EDMONTON, AB - Todd McLellan and the Oilers coaching staff combined players from both Group A and B, as they said they would, to make up tonight’s roster against Winnipeg.
The line of Connor McDavid, Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell will not play tonight. Instead, Benoit Pouliot, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle will man the Oilers top line. The grind line of Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks stays intact as well. The fourth line will consist of the Russian duo of Anton Slepyshev and Bogdan Yakimov. Sherwood Park native Braden Christoffer draws in on the right side.
The intriguing line of Anton Lander, Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov gets even more intriguing with the three forwards likely to switch up positions a bit.
“We may move them around positionally,” said McLellan. “I think I mentioned yesterday that Leon will play a little bit of centre, but as the night goes on you could see him on the right side, Yak on the left. We continue to try and create some chemistry with those three. We’ll see as we go.”
Cam Talbot starts in net tonight for the Oilers and is expected to play the full game. McLellan says the plan is to give both Anders Nilsson and Ben Scrivens their own full games later this week when the team plays in Winnipeg and Saskatoon (vs. Minnesota).
Darnell Nurse is locked in one of the more interesting camp battles for the Oilers. Both he and Griffin Reinhart are competing to begin the year in Edmonton. Both are young defenders taken high in the first round of their respective drafts.
Tonight, they will both suit up for the Oilers against the Jets. Reinhart will be partnered with Eric Gryba and Nurse will play with Jordan Oesterle.
With Reinhart playing with an experienced NHL defenceman like Gryba, some might read into that and assume Nurse is behind in the race. However, McLellan says that’s not the case.
The Oilers coach says he can’t tell right now if one is ahead of the other. It’s far too early and Nurse gets a shot to move up the pecking order of defensive partners tonight with a good impression. Reinhart could also help his stock with a good showing. Both played well in Calgary in their split-squad game against the Flames.
“The great thing about both of those players is they’re young and they’re both willing to do what it takes to play, but they provide different ingredients. They’re not the same player,” said McLellan. “I think Darnell has an edge to him, a physicality to him that Griffin might not quite have and then vice versa. Maybe the puck skills are in Griffin’s favour. I don’t know that for sure, but that’s what we want to find out.”
3-ON-3 TEST DRIVE
Regardless of the score at the end of regulation tonight, the Oilers and the Jets will take part in a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period. McLellan says the team has prepped for this situation by leaning on their AHL coaches, considering their experience with it last year.
“We have spent time as a staff, we’ve been together since September 1st, with Gerry Fleming and his staff from the American League, who have played in this environment before, who have had a ton of success. They were one of the top teams 3-on-3 in the American League last year,” said McLellan. “We have watched their games and their situations, both positively when they score and win, and negatively when they give something up.”
In Oklahoma City last year, the Barons often times deployed a three-forward format in 3-on-3 situations. Asked if the Oilers would try that, McLellan says “depends who we’re playing against.”
OKC was 7-1 in games decided by 3-on-3 overtime last season.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (2-0-0) at JETS (0-0-1)
TV: Streamed live on edmontonoilers.com within the Oilers region (Alberta/Saskatchewan/NWT); TSN3 in Manitoba only
The Oilers are 2-0-0 in pre-season play following a sweep of the Calgary Flames in split-squad action on Monday night. In Calgary, the Oilers used a third-period goal by Benoit Pouliot and good goaltending to beat the Flames 3-1. In Edmonton, the Oilers trailed 2-1 after 40 minutes. However, goals by Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Nail Yakupov in the third helped them rally to a 4-2 victory.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan was pleased with the third-period response by the home team in Edmonton.
“It’s a split-squad game, on September 21st. That was a big period for us. It’s amazing. I don’t know if I would have said that in Detroit or San Jose, but for our group right here, that was a big period for us,” said McLellan. “Organizationally, to compete through adversity and push the game a little bit further and find a way to claw back in was a big period for us. I don’t care if that’s played in June or September, what we’re in, those are big moments for our team right now. The excitement of playing there and the want and the will to go get it done is something that we need.”
Four different Oilers players scored goals in Edmonton. 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid recorded two assists and was named first star of the game. Yakupov also had two points, a goal and an assist. Tyler Pitlick was +3. Andrej Sekera led all Oilers in ice time with 25:11.
In Calgary, the goaltenders led the way for Edmonton. Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson are two of the three netminders battling for the two roster spots with the Oilers. Scrivens stopped 12 of 13 shots he faced in 29:07 of action. Nilsson stopped all 17 shots in his 30:49, and made a couple huge saves including one on a breakaway and then a penalty shot.
The grind line of Lauri Korpikoski, Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks played well and netted a timely goal, 48 seconds after Calgary opened scoring. Letestu kept hacking at the loose puck until he scored his greasy goal. McLellan liked the way that line played all night after watching the film Tuesday morning.
“The Letestu line looked like they really played well, and they should,” said McLellan. “They’re veteran players that play a real honest game. There’s not a lot of cheat with Korpikoski, Hendricks and Letestu. They scored a goal that was a really gritty, hungry goal in and around the blue paint. They were responsible defensively, they did a good job penalty killing so those were signs that we expected to see and we saw. That’s a real good thing for those three.”
Edmonton has a few camp battles going on, with Draisaitl in the mix and a few young defencemen looking to make good impressions on the brass. Should they play, Darnell Nurse and Griffin Reinhart will be players to watch as they look to earn a spot on the Oilers blueline. Who plays in net is also intriguing as Nilsson, Scrivens and Talbot continue to battle between the pipes. The Oilers will also look to continued the chemistry being developed amongst their forward lines, depending who plays up front.
The Oilers now turn their sights to the visiting Winnipeg Jets. The lineups will become clearer once the two teams take the ice for morning skate.
The Jets lost in overtime to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday 1-0. Ondrej Pavelec made all 19 saves in 40 minutes played for the Jets. Connor Hellebuyck made six of seven saves. Matt Dumba scored at 4:12 of the overtime period to lift the Wild to the win.
The Oilers could face Michael Hutchinson and/or 2013 second-round pick Eric Comrie in net, after Pavelec got the start and Hellebuyck finished the game on Tuesday. Stay tuned for more updates on Wednesday morning, shortly after the Oilers skate.