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Principe's Blog: Line Them Up

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall has been skating with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky.

It may be the most exciting part when it comes to the beginning of training camp. Apart from the fact the Oilers are back on the ice one of the first things people want to know is who is playing with whom? I know it's just the start of things but I can't say my interest wasn't at a high level to see what the line combinations were to kick off the 2011-12 season.

With Oilers training sessions broken into three different groups it's kind of like Edmonton has three number one lines. Taylor Hall with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the middle of another Ryan named Smyth and Jordan Eberle. Then a couple of Swedes in Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark with Shawn Horcoff. Seeing those combinations makes you wonder if they are close to being the actual lines or just a way to start. Might be a case of a little of both.

Taylor Hall is your number one left winger and Ales Hemsky is your number one right winger but is Sam Gagner your number one centreman? I say quite possibly he is. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when he makes this team won't be quite ready for #1 status at centre. Shawn Horcoff has been #1 in the middle but it might be time to give Gagner a good long look at what he can do with this prime position. If that commitment is there then he could ask for no more help than to have Hall and Hemsky to his left and right to prove that the 2007 first rounder can do it and do it now.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Now I said when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins makes the team and I think he'll make it this year but that's a blog for a later date when it's official. He would need someone with a great work ethic, has experience and knows a word or two that could be passed on as encouragement at the right time and place. Sounds like Ryan Smyth would be that guy great mentor who could do so immediately by working on the same line with Nugent-Hopkins. Having Jordan Eberle is an added bonus because he plays the game well at both ends of the ice. He may still be a kid but is more mature than his birth certficate suggests and would be a great compliment to the line.

Finally it may seems a little strange to go with Shawn and the Swedes as another unit but I think the trio could work together. I'm expecting Magnus Paajarvi to really break out this year and show even more of his offensive upside. Linus Omark has shown he has a lot of the above but might be a little lacking when it comes to playing the other side of the puck. Voila in steps your best defensive forward and to this point your best faceoff man. The more Paajarvi and Omark have the puck the more I think it will lead to Horcoff showing his offensive side and moving him back into a point per game area.

This week Edmonton plays 5 pre-season games and it's where we'll find out how the lines are shaping up but this is a real good place to start. I leave you with a question if you were Tom Renney what would your lines be? Nice to be back writing and I'll be blogging on the Oilers website every Monday. Have a good week.
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