It will be hard for this game to top the last outing. Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins represent the future and they dazzled everyone against the Coyotes. Tonight won't have that. Instead, tonight will be about the other pieces. It will be about Teemu Hartikainen trying to bull his way onto the roster, Lennart Petrell showing enough on the PK to earn a roster spot, and Taylor Fedun continuing a very surprising run - pegging him 39th in the Top 25 Under 25 is looking a wee bit low at the moment - in his first ever pro camp. It's about the camp surprises and the guys who are fighting for roles on the team, not just for today, but when it's actually good too. It's also about watching Ales Hemsky dangle in Oiler blue while we still can. I plan to enjoy it.
Edmonton Oilers @ Minnesota Wild
Rexall Place, 6:00 p.m. MDT
More analysis after the jump...
Paajarvi - Belanger - Hemsky
Petrell - Lander - Omark
Hartikainen - Brule - Keller
Hordichuk - O'Marra - Jones
Chorney - Gilbert
Smid - Petry
Peckham - Fedun
Notes from Camp:
- The Oilers have another game tonight with three guys who are righties playing the right side, and none of the regular left-handed defensemen have shown that they're competent playing the right side. That might mean two of Jeff Petry, Taylor Fedun, and Corey Potter not only make the team, but make the opening night lineup too, which I would consider a pretty big surprise. Fedun and Petry will play tonight, and I would assume that Potter will go tomorrow. I said yesterday that I expected Chorney and Petry to make the team, but some more reflection leads me to believe that it'll be Petry and Potter.
- Anton Lander, Ryan O`Marra, and Gilbert Brule are all centering lines that could play regular season games at some point this year. That battle for the fourth-line center spot is an interesting one. I'm not usually a fan of giving rookies the push, but if I was the coach and needed to pick one of these guys to help me win a game tomorrow, I'd go with Lander, but I think Renney probably goes with someone else.
- Looking at the lack of star power in this lineup, it's a bit shocking to know that there are six guys in this group who were first-round picks, all of them chosen with a selection in the top fifteen. There are even more sitting on the sidelines. If only players never aged the Oilers would have a dominant group in the "We're always 18 year-olds" version of the NHL.
- With these next two games being the Oilers' last, there were some good (though obvious) questions being asked of head coach Tom Renney. One fellow asked about Renney's decision-making process, and specifically how much the final impression matters over against a player's overall body of work: "[The last impression] certainly is a lasting one. You'll always factor that into the equation, naturally, but you really do try to look at the body of work. You have to keep in mind too the level of competition that they may have played against up to that point in time. You hope that the right people are still around at the end to get that clear evaluation through better competition. But that being said, as much about the level of competition, and then the body of work beyond that." This makes a lot of sense to me. On the one hand, it's obvious to Renney (and most people) that the overall body of work matters more. That's why most of the team is set in stone before training camp starts. On the other hand, Renney probably hasn't seen a guy like Lennart Petrell or Ryan Keller or even Teemu Hartikainen play all that much, and he certainly hasn't seen them all play the same level of competition. So at the end of the roster, these last couple of games matter a lot more. Sensible stuff.
- Devan Dubnyk starts in goal tonight, and I'll be a very happy camper if I can say the same thing at the start of the regular season. That there's significant doubt on this point tells you all you need to know about the Edmonton Oilers.