The Edmonton Oilers haven’t opened a season with two straight losses this century–and that’s a lot of bad hockey teams. The club will be in tough tonight in Vancouver, as the Canucks are a more veteran, established team with better depth and a proven track record. The story for Edmonton going in will be goaltending, the return of the Nuge on the horizon, and the Oilers powerplay. On the Vancouver side, John Tortorella is a general nuisance but his teams will attempt to beat you on the ice and in the alley. Torts double shifted his top two lines at the beginning of the San Jose game and the Canucks came out storming. Should they do that against the young Oilers and the goaltending is wobbly, we may have the game story by 8:30.
- Eakins: “I’m not worried about Dubnyk or any of our other players. It’s the nature of the beast whether we won that game or we lost that game, it’s time to prepare for the next one. I expect a lot of our players to bounce back.”
The Oilers and Devan Dubnyk are in an uneasy part of the marriage currently. The new GM spent the summer looking for an upgrade, and the sense we get is that Dubnyk’s the guy–for now. That’s not a great situation for a goaltender, but this is the world Dubnyk lives in and a strong performance tonight likely calms the waters. I don’t think the Oilers will panic, and I believe Dubnyk is capable, but a solid performance tonight is important.
BABY NUGE RETURNS UNHARMED
- Eakins: “I want to start off, there’s been some terrible reporting, people who think they have the inside scoop on Nugent-Hopkins that he’ll play next Saturday against Toronto or Thursday against Montreal. Both false. He will play Monday against New Jersey.”
Eakins certainly doesn’t like misinformation, but then again in the absence of facts media will observe and speculate–I don’t think that’s a surprise nor a sin. Either way, it’s great to have him back and there’s no question his addition will make this team better immediately. He’s been off for a time so there’s going to be some rust, but RNH is a wonder and getting him back now is the best possible result.
- Nugent-Hopkins:“I’m feeling really good. The healing is done and my strength is up where it needs to be.”
No more tripping over bluelines young man. You’re too damn valuable.
- Hall-Smyth-Hemsky (likely to get the piss cutters)
- Gordon-Joensuu-Eberle (Kesler line makes sense, Torts may want to run Richardson line)
- Arcobello-Perron-Yakupov (love the talent, dangerous defensive road line)
- Acton-Gazdic-Brown (5 minutes, pray God the Sedins don’t get loose against them)
- Ryan Hamilton has been called up because someone above isn’t 100%.
- Smid-Petry (were solid in game one, need a big performance)
- Ference-Schultz (some good, some bad, need consistency)
- N Schultz-Belov (Schultz struggled, Belov better–this pairing will be vital tonight)
- Dubnyk (don’t know, suspect he gets the start, has a good history against Canucks)
- LaBarbera (if things go awry, he might see action tonight)
Yakupov had a strange night on Tuesday, his TOI was up and down like a yo-yo, by period. 5:25 in the first, 1:42 in the second, 7:50 in the third. He ended up 16-11 even shot differential and one hopes we see more of him tonight that we did during the 2nd period Tuesday. Yakupov is a young player, but he’s a game breaker and an extremely skilled fellow. Coach Dallas Eakins is going to have to live with defensive lapses and errors, and for my money a period in which Yakupov plays fewer than 2 minutes while Mike Brown plays 2:35 is worthy of an investigation.
I think there’s so much creativity in this organization now that we’re going to see cool things nightly. Hall, Hemsky, Perron, Eberle, Schultz, Yakupov and Nuge on the way Monday with Gagner rising. Nice group here. I spent much of the week defending Corsi and its fortune telling ability, and the script for the season will get another chapter tonight. Along with it, the PP and PK are going to be major items on the season-long talking points. There’s simply too much talent for a team like Edmonton to struggle for long on the PP, and the GF totals 5×4 and 5×3 should be impressive. On a night like this one, where the oppositions feels it important to announce their presence with authority, powerplay goals may trump the Corsi. PK could be a major story too.
So far this season, there have been 36 goalies in action. The worst EV SP is .818, shared by two goalies: Devan Dubnyk and Roberto Luongo. That’s your headline for tonight.