AT THE MORNING SKATE Following yesterday’s practice at Prospera Place in Kelowna, the Oilers bussed to Penticton, settled in and prepared for the team’s upcoming clash with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Oilers’ game day routine began with an up-tempo morning skate at the nearby South Okanagan Events Centre, where all games will be played during the 2011 Young Stars Tournament.
OKC Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson and his crew ran lines yesterday, but made a few changes heading into tonight’s contest. 11 forwards and seven defenceman will dress tonight, constructing the following line combinations:
Hamilton - Nugent-Hopkins - Pelss
Cornet - Lander - Rieder
Czerwonka - Martindale - Tyrvainen
Smith - Abney
Marincin - Musil
Musil - Fedun
Gernat - Lowery
Olivier Roy will start in goal tonight. The 20-year-old netminder will be turning pro this season, and he wants to make sure that a strong impression is made prior to main camp.
“What I want one day is to play with the Oilers,” he said. “There's no doubt about that, I really want to be a part of that group. They've got a pretty young group coming up and they're going to be a great, great team really soon in the future and even next year.
“In hockey, you never know what happens so I'm going to take this year, do what I can do, and hopefully all the best will come to me.”
Roy had the opportunity to represent Team Canada at the 2011 World Junior Championship this past January. He struggled at times, posting a 3.57 goals-against average and .875 save-percentage in three games in which he amassed a 2-1 record.
“It was a great experience no matter what happened in the end,” he explained. “To play in an NHL rink was great, it was packed. Representing my country was a dream for me and having the chance to do that was awesome. We missed the gold by one period and that's never easy.”
In regards to tonight and facing the Canucks in another packed house in Penticton, Roy is calm and generally reserved, but quietly excited to do his thing and make a mark.
“I’m really looking forward to the game,” he said. “I’ve played in a couple before, but getting this opportunity is unique. It’s a big year for me and I need to show the organization that I’m there for them. I’ll start with tonight’s game.”
While eyes will surely by on the Oilers’ No. 1 overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins tonight, there’s certainly more to the story. On the team’s second line, Anton Lander will centre Philippe Cornet and Tobias Rieder in a secondary scoring role.
Judging by work late in today’s session, the trio will get an opportunity to shine on the power-play, to which Cornet described as “an exciting chance.”
“We’re doing really well,” he said of the line’s chemistry. “We’ve never played with each other before, but we’ve adapted so quick. Playing with such high-quality players like that helps, too. Hopefully we'll have some good chemistry tonight and score some goals.
“All three of us speak English, so we've done really well communicating. We're all pretty intelligent players, so we'll know where to be and how to find each other out there.”
Rieder agreed, adding that he was “surprised” to see how quick they’ve come together.
“I think the chemistry is really good,” he said. “I don't know why we've adapted so quick with each other. It was pretty surprising, but I think we're all good players and we're going to do well together.
“I'm going to try and bring good passes and quickness to the game. I think I'm a good offensive player; creating chances up-ice is going to be my key to success. We'll see what happens, I'll try to do my best out there tonight.”
The coaches pushed the pace this morning, but the players pushed right back–even harder. The energy inside the locker room is high and Coach Nelson and others are thrilled to see such enthusiasm this early in camp.
“I think there's going to be a lot of energy tonight from both teams,” he said. “You can tell by the morning skate that guys are really excited.
“They're eager to get things going and I expect a very high pace tonight from both teams. The guys are ready to go and we're going to have some fun tonight.”
Nelson also noted that it appeared to be a calming energy running through this year. Last season, nerves ran rampant, but the 2011 edition is a more veteran-laden squad, helping guide the team’s prized youth in a pressure-packed environment.
“We have some guys that have been here before, and I think that's played a calming presence for the new guys. I'm sure there are going to be a few nerves, but for the most part they seem very comfortable right now.”
Cornet is one of them, and he’s primed and ready to get things underway.
“It's going to be an aggressive game,” he said “Our game-plan will be to be as aggressive as possible. It's the first game for them and for us, so we're going to put pressure on them and capitalize on their mistakes. It should be fun.”
Tonight's game can be seen LIVE right here on edmontonoilers.com.
OILERS 7 - CANUCKS 2 The Oilers scored six second-period goals, including a pair by Anton Lander en route to a commanding 7-2 victory in the opening game of the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC.
In the win, Edmonton peppered Vancouver's David Honzik and Karel St. Laurent with 37 shots, while the Canucks could only manage 24 on Olivier Roy.
READ MORE >>
Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick