EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers take on the Calgary Flames in a split-squad pre-season game tonight. The Oilers heading to Calgary are very much in an evaluation mode, but don’t think that means they won’t be playing to win the game. The Head Coach for that unit, Todd Nelson, is looking to continue the strong pre-season his Oilers Rookies had at the Young Stars Tournament and against the University of Alberta.
“We want to see guys in different situations but also there’s a competitive side of us that wants to win the game,” Nelson said. “For the first 40 minutes we will see how things go with certain line combinations and guys in certain situations. If it’s a tight game coming down the stretch, we’re going to go with the guys we think can get the win. That’s the way we’re going to approach it, but we want to see what guys can do. There will be people up in the stands watching the players systematically but also watching the players try and put themselves in a position to make this club.”
As much as tonight’s game in Calgary is about getting a look at what the new Oilers veterans can do, there are young guys in the lineup looking to make an impression of their own.
Mitch Moroz, taken 32nd overall in 2012, sees this as an opportunity to make the most of his ice time.
“It’s huge,” he said. “There are a lot of guys up here so you know they are cutting numbers soon. Definitely make the most of it. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or you won’t go out there and play very well. Keep things simple and good things will happen.”
Moroz knows the key to him making a good impression is keeping his game simple.
“I’m playing with two bigger, stronger guys and we’re going to be asked to keep it simple, keep it disciplined in all areas of the ice and create some havoc down low. Maybe we can swing the momentum in our favour when we get put out there and just make it hard on the other team. For myself, I’m just trying to play a big game and trying to be a presence.”
Moroz is on a line with Jujhar Khaira and Chris Baltisberger.
For Mark Arcobello, this training camp and pre-season represent opportunity. The 26-year-old centre has worked his way up through the minors to earn an opportunity at an NHL roster spot with the Oilers. Last season, Arcobello scored 18 points (4-14-18) in 41 games with the Oilers. This off-season, Arcobello will be locked in a battle for a spot on the Oilers roster.
“It’s a little different than it has been in the past,” he said. “I think there is more opportunity this year, even so than last year. I’m approaching it the same way as last year, coming in and trying to prove myself.”
One of the centres Arcobello is competing with for a spot is Anton Lander, and the two of them will both suit up for the Oilers in Calgary tonight. Arcobello says the focus is on the Flames and not the internal competition.
“The real opponent is Calgary tonight. You’re going out there and competing against them as a team. I can only really control how I play and that’s all I’m worried about.”
The Calgary Flames will ice the following lineup at home against the Oilers.
Hiller Thiessen -- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
@ CGY PREVIEW
The Oilers take on the Calgary Flames in a split-squad pre-season game on Sunday night. The lineup traveling to Calgary will give the Oilers a preview of some of their new pieces acquired in the off-season, and a look at a few of the centres battling for a spot.
“We’re not going to come in and save the day but I think we’re going to add some good depth,” Oilers winger Teddy Purcell said on Friday, the day the team reported for camp.
Purcell, 29, was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning on June 29. Purcell is coming off of a 42-point season with the Lightning. He posted 24 goals (65 points) during the 2011-12 campaign. The Oilers are hoping he brings size and skill on the wing.
Purcell says he believes the newcomers can help bring more depth to a team that already boasts top-level offensive talent.
“Everyone knows this is a very tough conference and our opponents are all big-bodied guys that I think wear teams down pretty well. We have the skill to compete with those guys, where I think if we add the depth that we did and a bit of size that it will help us in the long run.”
The Oilers will also ice two of their main off-season acquisitions in Calgary on Sunday. Defencemen Nikita Nikitin and Mark Fayne will make their Oilers debuts.
Nikitin, 28, was also acquired in a trade back in June. The former Columbus Blue Jackets player is an established NHL defenceman. So is his defensive partner for Sunday night, Mark Fayne.
Fayne, 27, was signed by the Oilers to a four-year contract on the first day of free agency this summer. The former New Jersey Devil skated in 72 games last season, scoring 11 points (4-7-11). He describes himself as a defence-first player with a little bit of a physical edge when the game calls for it.
“Simple. I guess that is the best word,” Fayne said. “I try to keep the puck out of our own end as much as I can. When it is, just shut it down and get it up to the forwards. I help out whenever I can offensively but my main focus is to cover up the D end and join the rush.”
Nikitin and Fayne impressed Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins during Saturday morning’s scrimmage at training camp.
"Nikitin and Fayne were a good pair,” Eakins said. “We'll keep an eye and see how that goes."
In Calgary, the Oilers will be able to get some film on two of the centres in competition for roster spots. Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander are both making the trip to Calgary and will centre the top two lines.
Arcobello, 26, impressed the Oilers last season, scoring 18 points (4-14-18) in 41 games. It was his longest stint in the NHL, after playing just one game in the 2012-13 season. Upon his return to the American Hockey League, Arcobello was sure to make a good impression. Arcobello scored an outstanding 28 points (10-18-28) in just 15 games with the Oklahoma City Barons.
Lander had an excellent season in the AHL. He scored 52 points (18-34-52) in 46 games, while captaining an Oklahoma City Barons team which made the playoffs for the fourth-straight season. Lander is still trying to prove that he can be a full-time NHL player, after being selected in the second round (40th overall) in 2009. He had just one assist in 27 games with Edmonton last season.
Another Oilers centre prospect heading to Calgary for the game against the Flames is Jujhar Khaira. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound centre was drafted in the third round (63rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft.
The game can be seen on edmontonoilers.com or heard on fan960.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
@ EDM MORNING SKATE
EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers have some interesting lineup configurations as they kick off the pre-season at Rexall Place against the Calgary Flames.
One of the most interesting, is putting Greg Chase on the right side with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
"I've gotten a lot of opportunity and I'm thankful for that. I'm just hopeful I can take advantage of it," said Chase. "I had a really good summer with the Oilers strength and conditioning coach. We worked hard and it led into training camp. I had good fitness testing and now I get to play with those guys."
Chase was asked how he would approach playing with Hall and Nugent-Hopkins.
"At the start it'll be getting the jitters out the first couple of shifts but they'll do a good job settling me down there. They're both a couple of great guys."
Leon Draisaitl makes his debut on Rexall Place ice in an Oilers uniform this evening. He talked about his thoughts heading into the contest.
"(I'm a) little bit nervous but that's obviously normal. It's going to be more when it's game time," Draisaitl began. "It's not that I'm scared of anything. Nerves are pretty normal in that regard."
Draisaitl was asked if he felt it was an advantage that he's played here a number of times before, as a member of the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders against the Oil Kings.
"I don't think you can say it that way, that it's going to be easier for me. It's a new level and it's different hockey. I'm used to the ice so that might be a good thing."
Draisaitl will be lining up with Benoit Pouliot and David Perron. He talked about his linemates.
"For me, personally, I really like playing with those two guys. I'm more of a playmaker and those two guys get to the net and like to finish and like to score goals. So far, it's been really good."
CALGARY'S LINEUP The Flames will have a handful of veterans in their lineup tonight. They are going with:
Scrivens Bachman UP FRONT: The Oilers are going with a bit more seasoned lineup in Edmonton. An interesting trio is Greg Chase with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.. ON THE BLUELINE: Darnell Nurse is paired up with Justin Schultz. Keith Aulie makes his debut in an Oilers uniform, playing with Oscar Klefbom. BETWEEN THE PIPES: Ben Scrivens and Richard Bachman are the goaltenders staying in Edmonton. KEEP AN EYE ON: Vladimir Tkachev and Bogdan Yakimov both had outstanding rookie camps. They are skating on a line with Kevin Westgarth