While the line-up Dave Tippett iced in the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 comeback win over the Calgary Flames Monday at Rogers Place is reasonably close to what we’ll see when the regular season opens Oct. 13, we can’t use ink from top to bottom just yet.
It’s no secret the majority of roster decisions remaining will be based on who populates the fourth line and extra forward spot(s). As of now, it’s Brendan Perlini, Devin Shore, Kyle Turris, Ryan McLeod, Tyler Benson and Colton Sceviour who are looking for work. The competition is tight. Perlini, Shore and Turris got the call against the Flames.
Personnel calls aside, Tippett has to get Zach Hyman, Warren Foegele, Duncan Keith and Cody Ceci settled in. I’m not concerned about Hyman and Foegele. I had my eyes on Keith and Ceci last night because they’re expected to eat up a big chunk of ice time as a second pairing. They not only have to get used to new teammates but to each other — at least until Dad rolls up from the third pairing in the family mini-van and backs over Ceci. Then, there’s Keith, who got started late and has ground to make up.
Based on what we’ve seen until now, who gets jobs up front will come down to what Tippett wants his fourth line to look like. Is the coach looking for mostly crash and bang with a little depth scoring or vice-versa? As for Keith and Ceci, last night was a mixed bag with some of the mistakes you expect here and there, especially early. There’s time to sort that out, right? Right?
THE RIGHT MIX
Perlini notched his fifth goal of the pre-season last night to put the Oilers on the board at 3-1. As prolific as he’s been, the reality is, he’s not going to mount a bid for the Rocket Richard Trophy. What else can Perlini bring to the table playing a fourth line role? Same question for Turris, a big disappointment last season, and the other three looking to stick.
“We’re looking for a little additional scoring there,” said Tippett, who had his bottom-six forwards come up short too often last season. “That’s what they’ve been doing so you’ve got to give them credit for that.
“The make-up of our team, that line, they can’t expect to go out there and get 20 minutes of ice time and power play time to make an impact. They understand where they are. It’s probably going to be around 10 minutes, depending on how much special teams are in there, but they’ve got to go out and have an impact.
“The impact can come from chipping in on scoring, it could be momentum shifts where you’re playing in the other end – just have a positive influence on the game when you come out of it. That line has the whole training camp, so you’ve got guys who are working hard. They’re trying to find spots.
“The competition has been really good. It’s been good for us because we have good depth . . . the end decision could come down to, do we need another penalty killer in there? Is there a face-off guy? Is a veteran guy that’s a stable guy in there a better fit than a young guy right now or does the young guy bring more energy and is that what you’re looking for? We have a lot of different options of people we’re looking at right there. I can’t say any of them have played themselves out of the starting line-up.”
As for Keith and Ceci, they had some fire drill moments early but settled in as the game went on. Keith played 17:58 and Ceci logged 18:42, with both getting 50 seconds of that time on the PK. Tippett knows what he’s going to get with Keith, late to camp because of quarantine after being vaccinated for COVID. What he needs to know is what to expect from Keith and Ceci as a pair. While I’m betting we’ll see Evan Bouchard move up beside Keith at some point, Tippett needs Keith ready to roll when the season begins.
“I thought he was solid,” Tippett said of Keith. “He’s only been up and going here for two days. Said he felt good, didn’t feel any fatigue, but the timing, you can tell he needs to get up and going a little bit. He understands the game so well. We’ll continue to do that Thursday (vs. Vancouver) and see where it goes from there.”