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Oilers ask Hall to fill void at center

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- Taylor Hall will be the center of attention as the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets drop the puck on their season Tuesday at Rexall Place.

With injuries to the Oilers' top two centers, Hall made the move into the middle from his usual left-wing position. He'll play between Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky on the Oilers' top line against the Jets.

"I think we'll be fine, though having Sam [Gagner] and Ryan [Nugent-Hopkins] out is a big hole for us," Hall said. "But we still have a lot of good players, no matter what position you are at. [At] forward, we still have a lot of depth there. The addition of [David] Perron has been huge for us. He's a great player and someone that's going to fit in well for us here. We're going to do everything we can to scrape out some wins until Gagner and Nugent-Hopkins get back."

Nugent-Hopkins, still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, is not expected back until November, while Gagner is out for at least five weeks with a broken jaw.

The Oilers' center took a high stick from Vancouver Canucks winger Zack Kassian in the preseason. Kassian was subsequently suspended five games for the infraction.

The injury left the Oilers scrambling, forcing Hall to fill in at center longer than originally expected.

"Two months ago I wouldn't have expected to start the season with Smyth and Hemsky," Hall said. "But it's great that [Hemsky] is back though, not only because of the two injuries we have, but the skill and experience that he brings is big. He's been here for a long time and he understands what it's like playing in Edmonton, and he's a guy that I enjoy playing with."

The Oilers attempted to trade Hemsky this summer, but decided to keep the talented wing when they failed to receive an offer for what they felt was fair market value.

Along with Hall, the Oilers are going with two inexperienced centers in Will Acton and Mark Arcobello, who have one game of NHL experience between them.

Arcobello will center the Oilers’ second line between Perron and Jordan Eberle. The Bloomfield Hill, Mich., product led the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons in scoring last season and was called up for one game with the Oilers.

"I'm excited. There are going to be some nerves I'm sure, but that could be a good thing," Arcobello said. "The thing that helps me the most is playing in the preseason. Just getting into those games has helped me get a little bit more comfortable, especially with the guys in the locker room and playing in front of this crowd. It's going to be good."

The Jets, meanwhile, go in deep at center with the same core group that just missed out on an Eastern Conference playoff spot last season.

The additions of Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik provide the team with more depth up front, while highly touted rookie Jacob Trouba makes his NHL debut on the blue line.

"I'm pretty mellow right now, but I'm sure come game time, I'll be pretty excited," Trouba said. "I think it's going to take some time to adapt, so it was good to play in the preseason. I got to see what it was all about. I'm just going to try and get better every game and keep improving."

Here are Tuesday's projected lineups for the Oilers and Jets:


Ryan Smyth - Taylor HallAles Hemsky

David PerronMark ArcobelloJordan Eberle

Jesse JoensuuBoyd GordonNail Yakupov

Luke GazdicWill ActonMike Brown

Andrew FerenceJustin Schultz

Ladislav SmidJeff Petry

Nick SchultzAnton Belov

Devan Dubnyk

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Ben Eager

Injured: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), Sam Gagner (jaw), Steve MacIntyre (knee), Denis Grebeshkov (knee), Corey Potter (back)


Andrew LaddBryan LittleBlake Wheeler

Evander KaneMark ScheifeleDevin Setoguchi

James WrightOlli JokinenMichael Frolik

Eric TangradiJim SlaterChris Thorburn

Tobias EnstromDustin Byfuglien

Jacob Trouba - Zach Bogosian

Mark Stuart - Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec

Al Montoya

Scratched: Anthony Peluso, Adam Pardy

Injured: Grant Clitsome (lower body)

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