Yesterday at practice Todd McLellan split the Oilers into two groups. The first one consisted of players they felt were destined for the AHL, while the second group had those vying for a spot on the Oilers. Tonight could be the last opportunity for those in the AHL group to grab McLellan’s attention and keep them in the Oilers conversation.
Tyler Pitlick is at the top of the list of those scrambling to keep his NHL dream alive. He had an excellent first game, scoring 1-1-2 and firing six shots in the Oilers 4-2 win. He will need another solid effort tonight if he hopes to skate in the “NHL” group later this week.
The Oilers are dressing a pretty NHL-heavy laden lineup tonight, which is a bit odd for early preseason road games, but it illustrates McLellan’s desire to get his NHL team ready for opening night. Oilers fans must love this strategy considering how slow the Oilers have started in recent memory.
A good month of October is a must. Six wins in nine games is needed in my eyes, so I’m completely on board with McLellan’s thinking with finding chemistry and continuity among his forwards and defence pairs.
McDavid hasn’t played since last Wednesday. He wants to play, and McLellan wants to see his line in action. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ line will play Friday in Winnipeg. McLellan also hinted today that he is still unsure about where he’ll use Leon Draisaitl. If Cagguila plays well down the middle then we could see Draisaitl play RW with RNH for a game. Barring a major upset, Draisaitl and Team Europe will be done on Thursday. He will then get a few days off, according to McLellan, so that only leaves two, maybe three preseason games for McLellan to experiment with Draisaitl.
**The Canucks lineup is likely to change before puck drop.**
- I spoke to Cam Talbot after Monday’s win. He still hasn’t seen what the new streamlined pants will look like, but he isn’t concerned it will impact him very much. He doesn’t wear baggy pants. He actually ties his tight and doesn’t use suspenders to hold them up. The worst offenders in the league use pants two or three sizes too big and some don’t even tie them up, so they flair out and almost look like a barrel around their waist. Talbot doesn’t believe the new pants will be much smaller than he currently has so he isn’t worried if he receives his a few days before the regular season.
Keep in mind the NHL still hasn’t made a final decision on the outline of the pants, so it is very possible goalies start the year with last year’s pants and get the new ones during the season.
- Nail Yakupov was scheduled to play, but after the morning skate he came out and Versteeg came in. I’m guessing it is a small tweak and because it is preseason there is no reason to play and risk aggravating any type of injury.
- Guys who I believe need to get noticed tonight: Reinhart, Pitlick, Slepyshev and Caggiula. Caggiula has been given a great opportunity from day one, plaing centre with NHL wingers and he’ll need to show the coach he fits in. Pitlick has an excellent first game, but in the past his inability to sustain has been his downfall. He needs to be noticeable again. Slepyshev is likely destined for the AHL, but the RW slots are far from secured. Reinhart was rested on Monday due to a small injury, and tonight he’ll have his first chance to impress the coaches. Reinhart’s game is not flashy, so I don’t expect him to stand out on the scoresheet, but his positioning, and most importantly his competitiveness, need to be front and centre.
(photoshop by @isuckatpicking)
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers win 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores. After going goalless at the World Cup, despite playing great, he will want to light the lamp. I see at least a two-point night for #97.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Davidson scores a PP goal. He spent a lot of time working on getting his shot off quicker and he’ll show that tonight.
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