The Battle of Alberta, round 2, goes tonight in Edmonton.
Actually the Battle of Alberta, round 2, started this morning when I found six inches of snow on the ground. The 10 minute drive to work turned into 30 minutes of sliding on an ice cube. Welcome to Northern Alberta, where the men are men, and the Oilers are a bunch of Europeans.
That’s not exactly true. I was looking at the Oilers roster the other day, and I didn't realize how many Canadian players there are on this team compared to most teams in the NHL. Four defensemen and the #1 goalie might be European, but 13 of the 16 forwards with the team are from Canada. Is this a good thing? When I look outside on October 8 and see snow, I think it might be. You’d think it would be easier to convince someone from Haybale, Saskatchewan than it would be someone from a big metropolis to play and stay in Edmonton.
There is no word yet from the Oilers if the lines will be changed up for tonight's game. JF Jacques continues to be on the first line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky; Ryan Stone, Mike Comire and Patrick O'Sullivan are the second line; Robert Nilsson, Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner are line three; and Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner and Zack Stortini make up the forth line. However, the line numbers don't seem to mean much right now. Pat Quinn seems to be giving more ice time to whatever lines seem to be working. I suspect Cogs, Sammy and Zack will get as much time as everyone else, considering how they are playing.
Here's a sentence I didn't think I'd say often: I wonder if the Oil should consider moving Dustin Penner to the first line, in an attempt to get Horcoff and Hemsky going. Penner, with two goals in two games, came ready to play this season. Both Horcoff and Hemsky are playing with minor injuries, and have not been effective. Jacques has looked good as the designated muscle on the line, but he needs the wizardry of Hemsky in order to get some goals.
If there are line-up changes tonight, expect Robert Nilsson to come out, and Steve MacIntyre to replace him. This being said, the Oilers as a team are playing much tougher hockey this season, and Coach Quinn likes the offensive skill Nilsson brings to the line-up. It is also possible that Ethan Moreau will be back in the line-up, as he was healthy enough to practice with the team on Wednesday. Steve Staios, who didn’t practice on Wednesday after getting clocked in the Tuesday game against Dallas, will likely be replaced tonight by Jason Strudwick. Nikolai Khabibulin should be back in goal tonight, in hopes he’ll find his rhythm and begin to live up to pre-season expectations.
The Oilers will be challenged by Calgary’s powerplay, which is currently #1 in the league with five goals in seven attempts. Oil penalty killing has been a weakness, surrendering four goals on nine chances. The Oilers PK has scored twice this season in eight attempts, a trend the Oilers will need to continue tonight in order to be successful. Overall, the Oilers, if they can muster the same effort as they did last Saturday, should have a good chance of defeating the 3 – 0 Flames.