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Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Final Curtain Call"

What a night! Unfortunately none of us Oiler fans were able to watch this pre-season game on TV as it was only streamed via the Oilers website. However, good ol' Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer had the call on the dial. (radio that means)

I was driving on the highway last night, so listening to the radio broadcast was good enough for me. My heart goes out to Taylor Fedun and his family. Sometimes, life is just not fair. Here is hoping that in some way, some form, his recovery is a quick one and not a career ending one. The card up Taylor Fedun's sleeve? He has a degree from Princeton. This is one great reason to have a already established education on top of a hockey background. Anyway, good luck to Taylor as he recovers.

Tonight is the "Final Curtain Call" for pre-season. Last night was to be a curtain call of sorts for some blue liners but two of the three auditioning went down with injury. The blueline looks set for opening night with the exception of any new face that Tambo may be able to wrangle up last minute. It was also a opportunity for that extra centre position that may have a opening coming up. I am looking forward to seeing a real telecast once again on the 'Big Screen' but more then that, I am mighty curious to seeing what line combinations we end the pre-season with. I am intrigued by a few things that may be happening in regards to assignments to OKC and how things are handled with some of the young guys like Nugent-Hopkins and Lander


1.LINE COMBINATIONS: How many different line combinations is Renney going to continue trying? Hall has had almost no consistency with anyone. Hemsky has played two games with different players, Nugent-Hopkins has played with at least 3 different line combinations and the list goes on. Players will always tell you they would rather use the last couple games of the pre-season to start building chemistry with linemates before going into the season. Makes sense, or doesn't it? I know we finish the year with back to back games and they are meaningless and the management and coach's want to do some final evaluations before sending players to their respective teams but c'mon! I know Eager has been hurt, but why not then have Belanger playing with Jones if he is going to be playing your 4th line? If he will be your 3rd line Centre then have him with Omark and Paajarvi. It's just a personal frustration cause it usually means we need 10 games into the season mixing line combo's. I know it can't be fixed as easy as I make it sound but there can be a little more stability for some combinations.

2.BELANGER: Call be cynical and I know it's pre-season but last night was a opportunity for Belanger to show his faceoff abilities against higher end talent, yet he could not even manage 50% in the dot. Also Belanger on a couple occasions has had some talent to play with, yet I have yet to see where that offensive upside is. I know it's pre-season, but this is already how many games and some are slotting him in as at least a 3rd line Centre? The only reason, from what I have seen to this point to have him as your 3rd line centre is for faceoffs. We all know how that turned out last night.

3.RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS: Can we expect another good game tonight? This will be a much better test against what will most likely be the Canucks opening night line-up. I would say this is his toughest competition to date against the bigger more physical guys. I still don't think Gagner's injury has affected the status of Ryan. He was getting nine games regardless (unless he stunk out the place in pre-season) was what I already had heard from Oilers brass even back at development camp in July. It really is based on his play and if he is physically ready. So far, so good!

4.LANDER: To this point, everything I am hearing from the coach's and management has leaned towards Lander starting the year in OKC. That would not be bad. But Lander won't let it be that easy for them will he? The guy was crazy good last night. Sure he took some stupid penalties last night but he won faceoffs and scored goals. Not just goals but IMPORTANT goals. With the way the other centre's are playing, right now, I personally would put him into the third line slot. At least for a few games to start the year, see where he is at. Management, coach's say Belanger may need some time to learn chemistry with the team so why not let him start 4th line and earn his way up the line's? People make the argument that Lander has only played well pre-season against lesser all around team's. What about Belanger then? Should he not be performing at a higher level then Lander at this stage of the game? Truth is, Lander has risen to the occasion and really does deserve the chance. Or will he end up like Omark did last year? Being sent to OKC, cause of 'politics'? (Words of Omark's, not mine)

5.BRULE: While Brule didn't do anything wrong last night, he did not help his cause either. He seems to be a fish out of water. I don't see him being anything more then a spot player anymore as our 13th forward. I really believe he needs a opportunity with a organization that needs his kind of game and is lacking in their bottom six.

6.HARTIKANEN: Didn't hurt his case last night, but also didn't help it. Personally I find that Hartikanen plays much to the level of linemates he is given. I would think he is sent down to OKC right after the game in Vancouver, but he definitely will be called up barring any injury to the wingers.

7.OPENING NIGHT GOALTENDING: Ok, this is my take on who starts. Devan got the game in Minny while Khabi gets the start in Vancouver. Could it be because Devan has the most time off before the opening night game that he gets the nod? I know it's only one day difference, but it is possible. Devan did not hurt his cause last night. Sure one goal was questionable, but the other two he had no chance and on the penalty kill none less. Expect to see Dubynk get the start to the season (At this point, he is the goalie of the future and Khabi is the mentor)

8.EXPECTING ANOTHER DEFENCEMAN: I can not see a circumstance where Tambo is not bringing in another blueliner now. I would think, it's not going to be a trade yet. I would expect they will look at a free agent who is yet to sign. Should in a month time, Whitney not be back in the line-up , you could expect a trade for a defenceman.

9.HORDICHUK: This guy is showing why it will be hard to keep him out of the lineup. I am OK with that. He makes it hard for the other team to get much time and space with the puck. To this point, he has been picture perfect and exactly what the Oilers wanted and signed for.

No, I don't have any inside information on this. Barring injuries, (with Gagner being hurt, this has slowed the idea of moving a player out down) there are too many forwards and not enough good defenceman. Something has to give, and I would think it's the forward position that will be giving.

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