The Edmonton Oilers and Carolina Hurricanes will faceoff in Saskatoon for the second time in 48 hours tonight, and the Oilers will be looking for a much better performance than the effortless showing they had in Edmonton on Monday. The Hurricanes are 4-1 in the preseason, while the Oilers are 5-1.
Carolina will dress a younger lineup tonight than they did Wednesday, while Edmonton’s lineup will include Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s lines and five of their top-six defenders.
Todd McLellan will be looking for a much better work ethic than what he witnessed Monday.
Yesterday’s practice included numerous battle drills. McLellan used his practice as a good reminder that despite their skill, the Oilers need to work as hard as the opposition if they want to win.
I expect a much better effort by the Oilers, but it will be against a more watered-down Hurricanes defence.
Strome will get a look at centre. He has three goals in three preseason games, but I’m amazed how many texts and tweets I’ve received saying he hasn’t been good. He isn’t a driver of a line, or a flashy player, but all three of his goals have come right around the crease. If he is willing to go to the tough scoring areas regularly, he’ll be a fine addition. The fact he can play wing and centre makes him more valuable in my eyes. I think he’s been fine considering he’s learning a new system with new linemates in a new city.
- An NHL head coach texted me this today: “It is a century-old problem. The later in preseason the more veterans don’t want to play. They just want to get into the season and stay healthy.” McLellan is well aware of this scenario — he saw it Monday. I expect the Oilers to be much better, but the harsh truth is it’s very difficult to make assessments on players when the intensity isn’t as high. Coaches look more for how players think the game and if they are in good position, so they aren’t always reacting after the play happens.
- Yamamoto’s biggest asset is how he thinks the game. He gets in good positions and it is why he has stood out. Jesse Puljujarvi has been a bit slow in reading plays and the coaches will be watching to see how he reacts to plays. Points are great, of course, but McLellan has pointed out numerous times he watches for instincts and hockey sense in games where the intensity and battles are much lower than the regular season.
- I’m looking for Matt Benning to be more assertive. He’s been caught in the middle too often, going or not going to pucks. It is more a timing issue than anything, I’d guess, but with Sekera out he will be asked to play a much larger role earlier this season and they will need him to find the same tempo and rhythm he played with last year.
- Ryan Stanton has a crack in his foot and he won’t play another preseason game. Yohann Auvitu hasn’t stood out. He will play with Adam Larsson tonight and I’m curious to see how he responds. He skates well, moves the puck effectively, but he rarely goes into the corner first after a puck. His tenacity and intensity has been lacking in my eyes.
- I wonder if Peter Chiarelli puts in a waiver wire request if a decent depth D-man becomes available. The Oilers are one injury away from slotting Auvitu in the lineup every game and so far he hasn’t shown a lot that makes it look like they’d have loads of confidence in him. He needs a better performance tonight.
- The Hurricanes are a good team. I think they are a playoff team this year as long as they get decent goaltending. They skate well, have good skill in their top-nine, and their defence is highly underrated. They play a very structured game. They had the third best PK last season, despite Cam Ward only having a .905sv% all season.
- The Oilers currently have 49 players on their 50-man roster. Dmitri Samorukov doesn’t count because he’s back in junior, while Tyler Benson will start the season on the non-roster IR. Once he is healthy, he will go back to junior, and when a player is in junior they don’t count towards the 50-man roster. Forwards (26): McDavid, Draisaitl, RNH, Letestu, Maroon, Lucic, Jokinen, Khaira, Strome, Caggiula, Slepyshev, Kassian, Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Pakarinen, Malone, Rattie, Russell, Platzer, Gambardella, Chase, Laleggia, Ferlin, Callahan, Christoffer and Downing.Defence (18) : Klefbom, Larsson, Russell, Benning, Nurse, Gryba, Sekera, Auvitu, Fayne, Stanton, Simpson, Lowe, Bear, Jones, Mantha, Paigin, Betker and Lagesson.Goalies: Talbot, Brossoit, Ellis, Pasquale and Starrett.
- I don’t see the Oilers using a roster spot on Chris Kelly, and if they aren’t enamoured with Auvitu, a waiver wire pick up puts them at 50 contracts. If before the 10-game mark they decide to send Yamamoto to junior, which is what I expect, then they’d be at 49, if they made a waiver claim, or 48 if they didn’t. Chiarelli could make a two-for-one trade as well if he wanted some more contract flexibility.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: It won’t be an overly intense game. Oilers show much better effort and win in OT, 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: All eyes will be on Pool Party and KY Celly. The two young kids will be watched closely and we will all have an opinion on what it means for this season. Of course, it won’t mean much from one game, but we need something to focus on in preseason.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Strome and Caggiula combine for a nice goal, play well and add more opinions to the hotly-contested right-winger debate.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- GDB -3.0: Close to NHL rosters
- GDB -6.0: Going to Winnipeg
- Letestu and RNH discuss new faceoff rules
- GDB -8.0 & -7.0: Alberta Double Dip
- Question #10: Is Sekera Replaceable?
- Training camp opens: Live Blog