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Many Oilers in mid-season form for opener

by Kevin Woodley /

The Edmonton Oilers play their first NHL game of the season Sunday night in Vancouver, but a lot of them are already in mid-season form.

Top young players like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and rookie defenseman Justin Schultz all played together for Edmonton?s American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City during the lockout. Others, like rookie Nail Yakupov, Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, Lennart Petrell, Corey Potter and Ladislav Smid played in Europe. And even veteran forward Ryan Smyth and No. 1 goaltender Devan Dubnyk went overseas to play in the Spengler Cup.

Add it all up and the Oilers hope to have an advantage when they open against a Canucks team that only had a couple players in action ??? and looked like it during a 7-3 loss to Anaheim the night before.

???There's no rust in their system,??? said Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, who will face the Oilers after replacing new No. 1 Cory Schneider in the opening loss.

Edmonton???s young players tried to downlplay the advantage.

???Nerves are still going to be going for sure,??? said Nugent-Hopkins, noting it???s been two weeks since they last played a game. ???We worked on our game down in OKC and are just going to try and keep working on it up here.???

Here???s the way the talented young Oilers will line up against the Canucks:

Taylor Hall ??? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins ??? Jordan Eberle

Nail Yakupov ??? Sam Gagner ??? Ales Hemsky

Ryan Smyth ??? Shawn Horcoff ??? Teemu Hartikainen

Ben Eager ??? Eric Belanger ??? Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid ??? Jeff Petry

Nick Schultz ??? Justin Schultz

Ryan Whitney ??? Corey Potter

Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal, while Yann Danis has been called up from the AHL to back up while veteran Nikolai Khabibulin continues to recover from offseason hip surgery.

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