Oilers visit Winnipeg for their fourth tilt of the pre-season. The game will be streamed live in the Oilers region on EdmontonOilers.com
Meg Tilley and Marc Ciampa
The Oilers continue their pre-season with a game in Winnipeg against the Jets. It can be seen live on EdmontonOilers.com starting at 6:00 PM MDT. The game can only be seen within the Oilers market (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories).
Check below for our complete game preview, which will be updated throughout the morning with lineup updates as well as our Morning Skate Report.
You can watch tonight's game live starting at 6:00 PM MDT on EdmontonOilers.com inside the Oilers region.
INSIDE THE OILERS
In additon to coverage of the return to camp of Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the World Cup, we also talked to Gary Bettman and Wayne Gretzky in Toronto as the NHL kicked off its Centennial celebrations.
EDMONTON, AB - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be playing in his first game of the pre-season since returning from the 2016 World Cup of Hockey as the Oilers continue their exhibition schedule in Winnipeg tonight.
"I'm definitely feeling pretty good," he said. "I think the six games [played during the tournament] should help me coming into this one. [I've had] about a week off now of games, hopefully I can jump right back into it. Physically I'm feeling good, hopefully, mentally my game is still going."
Having joined camp for the first time on Tuesday after his impressive showing with Team North America, Nugent-Hopkins will test the waters with a new teammate that will be manning his right wing tonight: Jesse Puljujarvi.
"He's looking good," said Nugent-Hopkins on the impressions he's gotten of the young Finnish forward.
"He's a big kid, he creates a lot of space. I've got to try and find a way to get him the puck in a good spot for him to score because he can definitely let it loose."
Though he'll have a newcomer on his right, RNH will get the luxury of a familiar linemate on his left in Benoit Pouliot.
Despite Puljujarvi's limited English language skills, Pouliot said he and Nugent-Hopkins aren't concerned with getting any messaging across to their new linemate.
"I've been playing with Jesse all camp and he's got the skill, he's got the speed, he knows he's got the hockey sense," he said.
"We're not talking long sentences but just a few sentences here and there, we're on the same page and so far so good. He's still young… he's going to learn, once he gets to stay in North America a little longer I think he'll be good to go."
Having sat out of the first two Jets exhibition games after Team Finland was eliminated from the World Cup, Winnipeg forward Patrik Laine will be in the lineup for tonight's game.
With Puljujarvi in the Oilers lineup, it will be the first time the Finnish players will face-off against each other on North American soil.
Although there is a familiarity between the two 2016 draft picks - having been teammates and roommates when they played for Team Finland at the World Juniors, returning back to being opponents in the Finnish hockey league after their Gold Medal win - Puljujarvi isn't concerned about the matchup.
"[I've played] many times with Laine, [but] it doesn't matter who is there," he said.
TESTING THE WATERS
Though the pre-season is designed to help get teams back into game shape and prep them for the upcoming campaign, it is also designed to get a better look at prospects and fine-tune forward lines and defensive pairings.
With a battle waiting to unfold between the Jets and the Oilers, Edmonton's Head Coach Todd McLellan said he's looking forward to seeing what many of the young prospects in the lineup will be able to produce tonight.
"I want to see [Drake] Caggiula, [Anton] Slepyshev and [Jujhar] Khaira and those type of players play a lot," he said. "We want to see them a lot right now so that we can see what type of graduation or advancement they've made from last year."
It will be Caggiula, Slepyshev and Khaira's third game of the pre-season, having impressed upon the coaching staff their determination to crack the Oilers roster after main camp, while also reflecting how hard they worked over the summer to continue with the pre-season momentum.
Aside from the eye-catching performances the prospects have been producing, there have been a lot of questions surrounding the Oilers blueline composition, which McLellan candidly pointed out is a feeling-out process they are addressing throughout the pre-season.
"We believe visually it [looks good]," he said.
"Healthy [Oscar] Klefbom, adding [Adam] Larsson, having [Darnell] Nurse grow as a player last year, [Brandon Davidson] being a year older and more experienced. All of those external factors add up and says 'Yes it is.' But until we play… we talked about speed the other night in Vancouver, the speed comes from the puck, we can have our guys skate a million-miles-an-hour, but if our passing and our receiving aren't good it's going to slow us down."
At the end of the day, it's a team effort that has to see the defence support the offence and vice-versa.
"A lot of times [the defencemen are] the quarterbacks throwing the pucks out to the receivers (forwards) and you can't just pin it on the quarterbacks all the time, the receivers have to run the right routes, they have to hit the holes at the right time, they have to be able to handle a pass."
-- Meg Tilley, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (2-1-0) at JETS (1-1-0)
TV: 6 p.m. MT; EdmontonOilers.com
Oilers team scope: After winning their first two pre-season games, the Oilers dropped a 5-3 decision in Vancouver on Wednesday. Drake Caggiula led the way with a pair of goals. Cam Talbot didn't play on Wednesday so it's likely that he will get back at it tonight in Winnipeg. Talbot allowed two goals over 40 minutes of work on Monday at Rogers Place against the Flames. ... Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will likely make his Oilers season debut after joining camp on Tuesday after returning from the World Cup. Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson haven't played since Monday so they are both candidates to join the lineup tonight in Winnipeg.
Jets team scope: Tonight could be a chance to see some pre-season debuts of Jets players who were playing at the World Cup, including Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Patrick Laine. Kyle Connor might get another look after playing on Thursday against Minnesota and scoring a goal. Ondrej Pavelec hasn't started a pre-season game yet for Winnipeg.