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Oilers give new look with Gagner at right wing

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner will play right wing Friday night against Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Gagner will skate on the Oilers first line with left wing Taylor Hall and center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It's the first time this season Gagner has not played at center.

"It's a lot of different things, it's not only Sam," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "We look at how we want to match up [Friday]. I think it also allows us to have two centermen on that line and it allows them to take the draws on their strong side.

"Sam has played wing in the past and had some success there. He was very open to the idea, that's something I talked to him about, just to get a feel if he was hesitant or not. He was all-in on it, and I think it just gives us a different look. Now we firmly have three lines that can do some damage. Each line, the way it's set up, should be able to score."

Gagner has struggled so far this season with five goals and 17 points in 33 games. He missed the first 13 games of the season with a broken jaw, sustained when slashed by Vancouver Canucks right wing Zack Kassian in a preseason game.

"I've played on the wing before, so I know what to expect," Gagner said. "There's a transition there, but I'm still playing hockey. Getting a chance to play with [Nugent-Hopkins] and Hall, they're great players, it's an exciting challenge for me."

Gagner, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall are expected to match up against the Penguins' top line of Chris Kunitz, Sidney Crosby and Brian Gibbons.

"I think regardless if we get Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin, it's going to be a great challenge and one that you have to be excited about," Gagner said. "As a player, you want to see how you match up against the best players in the League, and this isn't any different. You have to be excited for that, and hopefully, we'll come out on top."

Friday is only the third time Crosby has played in Edmonton. In five career games against the Oilers, Crosby has seven assists, but has yet to score a goal.

Going into the game, Crosby was aware of the potential of the Oilers' top line.

"I think they're a pretty effective line and they like to create a lot offensively," Crosby said. "When you're playing a line like that, you have to find a way to play in their end. The less that they have the puck and can create things in the zone, the better chance you have of winning that matchup. I think we just have to try and play in their end and try to possess the puck as much as we can."

The Oilers go into the game having lost five of their past six games. The Penguins have won five of their past six games and are currently on a three-game win streak.

Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal for the Oilers. Jeff Zatkoff will start for the Penguins.

"The rest of our lineup will be a game-time [decision]," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "I will tell you we are playing Sidney Crosby."

Here are the projected lineups for both teams.


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsSam Gagner

Nail YakupovMark ArcobelloJordan Eberle

David PerronBoyd GordonAles Hemsky

Luke GazdicRyan SmythRyan Jones

Andrew FerenceJustin Schultz

Martin MarincinJeff Petry

Nick SchultzAnton Belov

Devan Dubnyk

Ilya Bryzgalov

Scratched: Jesse Joensuu

Injured: Philip Larsen (illness), Corey Potter (groin)


Chris KunitzSidney CrosbyBrian Gibbons

Jussi JokinenEvgeni MalkinJames Neal

Taylor PyattBrandon SutterTanner Glass

Craig AdamsJoe VitaleDeryk Engelland

Rob ScuderiKris Letang

Brooks OrpikRobert Bortuzzo

Olli MaattaMatt Niskanen

Jeff Zatkoff

Marc-Andre Fleury

Scratched: Chuck Kobasew, Zach Sill, Simon Despres

Injured: Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Beau Bennett (wrist), Paul Martin (leg), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), Jayson Megna (lower body), Tomas Vokoun (pelvis)

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