SASKATOON, SK - Jordan Eberle grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, and played his WHL career with the Regina Pats. So you can bet that the Oilers right-winger is looking forward to playing tonight in Saskatoon in front of some familiar faces from a few hours down the road.
“I love coming back here,” said Eberle. “I have a lot of fond memories of Saskatoon. Obviously, the main one would be World Juniors and getting a chance to play here in front of family and friends. I’m obviously not from Saskatoon, I’m from Regina, but I’m going to have a lot of friends here tonight. They don’t get a chance to come up to Edmonton as much as they want to so they get a chance to see some good hockey tonight.”
Since they sat out on Friday night in Winnipeg, it’s safe to assume that Eberle will once again step onto the ice with his linemates, Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, for tonight’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Those three have played together all training camp and pre-season, as they look to build chemistry heading into the games that count in the standings. The trio played well together last season and Head Coach Todd McLellan has said in the past that he expects them to be an important line for the Oil, and one he has no doubts can gell.
“I think Nuge and I, we’ve played together a lot,” said Eberle. “I think we play similar games and we like to give and go with the puck and we like to try and beat teams with shiftiness and the way we think the game. I’ve said it before too, I think Pou is maybe one of the best forecheckers that I’ve played with. He’s so fast and good with his stick that he gets in on the forecheck and creates a lot turnovers and gives me and Nuge a lot of room and gives us the puck. It just seems to be a good fit. I think when you’re comfortable playing with guys it makes it easy, especially in training camp, to find your own game. You’re not worried about other aspects.”
While the Oilers have not released their lineup for tonight’s game, what we know is that Connor McDavid will play and Anders Nilsson will start in net. It’s likely to be a much different roster than the one that skated in Winnipeg last night. That group came back from down 3-0 to win 4-3 in overtime. That resiliency is becoming a theme of the pre-season. Eberle thinks that’s progress with the installation of McLellan’s concepts and messaging, as well as the team’s competitive fire.
“Every game it seems there’s more and more things that we’re learning that we’re trying to put into the game and you see it out there,” said Eberle. “As far as coming back, you want to win these games. I know it’s pre-season and there’s different guys and different lineups in every night, but we’re not going into these games to lose. Everyone is competitive and we want to win. It’s great to see guys coming from behind and the more we win, the better we will play, the more confidence we’ll get.”
The Wild’s projected lineup in Saskatoon is a younger one. Darcy Kuemper is expected to start the game for Minnesota and, like Eberle, he is from Saskatchewan. In fact, he is from Saskatoon.
The seventh-overall pick in the 2012 Draft, defenceman Mathew Dumba, is expected to be in the lineup, as well as fellow blueliner Marco Scandella.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (4-0-0) at WILD (2-1-0)
TV: Streamed live on edmontonoilers.com within the Oilers region (Alberta/Saskatchewan/NWT)
The Oilers look to push their pre-season record to 5-0-0 when they take on the Minnesota Wild in Saskatoon, SK on Saturday afternoon.
Edmonton proved feisty in their 4-3 overtime win over the Jets in Winnipeg on Friday night. Rob Klinkhammer scored the game-tying goal, shorthanded, at 16:33 of the third. That capped a three-goal rally for the blue and orange, after falling behind 3-0 in the second period.
Anton Slepyshev capped the comeback win with his one-timer in OT. Edmonton has two wins over Calgary and two against Winnipeg this pre-season.
The Oilers got that win without the help of 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid. The rookie centre is expected to return to the lineup in Saskatoon after being a healthy scratch in Winnipeg on Friday.
Ben Scrivens made 31 saves in the win against the Jets, and with that it is Anders Nilsson’s turn to get a full game between the pipes, according to Head Coach Todd McLellan on Friday morning. Nilsson made 17 saves on 17 shots in half a game against Calgary on Monday.
The Oilers will face a Minnesota Wild team that is 2-1-0 this pre-season. The Wild lost to Buffalo 3-2 on Monday, beat Winnipeg 1-0 in overtime on Tuesday and won 5-2 in Columbus on Thursday.
Stay tuned for more on the Oilers and Wild lineups closer to faceoff.