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Oilers demote Hall, but just to third line

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers rookie Taylor Hall will play on the third line against the Minnesota Wild at Rexall Place on Thursday night, although coach Tom Renney isn't framing it as a demotion.

Hall, who has one assist through his first four games playing with veteran center Shawn Horcoff, will play left wing with center Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule.

"There's a burden there, an expectation when you play with Horcoff," Renney said. "He's a more veteran player and you have to measure up to that standard, if you will. Maybe this will give Taylor an opportunity to be part of the personality of a line."

Hall, who has been averaging 15:41 of ice time and has had his chances with seven shots, hopes for a fit with Cogliano and Brule, Edmonton's two fastest skaters.

"I know a lot of people are looking pretty far into this, why I'm playing on the third line and all that kind of stuff," Hall said. "It might be a positive. We get to play against their third defence pairing, and these are two good players. Cogs and Brule have been in the NHL for awhile. I'm happy to play with them."

On the early numbers, this game is a mismatch in the faceoff circles as Minnesota comes in ranked fourth at 55.6 percent, while the Oilers are 29th at 40.2 percent. Mikko Koivu sits at 60.7, Matt Cullen is 55.7, John Madden is 54.0 and Kyle Brodziak is 52.5. Edmonton's four regular centres aren't close. Horcoff is 40.8, Sam Gagner is 34.0, Colin Fraser is 34.5 and Cogliano sits at 25.9.

-- Minnesota went 4-for-6 on the power play in a 4-2 win against the Oilers at the Xcel Energy Center Oct. 14 and leads the NHL at 45.8 percent (11-for-24) ... Edmonton ranks 25th in penalty killing at 73.7 ... The Wild and Oilers have taken turns being homers in the regular season series between the teams as Minnesota has beaten Edmonton 14 straight times at home but has just one win it the last eight games (1-6-1) played at Rexall Place ... Nikolai Khabibulin will make his fifth straight start ... the Wild will go with Niklas Backstrom, who is 16-2-1 career against the Oilers, but has been pulled in four of his eight starts in Edmonton, where he's 3-2 with a 2.91 goals-against average.
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