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PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Jets

Edmonton continues its pre-season schedule as the Winnipeg Jets visit Rogers Place

by Chris Wescott & Marc Ciampa / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers play their seventh of eight exhibition games tonight against the Winnipeg Jets. 

We'll be adding notes, quotes, lineup information, videos and more throughout the day so make sure you check back regularly. 

INSIDE THE OILERS

Coverage of Wednesday's announcement of the team captains for the 2016-17 season, including Connor McDavid as captain and Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as alternates.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

MORNING SKATE REPORT

Oilers projected lineup for the game:

Forward Lines:

Lucic-McDavid-Eberle
Pouliot-Draisaitl-Puljujarvi
Maroon-Caggiula-Yakupov
Pitlick-Letestu-Kassian

Defencemen:

Klefbom-Larsson
Sekera-Benning
Reinhart-Gryba

Goaltenders:

Jonas Gustavsson starts in goal 

Jets projected lineup for the game:

Forwards:

Joel Armia
Alexander Burmistrov
Kyle Connor
Andrew Copp
Chase De Leo
Patrik Laine
Bryan Little
Adam Lowry
Anthony Peluso
Mathieu Perreault
Brandon Tanev
Chris Thorburn

Defence:

Dustin Byfuglien
Ben Chiarot
Josh Morrissey
Tyler Myers
Paul Postma
Mark Stuart

Goaltenders:

Connor Hellebuyck
Michael Hutchinson

Hellebuyck will get the start in goal.

EDMONTON - "If you're here with the team right now, you're in the mix to make it."

Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan and his staff are closing in on their final roster heading into the season, with just two exhibition games remaining. The first of the two is tonight against the Winnipeg Jets.

As a result of getting down to the wire, the Oilers roster is more of an NHL unit than previous lineups. There are, however, still camp battles in full swing.

"I don't think we're prepared to hand out any charitable type games or shifts or anything like that," said McLellan. "We are down to the nitty gritty. If you're still in camp, you have an opportunity to play on this hockey team. For me, camp never really ends though. You've got to keep your spot and you've got to keep it forever. Changes can be made after game one, game two, game three and throughout the year."

With players on the bubble and others surprising, Edmonton pushes forward with their roster evaluations tonight.

PITLICK'S PUNCH

Tyler Pitlick is a bully. Not in the literal sense, but he has been playing with that kind of impact all training camp and pre-season.

"He's played like a bully night in and night out, along the boards and in and around the blue paint," said McLellan. "He provides a ton of energy right now for our team, which we lost a lot of due to injuries from (Iiro) Pakarinen and Matty Hendricks. One player or two players' discomfort or misery, I guess, is somebody else's gain right now. And Pitlick has done a real good job of capturing that and we hope he can continue and have an impact."

Pitlick, taken 31st overall in 2010, is not satisfied with his normal up-and-down seasons in which he logs more time in the American Hockey League than the NHL. The winger has also battled numerous injuries, making it difficult to find consistency in the lineup.

"I was recovering from injuries a lot and it's tough," Pitlick said. "It's tough to come back from injuries and try and train and get stronger. I was fortunate to recover from my ankle injury real quick this summer and be able to train all summer hard. I trained extra hard this year. I was sick of doing the up and down. I'm trying to stay."

Pitlick has drawn much praise from the staff for his off-season and his attitude coming into camp.

"It's nice to see somebody take charge of his own game and have that responsibility and have an impact," said McLellan. "There's others that, not only here in Edmonton but throughout the league, get to that six or seven-year point and maybe don't believe it will ever happen for them. Pitlick is a prime example of keep your nose to the grindstone and good things can happen. We still have decisions to make going forward, but he's had a good camp."

Pitlick is trying to show, with every chance he gets this pre-season, that he can bring physical play and energy every shift, every night.

"I've felt good," he said. "I think I've still got more but I feel I've been pretty consistent with being physical with my skating and all that stuff. I think that's a big part of my game I needed to improve on: my consistency. It's good for me to show that."

Tonight, Pitlick is playing with Mark Letestu and Zack Kassian. It's another chance to make the club. There's an opening for his skill set, with Pakarinen and Hendricks dealing with ailments.

BENNING'S CHANCE

Matthew Benning was signed this off-season, and the 22-year-old defenceman is still in Edmonton. That's a good sign for a player trying to earn a spot right away. He's making the jump from college, having played last season at Northeastern University.

"I see somebody that isn't intimidated at all by his environment, whether it's with his own teammates - sometimes young players get intimidated - or from the opposition," said McLellan. "He feels comfortable going out and playing in any situation. He's not the biggest defenceman, but he's got a battle level that's exceptionally high. And we feel he's getting more and more confident every game he plays."

Benning being in the lineup tonight is another opportunity to impress this coaching staff. He's not trying to put the pressure on himself, but he understands the importance of this game.

"I just think I need to just go out there and play my game, skate well and make good decisions with the puck and defend well," said Benning. "I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but it's crunch time. There (are) spots to be won."

-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com

PREVIEW

OILERS (4-2-0) vs. JETS (4-1-0)

TV: 7 p.m. MT; Televised on NHL Centre Ice & Gamecentre Live

Oilers team scope: After not playing on Tuesday against Anaheim, there's a good chance that the line of Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle will suit up tonight. The trio looked dangerous on Sunday in Vernon against the Kings. ... After getting injured last Wednesday in Vancouver, Patrick Maroon returned to the lineup this past Tuesday and had a goal and an assist as he picked up where he left off with strong pre-season play. Maroon is tied with Oscar Klefbom and Anton Slepyshev for the team lead in points so far this pre-season with three.   

Jets team scope: Through five pre-season games, the Jets have done very well with four wins and one loss. They also have 17 goals for and seven goals against. These two teams met last Friday with Winnipeg prevailing 5-1. ... Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler each lead the way for the Jets with five points through two games but neither player is likely to make the trip to Edmonton tonight. ... Dustin Byfuglien has three assists in two games so far this pre-season. 

-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com

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