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.
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.
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.
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.
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