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Oilers players excited about 3-on-3

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
Oilers rookie Sam Gagner, pictured with Patrick Kane (left), participated in the three-on-three format during the Young Stars game in January.

Edmonton Oilers fans will get to see their favourite players in an unfamiliar setting during Saturday’s Edmonton Oilers Skills Competition powered by McDonald’s when the players face off in a three-on-three event.

Similar to the Young Stars game held during NHL All-Star Weekend, the event will have two six-minute periods of straight time when team blue and team white will engage in anything goes, fire wagon hockey.

There will be no whistles and only two faceoffs – one to start each half. Fans will get to see some old fashioned pond hockey.

"I just open the gate and say, 'go get 'em boys," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish on what his coaching strategy might be in such a game. "There's a lot of ice out there so it's going to be pretty exciting."

One of the Oilers, Sam Gagner, has experience playing in this type of three-on-three game. He represented the Oilers at the Young Stars game in January.

"There's a lot more room out there so you can be a little bit more creative, do some things with the puck," Gagner remarked.

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The 18-year-old rookie scored a goal in the Young Stars game. Although the coaches on the Western Conference side regularly opted to play him with two defencemen, Gagner had a different strategy in mind.

"I'd say three forwards,” he said. “Our goalies are good enough that you can give them the odd breakaway but I'm not sure they can stop 3-on-0's. If we have three forwards I think we'll come out on top."

Of all the events which will be held on Saturday – most accurate shooter, hardest shot, puck control, fastest skater and king of the shootout – it was this event that got the most enthusiastic responses from the dressing room.

"If you and I are on the same team, we're going to win for sure," laughed Brodziak when speaking with teammate Robert Nilsson.

Nilsson concurred, also agreeing with Gagner’s sentiment that three forwards is the way to go.

"We're going to have the puck all the time. We don't need any dmen."

The event will be held right at the end of the competition, following the King of the Shootout. Nilsson remarked that it might be a better indicator of who is the best at breakaways than its preceding event.

"That's how you're going to know who will be the best shootout guy. There will be breakaways all the time," stated Nilsson.

The thought of having breakaways all the time wasn’t quite as appealing to goaltender Mathieu Garon.

"I just don't want to look too bad,” Garon remarked. “I think it's tough for goalies, three-on-threes. There are going to be a lot of two-on-ones and two-on-ohs.”

Speed will certainly be an advantage with so much wide open ice. That gives players such as Geoff Sanderson an advantage.

"It's going to be wide open. There will be a lot of goals I'm sure and probably not much defence. I'm sure the goalies will be involved, moving the puck," said Sanderson. "3-on-3 you don't see that too often in games so it'll be interesting to see how it goes."

Matt Greene and Marty Reasoner didn’t quite embrace the wide-open concept.

"That's a lot of skating," said Greene.

"I might be sick that day," cracked Reasoner.

But after thinking about it, Reasoner started to devise a strategy for the game.

"Everybody would look past us. They couldn't handle our work ethic. We'd just play defence the whole time, blocking shots, slashing. We'd take at least one or two of them out then it would be 3-on-1 and we'd win."

Greene wasn’t quite as convinced.

"I think in three-on-three, skill does overcome will, bud. I think if they put together a decent team we'd be toast."

Reasoner was quick to remind Greene about his previous personal success in the format.

"Although I am the reigning 3-on-3 champion from the tournament we had at the beginning of the year – but they still haven't paid me for it."
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