After not playing a game in 162 days, the Oilers kick-off the pre-season (and continue the baseballization of hockey) with two games in one night! One half of the team plays tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks while the other half takes on the Minnesota Wild. It's like King Solomon is in charge of the hockey team!
Now, given each opponent's reputation, I expect most folks would usually choose to watch the game against the Blackhawks. The fact that Ryan Smyth and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (and two more Ryans!) are playing in that contest further suggests that eyes will be looking in that direction. It's only natural, then, that the Blackhawks are in Saskatoon and that the Oilers' season-ticket holders will be paying full price for the Wild.
Minnesota Wild @ Edmonton Oilers @ Chicago Blackhawks
Rexall Place and The Credit Union Center (Saskatoon), 7:00 p.m. MDT
More analysis after the jump...
Edmonton Oilers v. Chicago Blackhawks:
Smyth (94) - Nugent-Hopkins (93) - Eberle (14)
Martindale (66) - VandeVelde (54) - Hartikainen (56)
Tremblay (65) - Brule (67) - Petrell (37)
Green (12) - O'Marra (42) - Hamilton (70)
Smid (5) - Peckham (24)
Chorney (41) - Petry (58)
Davidson (88) - Potter (44)
Edmonton Oilers v. Minnesota Wild:
Hall (4) - Belanger (20) - Jones (28)
Paajarvi (91) - Lander (57) - Omark (23)
Tyrvainen (75) - Pitlick (68) - Keller (46)
Hordichuk (16) - House (60) - Abney (73)
Barker (13) - Gilbert (77)
Marincin (80) - Tulupov (86)
Musil (87) - Fedun (81)
Notes from Camp:
- The Oilers sent nine men away last night, and mostly the guys you'd expect: players who are eligible to return to the CHL and players on amateur tryouts. The only survivor among from the try-out list is undersized defender Ryan Lowery. I don't think he'll get an NHL contract, but do think that there's a pretty good chance of him signing an AHL contract with the organization that would likely see him start the year in Stockton.
- David Musil, Jeremie Blain, and Drew Czerwonka are the three players who are (virtually) guaranteed CHLers who surived the first set of cuts, so they should all feel pretty good. Musil is playing tonight, but Blain and Czerwonka are both sitting out, which makes keeping them feel a bit curious. I expect that those two might play Thursday against the Canucks and then we'll see all three get cut so that they can start the WHL season on time (Kootenay and Vancouver both play their first game on Friday).
- Ben Eager was apparently going to play tonight, but is out with an injury. I don't know if that has to do with the hit he took from Kirill Tulupov at the Joey Moss Cup (probably a plus for Tulupov if it does) or if the injury is serious enough to keep Eager out for very long, but if he starts the year on IR, the door is wide open for players like Gilbert Brule, Teemu Hartikainen, and Lennart Petrell to earn a spot in the starting twelve.
- Ryan Martindale gets another game at wing, and Tyler Pitlick continues to play center. If Martindale ends up playing wing, his lack of speed might not hurt him as much, and he'll still be able to use his puck skills around the net and big body in the offensive corners. And given the organizational depth at center, it'll probably be easier for him to break in as a winger. Speaking of which, Pitlick looks blocked up the middle. If Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes the team (he will), the top four centers in Oklahoma City will likely be Anton Lander, Ryan O'Marra, Chris VandeVelde, and Tanner House with Pitlick and the still-injured (just terrible timing) Milan Kytnar both in the mix.
- The only guys who weren't Oilers last season with two NHL linemates tonight are Nugent-Hopkins and Lander. It's overwhelmingly likely that only one of them will make the team, and it's an interesting battle because as much as they're competing against one another, they're also trying to make the team in different roles (if Nugent-Hopkins makes the club, he'll likely be a top nine guy, whereas Lander would likely be a fourth liner to start).