The Oilers will play the Chicago Blackhawks on the road at the Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on Sunday for a neutral site pre-season game. Here are some of the story lines from Saturday’s pre-game skate.
THE BACHMAN RISES
Richard Bachman spent the majority of last season as the workhorse goaltender for the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League. He played 52 games for the Oilers affiliate, recording a 2.99 GAA and a .908 save percentage to go along with his 26-19-6 record.
When called upon to play his first game with the Oilers on October 27, 2013, Bachman made 47 saves in a spectacular performance against the Los Angeles Kings. He slots in as the Oilers third goaltender, which Head Coach Dallas Eakins says is a very important role.
“Where he fits in right now is he is our number three guy, and that guy is a very important player in your organization,” Eakins said. “If an injury comes up or you have somebody with substandard play, you need to go to somebody who has experience to come in and play well for you. I thought last year he played incredible in that game and it was really too bad that he got hurt because we were interested in how far he could run with it. And he never got a chance to show that. Richard is going to get the full game in Saskatoon and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
With Bachman getting the start against Chicago, the goalie is looking to make the most of his opportunity.
“Anytime you get a chance to play in a pre-season game and anytime at camp you get a chance to play you want to take advantage of it,” Bachman said. “You want to get into a rhythm and get a good feeling going into the regular season. The opportunity is great and from the standpoint of getting ready for the season, it’s another great thing.”
Kale Kessy usually plays a fourth-line winger role. The Oilers prospect has had a good enough start to training camp and pre-season, which has led to a different opportunity for the 21-year-old.
Kessy will play on a line with Mark Arcobello and Teddy Purcell on Sunday against Chicago.
“Well he’s played pretty well and it’s a reward for the kid,” Eakins said. “This kid dedicated himself this summer. He spent the summer here, he worked out extremely hard and it has really paid off with his skating. He’s a different player on the ice and he’s surprised us. It’s a great surprise, you love those ones, and I think it’s important to reward those guys who put in the work. He gets to go with Arco, who is a good player. Teddy is a very established NHL player. We want Kessy to go up and down his wing, play hard, use his speed, he can kill penalties as well, but he gets a chance to play with a different skill set of player. It’s his reward for how he’s played and the work he’s done this summer.”
Jordan Oesterle is another young player making an impression at training camp. The former Western Michigan University defenceman from Dearborn Heights, MI knows the Oilers brass is watching him, and that it will be no different on Sunday when he suits up against Chicago.
“Just like how I go in with the mindset every practice,” Oesterle said. “Everyone is watching every practice so I can’t come to practice and take the day off, I have to come in every day. It’s just like it was today in practice. I have to come in strong tomorrow night.”
Oesterle has his sights set on competing for a spot with the Oilers, but if he should get sent down it will be to Oklahoma City, where he played four games last season.
“My goal has always been like that. I’ve always had the highest goals, then try to achieve them. I try not to fall off of them, but if I do it wouldn’t be too far down in Oklahoma. My goal is to come in here and make the best opportunity I can to make the team and if not I will just go down to Oklahoma and push for a call up.”
Projected Forward Lines:
Perron-Draisaitl-Yakupov Pakarinen-Lander-Eberle Kessy-Arcobello-Purcell C. Hamilton-Williams-Joensuu
Ference-Simpson Marincin-Gernat Oesterle-Schultz
UP FRONT: Once again, the Oilers will suit up the third-overall pick in this year’s draft, Leon Draisaitl. He will centre a line with David Perron and Nail Yakupov. Kale Kessy gets a small promotion as the traditional fourth-line winger will play on a line with Mark Arcobello and Teddy Purcell. Jordan Eberle will man the right wing on a line with Anton Lander and Iiro Pakarinen, while Curtis Hamilton, Jason Williams and Jesse Joensuu round out the forward group.
ON THE BLUE LINE: Captain Andrew Ference will be paired with the rookie out of the University of North Dakota, Dillon Simpson. The two Martins from Slovakia, Martin Gernat and Martin Marincin, will skate together, while Jordan Oesterle and Justin Schultz are the last of the defensive pairings.
BETWEEN THE PIPES: Richard Bachman and Laurent Brossoit are the two goaltenders heading to Saskatoon.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Jordan Oesterle has has a good camp so far with the Oilers. He has shown his speed and an ability to distribute the puck. Oesterle played three seasons at Western Michigan University. Last season he posted 17 points (2-15-27) in 34 games. On Sunday, he will be paired with Justin Schultz, who leads all Oilers in points this pre-season with three (2-1-3) in two games.