Last night, it was deju vu all over again. The Oilers as a team completely mailed in an effort. Welcome back, last season.
I suppose it's a little hard to get motivated to play in the pre-season. The people who needed to show up, Dustin Penner and JF Jacques, both had great games. Jacques in particular was great, scoring once with the puck, and once with his hand by flattening Oilers nemesis Robyn Regehr. If Jacques didn't earn a roster spot already, he managed it after that fight.
Nikolai Khabibulin, who didn't have a great night, left in the third period due to being dehydrated. There is no word yet if he will be in the line-up tonight when the Oilers face the Tampa Bay Lightning in The 'Peg. The game is on TSN-HD, and should be interesting. Coach Quinn will no doubt be all over the team for their lack of effort last night, and for certain players, tonight's game will be a make-it-or-break-it affair.
In respect to the Flames game, Jason Strudwick looked slow, Kip Brennan had six minutes of ice time and took nine minutes of penalties, and the only Oiler that didn't seem completely useless in the face-off circle was Gilbert Brule. Robert Nilsson did everything possible to get traded or sent down, Ryan Stone had an off-night, and Lubomir Visnovsky, Tom Gilbert and Denis Grebeshkov all made defensive gaffs that cost the Oilers along the way. If this is the way the Oil are going into the season, yikes!
Mike Comrie had another goal and he continues to look like a leader on this team. Patrick O'Sullivan also scored, and played a motivated game. On the opposite end of the scale, Ales Hemsky, who has been invisible in the pre-season, kept to form and did nothing.
So what does this all mean? There is no reason to worry about Hemsky, as star players always seem a little annoyed in pre-season. Judging by last game, Jacques is going to be in the starting line-up, and Stone will likely be out, as there is only so much room at the inn.
Today's roster for the Lightning game has yet to be posted, but it is fair to assume that players including Fernando Pisani, Sam Gagner, Liam Reddox, Robbie Schremp, Steve MacIntrye, Jordan Eberle, Zack Storini, Marc Pouliot, and Taylor Chorney will be in the line-up. It sounds as if Steve Staios and Theo Peckham are too injured to play tonight, and The Bulin Wall might be out due to last night's issue.
If I was to guess at the Oilers opening night roster of 22 come October 3, my guess after last night would look something like this:
Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
O'Sullivan - Comrie - Gagner
Jacques - Cogliano - Eberle
Moreau - Brule - Stortini
Souray - Gilbert
Grebeshkov - Visnovsky
Smid - Strudwick
Note: A few observations about the above listed roster. I first do not think Fernando Pisani will make this team. However, word is his health is an issue (no official explanation has been given as to what the problem is) and he could end up on the Injured Reserve or LTIR list. While he could be sent down to Springfield or could possibly be lost to waivers, if his health issue is serious, he will placed on the list and given time to heal.
Jordan Eberle has done enough to earn an extended tryout with Edmonton. The Oil can play Jordan a certain amount of regular season games before they need to either keep him in Edmonton all year, or send him back to junior. I believe Jordan will be given 5 to 7 games to see how he fairs before a final decision will be made. The Oilers have nothing to lose by doing this.
Gilbert Brule has been good in the face-off circle, but has done very little else to impress in training camp. If the Oilers make a roster change before the start of the season, it will be to bring in a two-way center that is above average at face-offs. Should this happen, Gilbert will be back in Springfield or will be dealt.
I am still not convinced the Oilers will not deal a Top 4 defenseman, as they as a group look soft. Souray is the only D-man who plays with size, and the Oilers get pushed around in their own zone because of it. Mind you, Jason Strudwick, who has size, looked slower than a zamboni in park yesterday, and Flames forwards got around him easily. Perhaps the key to this discussion is if Taylor Chorney is ready to be in the NHL. There would definitely be a market for Gilbert, Visnovsky or Grebeshkov should the OIlers choose to move one.