EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers open the home and road portions of their pre-season schedule tonight as the team plays the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place at 8:00 p.m. MDT and also at the Saddledome in Calgary at 7:00 p.m. MDT.
The crew playing in Edmonton is a little bit more experienced up front than the team travelling south with some intriguing line combinations, particularly Taylor Hall down the middle between Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth.
"The centre position is definitely a lot different from what I've experienced at left wing. Just having the puck in the middle of the ice and being able to create on both sides instead of just on my right side is a bit of a change for me but I felt that in the third period (in the scrimmage yesterday) I made a nice play there," Hall began.
"Even though it's a scrimmage you just kind of build your game as it goes along. I didn't really expect to be lights out to start the experiment but I feel it's going along well and we'll see how it goes tonight."
Associate Coach Keith Acton talked further about Hall moving to centre to open the exhibition campaign.
"I thought yesterday in the scrimmage that he did fine. It's a little bit of an adjustment for him. We're going to do some things that are different as far as defensive play in our own zone and as a centreman normally that's a little different than being a winger," Acton said. "The way we're going to play coming back into our own end, it's not always going to be the centreman that's going to be the low forward. It's the first guy back and he's going to stay the low forward.
"That's not completely foreign to him. He has a certain foundation in that area. It's just that as a centreman there's the odd time that there's a switch where you want to be the guy that's down low instead of a winger if there's an opportunity to switch."
Acton added that face-offs were another consideration.
"He's a strong guy and he gets in good hockey position on the face-offs. He seems to have pretty good technique."
After playing for a year in Switzerland, Linus Omark makes his return to Rexall Place tonight on a line with Mark Arcobello and Nail Yakupov.
"It's going to be fun to have the Oilers jersey on again. I'm looking forward to the game," said Omark, adding that he felt the year overseas was good for him.
"I got to play a lot. I played big minutes in Switzerland. I needed that because my last year here I broke my ankle and I tried to find my game again and I think I did that there. The NHL has always been my goal so I'm happy to be back."
The winger also talked about what he felt he needed to do to crack the lineup here in Edmonton.
"I have to take it one day at a time and do my best out there, try to show the coaches that I'm a good player and hopefully play good in the games too. (I need to) work hard and play simple, too."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
4 Taylor Hall 6 Jesse Joensuu 13 Mike Brown 23 Linus Omark 42 Marco Roy 51 Anton Lander 62 Mark Arcobello 64 Nail Yakupov 66 Ryan Martindale 71 Kyle Platzer 83 Ales Hemsky 94 Ryan Smyth
19 Justin Schultz 21 Andrew Ference 37 Denis Grebeshkov 74 Darnell Nurse 87 David Musil 88 Brandon Davidson
40 Devan Dubyk 38 Olivier Roy
Smyth -Hall - Hemsky Omark - Arcobello - Yakupov Joensuu - Lander - Roy Platzer - Martindale - Brown
LINE COMBOS: Taylor Hall will be playing centre tonight between Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky. Mark Arcobello will also get an opportunity to pivot an offensive line as he plays with Linus Omark and Nail Yakupov.
Jesse Joensuu makes his Rexall Place debut with Anton Lander as his middleman and Marco Roy on the opposite wing and Kyle Platzer skates with Ryan Martindale and Mike Brown on the fourth line.
ON THE BLUELINE: The Oilers will have a younger and less-experienced blueline than the one that is headed down to Calgary. Brandon Davidson and Justin Schultz will skate together as well as Oilers 2013 first-round pick Darnell Nurse and free-agent acquisition Andrew Ference. Denis Grebeshkov makes his return to Rexall Place to play with former Oil King David Musil.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: Starting in goal for the Oilers tonight will be Devan Dubnyk. He will be backed up by Olivier Roy.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Taylor Hall will be a player most fans have their eyes on tonight as he plays centre out of camp for the first time in his Oilers career. Coming off of shoulder surgery the previous summer, he actually had a chance to build up strength this off-season and it will be interesting to see what he can do.
15 Tim Jackman 16 Brian McGrattan 17 Lance Bouma 21 Roman Horak 24 Jiri Hudler 32 Paul Byron 38 Ben Street 39 T.J. Galiardi 47 Sven Baertschi 58 Ben Hanowski 60 Markus Granlund 86 Josh Jooris
4 Kris Russell 6 Dennis Wideman 27 Derek Smith 44 Chris Butler 61 Brett Kulak 73 Keegan Kanzig
29 Reto Berra 31 Karri Ramo
LINE COMBOS: Oilers fans will get a look at new Flames off-season acquisition T.J. Galiardi on the Calgary top line tonight. Galiardi will centre Sven Baertschi and Jiri Hudler. Ben Hanowski, acquired from Pittsburgh last season in the Jarome Iginla trade, will also play in Edmonton tonight. He will be on the left side with Roman Horak down the middle and Tim Jackman on the right.
Ben Street centres Lance Bouma and Josh Jooris on line three while rookie camp standout Markus Granlund centres Paul Byron and Brian McGratton on line four.
ON THE BLUELINE: The duo of Dennis Wideman -- sporting a new number this season (6) - and Chris Butler will be expected to anchor this Flames squad tonight. Brett Kulak and Kris Russell make up the second pairing while Keegan Kanzig and Derek Smith are in the 5-6 spot.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: Starting in goal for the Flames tonight will be Karri Ramo. Ramo spent the last four seasons playing in the KHL and put up some very impressive numbers with goals-against averages of 2.11, 1.97, 1.96 and 2.00 as well as save percentages of .913, .925, .925 and .929. Swiss netminder Reto Berra is the backup.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Hanowski scored 17 goals and had 31 points in 37 games last season with the St. Cloud Huskies (WCHA) before joining the Flames at the end of the season. In five games in Calgary, Hanowski had one goal. He will be among the many players with a shot at cracking this team's roster and will get a chance to showcase his skills tonight on the second line.
Markus Granlund had an outstanding rookie tournament in Penticton with three goals and four points, including a pair of markers against the Oilers rookies.