Woodcroft, who starts the PP meetings but takes input from all the other coaches, were stressing constant movement this morning. If one unit was too lackadaisical, McLellan let them hear it and would switch out units. There will be a healthy competition between the two units.
  • Further to yesterday’s article on Nilsson not needing waivers: If he had been under NHL contract, but was loaned to the KHL, then last season would have counted and he’d need waivers. He was unsigned in the NHL, and that is why last season didn’t count towards his four seasons of waiver exemptions.
  • After a few questions about Yakupov, Todd McLellan said this is only an issue because Eberle is hurt. He then added he didn’t see the need for a conversation. I completely agree. His plan from day one was to have Yakupov/Lander as a pair and he will stick with it early in the season. He wants Yakupov to get comfortable, and the truth is Yakupov is not ready to play hard minutes with RNH or McDavid. Their hope is that he develops on the third line, where they have skilled players, and if he improves away from the puck, then he can play, and succeed, on the top lines.

    The biggest myth among the Yakupov supporters is his ability to score. I get texts and tweets daily saying he will be a 40-goal scorer. There is nothing to suggest that is the case. First off, only three players in the NHL scored 40 goals last year. It is rare. Eberle is a better finisher and he’s only scored 30 goals once. Yakupov has 42 career goals in 192 games. He had 11 goals in his final 14 games of 2013. He has 28 goals in the other 178 games. If he becomes a consistent 25-goal scorer Yakupov fans should be thrilled.

    I like Yakupov’s speed, desire and feistiness, but he needs to play within the structure better. Derek Roy said it best last season: “Too often I don’t know where he is on the ice.” Once Yakupov figures that out he will be much more effective. He is still very young and he can improve, but stop suggesting the Oilers have to give him a spot in their top-six. They don’t, and they won’t until his play away from the puck improves. It’s okay to let him develop in softer, third line minutes. He will get PP time, and he should excel there. McLellan’s hope is to build his confidence, not force feed him minutes and pray he succeeds.

TONIGHT…

McDavidPoster

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win 5-2. Hall picks up his first points of the preseason.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores his first preseason goal. He is starting to adjust to playing against men, and he was extremely dangerous on Tuesday. 

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Mean Gene’s first opening of the 2015/2016 TV season begins with him wearing a blue Oilers jersey and talking about a new Oilers era. After 30 seconds of talking, Mark Messier enters the frame and tears off Gene’s jersey, and underneath he has a new Oilers orange jersey. Messier glares at Gene, then looks at the camera, smiles, and says, “Welcome to Edmonton, Connor. I’ve got your back.”

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  • abbeef

    Everyone who is saying that our whole lineup was in must be forgetting two of our top four defencemen didn’t play (Klefbom and Fayne). Guess where we looked weak? That’s right the defence looked weak. Coincidence? I think not.

    CALM DOWN, if you are so worried about preseason then I guess being 5-1 means something. If you are not worried about the preseason then that counts for wins and losses!

  • bradleypi

    Game prediction was eerily close, just seems so-and-so got the scores reversed. Oops. That fourth line of vancouver’s (prust-sutter-dorset) is hilarious. They’re all big heavies and can all play a lil’ but are also kinda inept.

  • TKB2677

    Is there an award for the stupidest post in this site?
    He’s been the best player on the Oilers since they drafted. He’s a point a game player. Been top 10 in scoring. Regarded as one of the best LW in the game. He’s made the top 50 NHL player list.
    You post is utterly ridiculous.

  • CMG30

    You can’t correlate Hall and losing. The Oil have several legit stars who preform at or near the top of the league in their respective positions. The Oil have utterly failed to surround those players with anything resembling a competent supporting cast. The team has been an utter failure on defense and goal for years. None of this has anything to do with Hall or RNH or any other high draft pick.

    I get that you hate Hall, or the Oilers, or life or whatever and you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. But don’t pretend your opinions are shared by anyone who understands hockey, because they aren’t. Hall is one of the premier players in the world. This is one of the reasons he was able to play his way on to the top line with Crosby at the Worlds this summer.

  • bradleypi

    Not that I agree with anything this guy says he does kinda have a point. Why is one argument good for yak but not hall. In the last 2 years the only oiler to have a really good year is hall. Who did he make better? Why does yak have to make other players better? Why does yak never get a TRUE shot in the top six? And don’t tell me cause he’s a liability. Every oiler has been a liability the last 2 years. If anyone has actually been watching this preseason yak is always in good position and hustles hard on the back check. He just wont shoot the darn puck for some reason. He needs a skill center to play with imo. And for the record I’m sure oilersnation knows this but hall is my favorite player on the oilers so I’m not agreeing with munchen

  • BobbyCanuck

    Well, if MM’s girl is above average in the looks department, likes to party at whatever place guys like Hall go to, and below average in the common sense department, 100% sure he hit her, in the nice way, not in the assault way

  • Dwayne Roloson 35

    Fun fact. Yakupov is 1st in shots on the oilers during the pre season.

    Yak did learn to backcheck like a beast under Eakins but he’s a winger. They have the least defensive responsibility on the team. The forwards are fine.

    We just need good D. Schultz is looking confident out there. Nice to see him battling along the boards and in the corners. He looks like he’s gonna break out IMO.