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Another game, another injury.
Patrick Maroon, Oscar Klefbom, Kris Versteeg, Iiro Pakarinen, Brandon Davidson and now Matt Hendricks have been injured so far this preseason. Maroon only missed a week and he looked great last night scoring a goal and adding an assist. Klefbom was also only out a few days. Davidson and Versteeg still aren’t skating, but they are listed as day-to-day. Pakarinen is out a month and Hendricks will be out weeks according to head coach Todd McLellan. It has not been a good start, injury-wise, for the Oilers.
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Hendricks was a lock to be the fourth line left winger on opening night and he would have been the on the Oilers’ first PK unit with Mark Letestu. His injury has opened the door for Anton Slepyshev and Tyler Pitlick to earn a spot on the roster, but it creates a hole on the PK unit.
Last season the Oilers had five forwards who averaged more than one minute per game on the PK:
Letestu 2:28
Hendricks 2:13
Lauri Korpikoski 1:59
Anton Lander 1:56
Pakarinen 1:09
Hendricks and Pakarinen are injured. Korpikoski isn’t here. Lander is in a tight battle to even make the team, which leaves Letestu.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid averaged 57 and 46 seconds/game respectively, but I’m not sure you want them as your #2 and #3 penalty killers. Ideally I’d avoid having them play that much on the PK. Penalty killing is much more taxing and tiring than being on the PP and I’m not in love with the idea of seeing either of them blocking shots regularly.
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Hendricks’ void will be felt much more on the PK than at EV, and also in the dressing room and on the bench during games. He is one of the few vocal leaders on the team and they don’t have anyone who can just fill the leadership void. Milan Lucic will be their main vocal leader this season, but good rooms always have multiple leaders and players who are willing and comfortable to speak when something needs to be said.
“I think people don’t really understand how important he is for us on the ice and in the dressing room,” said new Captain Connor McDavid. “He is always so positive in the room and one the bench and knows when something needs to be said. I’ve learned a lot from him,” McDavid continued.
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OPPORTUNITY

Pitlick and Slepyshev have both had solid camps, and one of them could take Hendricks’ spot alongside Letestu and Zack Kassian. Both shoot right, so they’d be playing their off wing, but both have played left side at times so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Kassian is the other player who will need to step up, most likely on the PK. They tried him there last year and McLellan had him work on the PK this summer. We will see how he does. Kassian skates very well so he’ll be able to get to spots, but does he have the instincts to be a solid PK guy? Time will tell, but Hendricks injury does create some serious concerns on the PK.
I’d also look to Benoit Pouliot to get more PK time. He did it sparingly last season, 25 seconds per game, but I’d expect he’ll be called upon to be more involved with a man down.
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I would also scour the waiver wire in the next week and if a veteran forward who kills penalties is available I could see Chiarelli considering him.
The Oilers only have two preseason games remaining and they need to avoid any more injuries.

ROSTER MOVES

Netminder Laurent Brossoit and defencemen Jordan Oesterle and Dillon Simpson were assigned to Bakersfield this morning.
It makes sense to have Brossoit playing regularly in the AHL. He’ll develop more by playing in Bakersfield than sitting on the bench in Edmonton. It is fair to suggest he’s a better goalie today than Jonas Gustavsson, and I won’t be surprised if we see Brossoit recalled a few times this season.
The Oilers have a very friendly schedule in October and I’d start Cam Talbot in all nine games. When the calendar turns to November and Brossoit is playing well in Bakersfield and Gustavsson has sat on the bench for a month, I’d have no issues switching them out if need be.
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I thought Oesterle had an okay training camp, and I’m a bit surprised he’s out before Reinhart, but I didn’t expect either to make the opening night roster. Simpson needs more AHL seasoning, but he looked more polished and poised this season than in previous years. He’s improving.
Matt Benning is still in camp and he has played very well. Will he surprise all of us and make the opening night roster?

QUICK HITS

  • No one should be surprised Connor McDavid was named captain today. Yes, he is the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years and 266 days (surpassing Gabriel Landeskog 19 years 286 days), but he was the right choice. He won’t be asked to be the vocal leader, Lucic is that guy, but McDavid will lead by example.
    Lucic, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were named alternate captains.
    McDavid should surpass Wayne Gretzky and Jason Smith as the longest serving captain in Oilers history. Both of them wore the “C” for five seasons. I fully expect McDavid to have it for a decade and likely longer.

    THE SEASON OPENER PARTY

     
    After a long summer of arguing and waiting, the NHL season is right around the corner and that means it’s time for us to throw another party. We wanted a second take on last year’s season and decided that we would celebrate the start of the second year of Connor’s reign over Oil Country. Thanks to our friends at AMA Travel, Cornerstone Insurance, the Pint, Oodle Noodle, and United Cycle we’ve got a big night planned for you complete with raffles, swag bags, and two trips (valued at $5000 each) for two to the outdoor game in Winnipeg courtesy of AMA Travel.
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    Here’s what you need to know:
    • Where: The Pint Downtown
    • When: Friday, October 14th at 5pm
    • Why: Because we’ve got a hankerin’ for some partyin’ 
    • How: Tickets are available here
    See you on October 14th!
    Recently by Jason Gregor:     
  • GDB -3.0: Catch McLellan’s eye
  • Monday Musings: Now it gets interesting
  • GDB -5.0: Nugent-Hopkins makes preseason debut
  • Adam Larsson: Defensive stalwart
  • I miss you Dad
  • GDB -6.0: Canuck Hunting