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GDB -2.0: Going to Winnipeg (6pm MT, Streaming)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
Fresh off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets last night, a very different group of Edmonton Oilers will travel to Winnipeg to play a different Jets roster. The first few preseason games are more about focusing on system play, seeing which players battling for roster spots play well and which youngsters make an impression.
Teams like to win, but preseason losses don’t carry the same burden as a regular season loss. The dressing room wasn’t downtrodden last night, despite the shootout loss.
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Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl won’t play tonight in Winnipeg. Expect them to make their preseason debuts Wednesday at home v. the Vancouver Canucks — a game that will be televised.
Tonight’s roster will feature Brett Kulak, Cody Ceci, Dylan Holloway, and Raphael Lavoie.
Lavoie will play his first game. He needs to get noticed if he wants to stay in the mix to make the opening night roster. Adam Erne is in the same boat, but is paddling upstream even more, as he needs a contract, and the Oilers are pretty deep with left wingers. With Sam Gagner starting in Bakersfield, I’m not sure if the Oilers will want another veteran taking ice time ahead of Tyler Tullio, Carter Savoie, Matvei Petrov, Jake Chiasson and the other young wingers in the organization. Erne does have a significant size and experience advantage, and maybe the Oilers sign him for depth, but they also have Drake Caggiula already signed.
Dylan Holloway, Vincent Desharnais and Xavier Bourgault will play back-to-back tonight. Holloway had a strong game last night. Bourgault needs to do more — it was only one game, but he needs a bit more pep in his step.
Tonight’s game is not televised in Edmonton. It is on TSN3. They have the regional rights to Jets games, but their games are blocked out to viewers outside their region. If you have the Centre Ice package it will be available there, or you can stream it at Oilers+.
Also, expect the Oilers to make a significant number of cuts after Friday’s game in Calgary. The Oilers leave Saturday for a short-two-game road trip. They play in Vancouver on Saturday and in Seattle on Monday. They will have a team event planned in between those games.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Erne – Malone – Lavoie
Holloway – McKegg – Griffith
Stonehouse – Grubbe – Bourgault
Petrov – Berglund – Tullio
Kambeitz will travel as an extra skater just in case.
Kulak – Ceci
Hoefenmayer – Desharnais
Dineen – Wanner
Pickard
Rodrigue
Olivier Rodrigue played the full 60 minutes last night, stopping 25 of 26 shots, and Calvin Pickard is expected to play the entire game tonight. That would leave Campbell and Skinner with three games each if they want, or you could see them play the first 40 minutes of a game and have Pickard or Rodrigue play the third. Woodcroft will speak with both of them and goalie coach, Dustin Schwartz, to determine the best course of action.
Lane Pederson was on the first unit PP with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Evander Kane, Zach Hyman and Evan Bouchard last night. He also was the third shooter in the shootout. He won’t be in either spot in the regular season, but it was interesting to see the offensive opportunities he got. He is battling Brandon Sutter for the fourth line centre spot, and both had solid games last night.
“I felt a bit off early, but after the first period I felt better,” said Sutter who was playing his first game since May 1st, 2021. “I was actually a bit nervous before the game. I haven’t been jittery before a preseason game (other than when he was a rookie). It was good to get out there in the warmup. My kids were here, and they haven’t seen me play live in three years, and they are little, so they probably don’t remember (the last time), so it was kind of a special night for me.”
Sutter admitted last night was about getting comfortable, and now the main focus is about earning a contract and a spot on the roster. He admitted he felt most comfortable in the defensive zone and the least comfortable with small plays with the puck. I’d guess feeling comfortable defensively is the most important aspect for him, as the role he is auditioning for — fourth line centre and penalty killer — is about that. Feeling better with the puck and making plays is important and should improve the more games he plays. But the Oilers will be watching closely to see how he handles the defensive zone and the penalty kill.
I thought Beau Akey stood out with his puck skills. The 2023, second round draft pick wasn’t shy about showing his skills. “I have always been a puck carrier,” said Akey. “That is who I’ve always been. I don’t think too much, I just make a play.”
He was asked to describe his first NHL preseason game. “The first time stepping into that atmosphere was pretty cool,” said Akey. “You realize how big the rink actually is and how big it is. It was a cool experience. I came here for a reason, to play my game and work my hardest and if I make a mistake the coaches said they would live with it. We should be present, not perfect. It is a big confidence booster going out there knowing the coaches have confidence in me.”
Then we had a short one-on-one.
Gregor: What was the best moment?
Akey. The atmosphere. From standing here to having Connor McDavid fist-bumping you, and him shaking hands with you. It is insane. You have Leon Draisaitl walking out when you are eating saying, ‘See you tomorrow.” It is just the whole atmosphere. You have Bouchard chatting with you on the bench, working through plays with you. You are sitting beside Darnell Nurse on the bench, and here in the room, and talking to him about the game. It is awesome. You have all these guys giving you fist-bumps, hyping you up. The atmosphere is definitely the coolest part about being here.”
Gregor: Are you naturally a calm, poised person?
Akey: I would say yes. I’m not afraid of mistakes. Maybe if I make a couple that bite me in the butt I will be, but right now I’m not afraid of mistakes and I make my plays.
Gregor: What was your goal coming into camp?
Akey: Just leave an impression. Work my hardest, be a good person, be a good teammate. I think I did a pretty good job of making an impression here and over in Penticton. I did the best I could and that’s all I could hope for.<
No doubt he made a positive impression. He is going back to junior, likely for two more seasons, but if his goal was to get noticed, then mission accomplished. His puck poise and playmaking skills are his best attributes. Like most young, offensive-minded defenders he will spend the next few seasons honing is defensive zone play. His best chance to make the NHL will be from his offence, and then how he adapts defensively will determine how long he lasts.
I asked Sutter his thoughts on Akey’s play, and specifically some of his passes.
“We were talking on the bench while watching him and were saying how these young kids coming in now have so much confidence,” said Sutter. “I feel like when I played my first preseason game, I was terrified. Most guys in the room would say that, but these young guys are just so confident in their ability. They way the handle the puck, and he makes plays at the blueline that I wouldn’t even think about doing, but it’s cool. The way the game has changed. It is a more skilled game now.”

Jets

Connor – Scheifele – Vilardi
Barron – Kupari – Namestnikov
Ford – Gustafsson – Viel
Torgersson – Lucius – Reichel
Morrissey – Salomonsson
Samberg – Pionk
Stanley – Capobianco
Brossoit
DiVincentiis
Collin Delia was the star of the game last night. He made 36 saves in the 2-1 victory, and robbed Kane, Hyman, Dylan Holloway and Brandon Sutter. He made some other key stops as well. I don’t expect Laurent Brossoit to be as busy tonight. I’d guess Dave Manson will want Kulak and Ceci out against Mark Schiefele’s line as often as possible. It will be a good test for them.

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers lose 3-2. Jets’ top line is the difference.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Holloway has another strong game and scores his first of the preseason.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Noel Hoefenmayer drops the gloves and has a spirited tilt.

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