With a different roster, a new head coach and a new season ready to kick start tonight, against the Winnipeg Jets, there may be a lot of nervous energy in the Oilers dressing room. For the players who will be suiting up in their first regular season game as a member of the organization, it's all about keeping the emotions in check.
"I'm hoping to keep my emotions behind me," said forward Jesse Joensuu who signed with the Oilers this off-season. "Obviously, you need some emotion on the ice. When you step on the ice and have your first shift, you have enough emotion. I am just trying to focus on the game and not on what's going on. But it's amazing that I was first signed with the Oilers and now playing with them. It's cool, it's awesome and everything I've dreamed about but I'm just going to focus on the game."
Nervous energy can be a good thing though if it's used to your advantage. Sometimes the coach will embrace those emotions, not extinguish them.
"Well it depends if it needs to be calmed," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "Sometimes it's good to get that energy going and working in our favour then we'll want to ramp it up even more. If it's working against us then that's when you have to calm it. But this is an exciting game day for the players even for the guys that have been around. If you're a kid like Will Acton who is getting ready to play his first NHL game or a guy like Ryan Smyth or Andrew Ference who who've been doing this for a long time, it's an exciting day to get the season started to see how you're own team is going to fare and then you start looking at those teams in your conference and how did they do last night. It's on now."
Joensuu, Luke Gazdic, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Will Acton, David Perron and Anton Belov are all skating in their first games as an Oiler while centre Mark Arcobello will play in his first home opener and only his second NHL game.
"I am expecting it to be crazy in here," said Arcobello. "It's a great fan base and I am excited to see what they've got tonight."
The Oilers claimed winger Luke Gazdic off of waivers from the Dallas Stars this week. Gazdic figures to slot in with Will Acton and Mike Brown, giving the team a boost in size and physicality. Gazdic is ready to step up to the challenge after a roller coaster week.
"This is unbelievable," said the Oilers new forward. "It's been a whirlwind couple of days here but I couldn't be more excited about tonight."
Gazdic is ready to show Oilers fans that he is prepared to play a consistent two-way game to pair with his willingness to scrap if called upon.
"They're going to like it. I think it's just a rugged type of player. I'm going to work every shift, every night and I'll scrap, I'll hit and occasionally if I can chip in on the score sheet every once in a while that's nice but I'm just here to work as hard as I can and stick up for my teammates in any situation and on all areas of the ice."
OILERS READY FOR PHYSICAL JETS
Edmonton fully expects the Winnipeg Jets to come out and take the physical play right to them so they are prepared to battle on all areas of the ice tonight and dish it right back.
"They're a big, physical team," said Jesse Joensuu. "Personally, I expect a lot of battles with their defence and trying to win pucks. They're a physical team and hard to play against. I am not expecting anything less than a tough game tonight."
In the NHL, physical and tough match ups are no new thing to any players on the ice including those with limited experience in this league.
"A lot of teams in the league have big and strong guys," said forward Mark Arcobello. "It's no different. I've played against some pretty big guys my whole career. I am ready, excited and I'm just going to stick to my strengths."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
JETS (0-0-0) at OILERS (0-0-0)
Season series: The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers didn't meet during the 2012-13 season because the Jets were still part of the Eastern Conference and there was no cross-conference play in the abbreviated 48-game campaign. Their last matchup dates all the way back to Feb. 27, 2012, when a four-goal third period rallied the Oilers to a 5-3 win at MTS Centre. Taylor Hall had the game-winner.
Big story: The Jets were reborn in Winnipeg two seasons ago, and now they're officially back where they belong in the Western Conference, part of the new Central Division. The Oilers, meanwhile, have shifted over to the Pacific and hope the time is now for an impressive collection of young talent to take the next step toward a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs under first-year coach Dallas Eakins.
Jets: Like its opponent to open the season, Winnipeg is looking to end a postseason drought. The Jets have missed the playoffs each of their first two seasons since relocating from Atlanta, and the franchise as a whole has made it there just once in 13 seasons.
The preseason returns weren't very promising, as the team won once in eight games. However, a couple important pieces in the team's future acquitted themselves well. Rookies Mark Scheifele, a forward who has 11 games of NHL experience over the past two seasons, and Jacob Trouba, a defenceman and the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, are expected to play key roles going forward.
"I have to say that I have liked both," coach Claude Noel told the Winnipeg Free Press. "They bring some good things to our group and they certainly look like they can play here."
Oilers: Although banged up in some areas, Edmonton made it through the preseason winning five of seven games before getting blanked 4-0 by the Dallas Stars in Friday's finale.
Among the key offseason acquisitions for the Oilers were forward David Perron, who came over from the St. Louis Blues in a trade for Magnus Paajarvi, and defenceman Andrew Ference, signed as a free agent. Ference, a 13-year veteran who won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the Boston Bruins, was named the team's new captain on Saturday.
"Andrew is everything you look for in a captain," Eakins said. "You start rattling off words like, compete, honest, commitment, a guy that can communicate. Everything you talk about a leader, that's what this young man is. The biggest thing for me, is his ability to unite this organization. He's the most important person in this organization."
Injury report: Winnipeg defenceman Dustin Byfuglien left Friday's final preseason game against the Boston Bruins with an apparent leg injury, but is probable. Defenceman Zach Bogosian (undisclosed) is practicing and expected to be in the lineup. … Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) is still recovering from offseason surgery and likely out until November. Forwards Sam Gagner (jaw) and Steve McIntyre (knee) and defenceman Corey Potter (back) are on injured reserve. Perron (illness) and defenceman Denis Grebeshkov (groin) are day-to-day.