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Photo Credit: © Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 60.0: Final Goodbye? (7pm MST, SNW)

Mark Letestu and his wife Brett will be bringing their three children to tonight’s game. Their oldest is six, and usually they don’t come to weeknight home games, but tonight is different. It most likely will be Letestu’s last game in Edmonton as a member of the Oilers and his family wants to share that moment together.

There is no guarantee he’ll be traded, but being a veteran unrestricted free agent on a 27th place team, the odds are pretty good he won’t return with the Oilers after their three-game road trip.

Letestu has spoke openly with his children about a potential trade and what it could mean. “I don’t want to catch them off guard,” said Letestu.

“This is a reality they haven’t had to face yet. They’ve been so small they just go where mom and dad go, but having to go to a different team and potentially live away from them for awhile, it is something you want to prepare your kids for, prepare your wife for. It is something we are going through for the first time, so I think to talk it out early kind of softens the blow if it eventually happens,” continued Letestu.

Letestu has always known this was a possibility. He understands it is part of being and NHL player and is one aspect of the business, but he is trying to make it as seamless as possible. Letestu grew up an Oilers fan just outside Edmonton.

Will it be strange going to the rink tonight thinking this could be his last home game as a member of the Oilers?

“You try not to think about it, but it is a little bit odd. We are bringing the kids to a Thursday game, but once the puck drops all the outside noise, thinking about the deadline, goes away. There is a job to be done and you play for your teammates, until they are not your teammates, and that will be my mindset going forward,” said Letestu.

I’ve really enjoyed speaking with Letestu over the years. He is a good quote, which is always a bonus, but moreso he was great to talk with to get a sense of the pulse of the team. He was also very aware of who he was as a player. He felt he could help the team the most when he was a fourth line centre and on special teams. He was confident in his abilities, but knew what he was and wasn’t  good at. I remember last season when the Oilers were playing the Islanders and the game went to a shootout. Letestu was one of the first to go and fans at the bar where I was watching the game were screaming, “Why is he going?!” and then he scored. Of course, then they were high-fiving each other.

When he got home from the road trip he was asked about shootouts and he calmly said, “I’m good at them. I should be shooting.” Not cocky, just confident. He was also excellent for the Oilers in the playoffs last season finishing second on the team with five goals and eleven points. I expect he will get traded. He won’t be a dominant player, but he will be a useful complementary player who could score a big goal at a key time in a playoff series.

LINEUP

Oilers

The lines will most likely change often tonight. As I reported yesterday, Patrick Maroon was likely to sit out tonight and he will. He has a minor lower body injury, stemming from the Arizona game, and will rest it tonight. Drake Caggiula is out with an illness so the Oilers will dress eleven forwards and seven defencemen. Yohann Auvitu will likely take some shifts at forward according to Todd McLellan.

The Oilers had an optional skate this morning so don’t put much stock in the lines below. I’m guessing we will see a few different combinations. These were the lines at practice yesterday. Caggiula skated yesterday, but not today. I slotted Auvitu in his place.

Lucic-McDavid-Draisaitl
Cammalleri-Strome-Slepyshev
Puljujarvi-Letestu-Kassian
Auvitu**-Khaira-Pakarinen

Nurse-Larsson
Klefbom-Russell
Davidson-Benning

Talbot

I’d guess we will see Slepyshev get some time with McDavid, but the Khaira-Strome-Slepyshev line was the Oilers best on Tuesday. I could see them get some time together as well. The challenge for McLellan is that outside of Slepyshev and Kassian, none of the other wingers have played very well lately. Again, don’t put much stock in the above lines. With only eleven forwards we will see many combinations tonight.

Avalanche

Landeskog-MacKinnon-Rantanen
Nieto-Soderberg-Comeau
Bourque-Kerfoot-Compher
Wilson-Jost-Yakupov

Zadorov-Barrie
Girard-Nemeth
Warsofsky-Siemens

Varlamov

The Avalanche don’t have a dominant shut down pair with Erik Johnson injured, but Barrie had five points in their come-from-behind 5-4 OT victory in Vancouver on Tuesday. The Avs scored all five goals on the PP. They were five-of-six in the game. Prior to Tuesday they were league-worst 11.1% on the road (12 of 108). Now they are 25th at 14.9%. Despite one game, I still view this as a battle of the special teams titans tonight —worst road PP versus worst home PK.

And good luck to Duncan Siemens. The Sherwood Park product will play his first game in Edmonton.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid has another big night against the Avs. Finishes with three points in a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Avs score a PP goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Letestu ends his 24-game goalless streak and scores in his final home game for his hometown team. The Oilers haven’t had many feel good stories this season, but Letestu gets one with his family in the crowd.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 2/22/2018 – 12:00pm MST

      • morsecode89

        It’s hard not to like Mark Letestu. He’s a solid 2-way centre, in almost a throw-back mould to a time where a checking centre with some special teams specialities was a primary part of the game.

        But he’s 33. He’s no longer playing on the top PP unit and he’s been playing less 4 v 5.

        It looks like he’s losing a step in a league that’s become remarkably faster in the last two seasons. I just don’t see how the Oilers can keep him moving forward on more than a one year deal. And I’m assuming he’s going to be a sought-after piece (maybe a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick in return and a mid-level prospect) from a contending team at the deadline.

        It’s sad. I don’t think anyone will forget how clutch he was for us last season anytime soon. But there’s a time to move on from a player, and that time is now for Letestu.

        • GK1980

          He is a good 4th line center and I would see him leaning more towards resigning with Edmonton but it would have to be at a low number. He is a good 2-way just wish he showed more offense.

          • crabman

            @Jultz, who hates him? the worse I ever heard is why is he still on the #1pp this year when he hasn’t scored. That is a complaint about the coach being stubborn and not trying something different when the pp struggled.

    • TruthHurts98

      Since Gregor never gets the predictions right it’ll be yet another loss for the Oil. There lineup is pretty awful outside of Connor and Leon. Can’t really compete in the NHL with that and the coaches behind the bench. Thanks PC!

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I always thought Auvitu would be a good winger…
    I wouldn’t trade him yet… He can skate & has quite a shot…
    I’m sure he can develop into a good winger…
    Give him a shot on a value one year deal, before you let him go…
    I have always thought that.

    • crabman

      Auvitu is turning 29 this summer. The time for his development is behind him. I suspect he will be back playing hockey in Europe next year. If the Oilers are to move forward next year they can’t be messing around with experiments like this to start the year.

      • crabman

        the Oilers already have this type of player in the system. Joey LaLeggia is an undersized Dman converted to forward and has scored at a much better rate in Bakersville than Auvitu did with Albany last year. He is 2 years younger and has played wing most of the past 2 years now. I would prefer to see him over Auvitu if I had to choose but either would be a bad choice if we are going to significantly improve next year.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          Ok then, pretty much no value at all then?
          Both via trade-bait & developmental wise…
          arrrrgh, what have we done with this team over the years?
          Let’s trade McDavid for the Nashville Predators?
          Or, (gasp) the Toronto Maple Leafs (that have more depth…

  • Big Jacks Meat

    Big Rig and Testube lol , if this is your last game in Oil colors , you did us proud for the short time you were here. Others, coaches , PP, PK contributed to your departure if it happens. I will always be fans of yours as you are both classy. *cough cough* Tay Tay Hall. Poo Baby.

  • Spoils

    looking at that it is hard to argue that we have a 1st line, a 3rd line and two 4th lines… here’s praying we make use of this trade deadline, this summer, and this draft.

  • GK1980

    “”They’re great in overtime & they showed that again tonight. They’re catalysts for our team. When they go, we go.” @zkassian9 on @cmcdavid97 & @Drat_29”

    Saw this on Twitter. This is the problem. Secondary scoring doesn’t need a reason to step up they just should. This mentality needs to change going into next season. ALL players need to be self motivated and go no matter who is “going”. Sheesh.