Forwards Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian will make their debuts tonight when the Oilers host their provincial rivals the Calgary Flames at Rogers Place for their fourth pre-season tune-up.
"I'm just going to go out and play my game," Kassian said. "I'm going to be physical, hound pucks, I'm going to be good down low. No matter who I'm playing with, that's what I have to do to be successful on a night-to-night basis, and it starts tonight."
It's been a longer wait for the forward pair to re-enter the lineup, with early opportunities being handed to players fighting for more opportunities, but they feel the circumstances for themselves are no different.
"It's a unique year," Kassian continued. "You have new staff, new management, so you've got to be going early. You can't really ease into it; you have to be good right away because there are fresh eyes watching and evaluating you."
Winger Joakim Nygard rounds out what will serve as the Oilers top line tonight after appearing in the club's 6-1 routing by the Vancouver Canucks 24 hours ago, with PTO signee Anton Burdasov set to occupy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' left wing on a line with Sam Gagner in his first crack at earning a spot in an Oilers uniform.
The club's Main Camp roster was reduced to 33 players (three goaltenders, 11 defencemen and 19 forwards) Friday morning, signalling the switch to the business end of pre-season for Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett.
The bench boss will give Burdasov a run out tonight in hopes of seeing a spark from the Russian that'll help his chances of progressing towards earning a contract as the club's only professional tryout in Camp.
"I've watched enough film to get a sense of what he does," Tippett said. "The biggest thing is if can he get up and going in a smaller rink with how fast-paced it is. I've watched him score a lot of goals over there. He can shoot the puck, he's got an unbelievable wrist shot, but we've got to figure out where he's at right now or soon because we have to get our team together."
At this point of pre-season, Tippett is beginning to put the pieces in place for his opening-night lineup on October 2.
"We can't be wishy-washy on people - we've got to get our team together so we've got to get him in tonight."
MAKING THE CUTS
The player count at Oilers Main Camp is down to 33.
The Oilers placed four players on waivers Friday morning for purpose of assignment to Bakersfield, with a further nine - including left-wing Tyler Benson, centres Cooper Marody and Ryan McLeod, and defenceman Caleb Jones - being assigned outright to the AHL.
Jones has versatility as a defenceman capable of operating on both sides, but names like William Lagesson, Joel Persson, Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard have been standout options on the back end for the bench boss up to this midway point of Main Camp.
Tippett had wanted to see both Marody and Benson establish themselves in Rookie Camp before earning their places in pre-season, but identifies both as being close to completing the jump to the NHL after another season of playing night in, night out as offensive leaders for the Condors.
"There's a couple of guys that could've still been here, and there's a couple of guys that have to get down there and playing," Tippett said. "(Ken Holland) said this a lot before - the young guys are going to play. They're not going to sit around; they're going to play. That's part of the reason."
The aforementioned Bouchard says it's a bittersweet feeling watching friends and teammates exit camp, but also mentioned the personal positive of getting closer to the finish line.
"You never like to see your friends go, but it's an opportunity for myself to show what I can do and I'm happy to be here,"
The 19-year-old blueliner had a leg up on many of his counterparts from his experience of attending Camp last season, along with the added bonus of appearing in seven NHL regular-season games and scoring his first NHL goal before returning to the OHL to dominate and continuing a successful season in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
"A year ago, I didn't know what to expect," he continued. "You're going into it blindly with no idea what's going to happen when cuts are made. Here you have a better idea of what to expect, what they want to see on the ice, how to act around the room and stuff like that. So I think it's a huge advantage for me getting to go through this again."
Mikko Koskinen will start his second game in as many nights tonight after giving up four goals on 23 shots in 40 minutes of action last night.