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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

3 Thoughts: Mikko Koskinen, James Neal, and the Bottom Six

Since the Oilers are off on their first road trip of the season and we’ve had a couple of days between games, I’ve spent the past few hours of my Mondays staring off into space and thinking about the Oilers.

WHEN DOES MIKKO KOSKINEN GET A START

With Mike Smith getting starting the first two games of the season, I can’t help but wonder when Mikko Koskinen will see some action. I know Dave Tippett mentioned before they left that Mikko would play on this road trip, but there hasn’t been any indication of exactly when. To me, an interesting wrinkle in this story is that neither Tippett nor Holland has any ties nor loyalty to Koskinen so outside of the optics, I can’t imagine either of them feels much pressure to play the guy just because of his contract. Frankly, I much prefer the idea of rolling with the hot hand and making sure the team is winning rather than worrying about the salary cap right now. That said, if the Oilers are truly going to turn this ship around, they’ll need both goaltenders to be playing well and I wonder what the plan is for making sure he doesn’t get rusty.

Will he play tomorrow night against the Islanders? Smith was in the starter’s net again at practice. Maybe against the Devils on Thursday? How about the Rangers during our brunch party on Saturday? You’d have to think that Tippett will want Koskinen to get some at-bats here since you can’t have your $4.5 million man sitting around too long, can you?

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THE REAL DEAL

Did anybody else fist-pump holes in the roof when James Neal scored a pair of goals on Saturday night? Can’t just be me, right? Since being acquired for Milan Lucic back in July, we’ve all been taking cracks and guesses at what kind of offence Neal will be able to put up with the Oilers and, needless to say, he’s off to a great start. In Calgary, it took until October 25th for Neal to score his second goal of the season, and it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure out that he’s already light years ahead of last year’s pace. That said, I know an 82-goal season is out of the question but I don’t think having him get back to his usual 20-goal self is crazy talk either. Personally, I have Neal pegged for 22 goals this season and having him with two in his pocket already certainly makes me feel better about my prediction. At the very least, he’s already done enough to show me that he has better hands and net-front finish than what we got from Milan Lucic over the past two years so I have a very hard time laughing at anyone that suggests that this trade wasn’t a clear win for the Oilers.

Now, I don’t want to get too ahead of myself but, based on the way he’s played so far, I have a pretty good feeling the Oilers are going to be coughing up that conditional third round pick that was attached to the deal. How are you guys feeling about Neal’s game so far?

THE BOTTOM SIX

On Saturday night, the Oilers’ bottom-six came through with a couple of clutch plays that the team needed in order to close the game out, and I really funkin’ hope that this continues. As we all know far too well, this team got next to no production from the bottom half of their lineup in 2018-19 and a big key to their turn around will be having players not named Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl chipping in with some offence. That’s why I was so pumped to see some legitimate skill plays coming out of the bottom six against the Kings. Joakim Nygard scored his first NHL goal on the back of a nifty little faceoff play by Gaetan Haas, and Tomas Jurco followed it up with an unbelievable dangle at the blue line that created an odd-man rush high in the zone and left Darnell Nurse open in the high slot. With Riley Sheahan set to make his return to the lineup tomorrow night against the Islander, the bottom six (third line specifically) will be getting an upgrade at the centre position and that makes me excited to see what else they can do. Could it be realistic to think that this ragtag crew of scratch tickets could actually make some noise?

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The question is, though, who comes out of the lineup with Sheahan coming back in? Does Colby Cave get pulled? Does Brandon Manning get assigned to Bakersfield? Someone else altogether? What are your thoughts on the Oilers’ bottom six so far?

THE SEASON LAUNCH PARTY

If you’ve ever been to one of our events, you’ll already know that your ticket to the event will not only guarantee you memories that last a lifetime, a swag bag that will help power to your through life, but it also helps us raise money for a local charity all at the same time. This time around, we wanted to make the event as accessible as possible so that we can pack the Brewhouse and kick off the season with as many Nation citizens as we get in the building. And since the party starts so early on a Saturday, the Brewhouse is able to offer an all-ages event, meaning this is the perfect event to bring your kids to.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Where: The Canadian Brewhouse – Lewis Estates (1320 Webber Greens Dr NW)
When: Saturday, October 12th, with doors opening at 10 AM and the hockey game starting at 11 AM
How much: Tickets are $15 each with net proceeds going directly to the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The bag: Exclusive Season Opener Party tee, Brewhouse GC, Oodle Noodle GC, stickers, and a ticket to enter all of the draws and raffles
How: Tickets are available here.