Tonight, the Bulin Wall rises in Edmonton. It should be a fun game. Mike Comrie also makes his hometown return. Will the fans boo and heckle? I don't think so. Comrie has looked decent so far in pre-season play, and the sense of optimism that surrounded the Oilers at the beginning of last season has suddenly returned. Many feel that the Oil have real potential to surprise this year, and all the fans who were screaming for a coaching change might have a reason to gloat.
How 'bout that Flames game last night? Neon Dion put Kyle Okposo from the Islanders in hospital with a massive hit. Oh, and some guy named Theo Fleury scored a shootout goal to win the game. I am cheering for Theo to make the team this season - I remember seeing him stick it to the Oilers on more than one occassion 15 years ago; he was the player you loved to hate. Quality villians in the NHL are hard to come by: This is not some Sean Avery who makes a joke out of the league. Fleury is the little engine that could. And yes, he had his problems with booze, but he's clean now, and could very likely earn a spot on the team because he's worked his butt off, and still has talent.
There should be some completely decent games between the Oilers and Flames this season. The Battle of Alberta could be called The Battle of Western Canada, because the Canucks, Oilers and Flames will be fighting it out all year for the Northwest Division title. Three very different teams, but all capable of winning the west. It should be fun.
In other NHL news, word is, Nashville is close to completing a deal with Boston for Phil Kessel. What I find interesting about this deal is the fact that Kessel is injured, and likely won't be able to play till mid-November. There really is no rush for the Bruins to trade him, so the talk of the deal with the Preds seems a little premature to me. It's possible that the Bruins could get a better deal out of someone a month into the season, if a team that was suppose to be winning is tanking. Considering cap space, the B's really can't add any salaries to their team. So Kessel will be moved with another asset, or the Bruins will be looking for draft picks. It looks like the Leafs, for now, have turned down the rumored asking price for Kessel, which was 2 firsts and a second...smart move by TO if true, because I suspect the Leafs will be drafting in the Top 10 in the next couple of seasons.
The Oilers website must be expecting Nikolai Khabibulan to have a big game, because tonight's roster has Devin Dubnyk listed as a defenseman. Another interesting note about tonight's line-up is the addition of winger Miroslav Lazo. The 32 year-old Slovakian has decent totals from the Slovakian league - a point a game, and an average of four penalty minutes per. Could he be a dark horse for a fourth-line power forward job?
The Oilers starting line-up seems to be taking shape, although certain questions still have yet to be answered. Jordan Eberle looks to be ready for the NHL - Would it be better for his development to play him, or to send him back to junior? Has Robbie Schremp done enough in the off-season to finally earn a shot with the Oil? Would the Oilers be willing to put someone like Pisani on waivers to open up a roster spot? And what will the line combinations be? The first line of O'Sullivan - Horcoff - Hemsky seems to be a lock, but from there the lines are completely unset. And finally, will the Oilers look to make any more deals before the season begins? Rumor is, Ottawa would still like a defenseman from Edmonton, and the Oilers could afford to move someone for the right return.