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Pittsburgh vs. Edmonton Preview

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins (6-4-2-14) vs. Edmonton Oilers (6-5-1-13)

Where: Mellon Arena
When: Thursday, November 6, 7 p.m.
Radio: WXDX Radio, FM 105.9
TV: FSN Pittsburgh, the game will be broadcast in HD, available on Armstrong 179, Atlantic Broadband 782, Citizen 737, Comcast 226/774, DISH 428 and DirecTV 659.
*View FSN's HD Broadcast Schedule here


Penalty Killed: Heading into Edmonton’s matchup with Columbus on Wednesday night, the Oilers had the worst ranked penalty-kill percentage in the NHL at a 73.5 clip. Edmonton yielded 13 goals in 49 opportunities. Pittsburgh has the seventh-ranked power play in the league, scoring 11 power-play goals on the season. The Penguins should add to that total on Thursday.

Speed Trap: The Oilers will utilize the trap to neutralize Pittsburgh’s speed. Edmonton should be a little winded from playing the night before. If the Penguins use their speed early, the Oilers will wear down as the game goes on.

Shelling Souray: Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray possesses one of the most powerful slap shots in the league and he’s not afraid to unleash it. The Penguins can’t give him open ice to pull the trigger, especially on the power play, or he’ll burn them.
Three years ago, the Edmonton Oilers were one victory away from hoisting the Stanley Cup. Now, they are in the midst of a youth movement. The team came up three-points shy of a postseason berth last season and will have to fight to qualify this season. Kevin Lowe made a number of offseason shakeups to get the team over the top before he handed the general manager duties to Steve Tambellini. Lowe was named president of hockey operations but will still have a say in the rosters makeup.

Streaking is the only way to describe the Oilers start of the current season. Edmonton won its first four games, lost its next five (0-4-1) and then won the next two. The Oilers lost a back-and-forth battle to the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-4, on Wednesday night. The Penguins will get the Oilers on the backend of two games in two days. It marks the fifth time this season a rested Pittsburgh team will play an opposing club that held a game the day before. 
Lowe made a flurry of moves before handing the general manager position over to Tambellini. First, he shipped prospects Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll to Los Angeles for defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky. With Visnovsky on the roster, Lowe sent defenseman Joni Pitkanen to Carolina for forward Eric Cole. Then he sent oft-injured Raffi Torres to Columbus for Gilbert Brule, the sixth-overall pick in 2005. Lowe tried to plug some holes in the lineup and the team should contend for a playoff berth.
The Oilers have a unique blend of experience and youth. The team will rely heavily on veterans like Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Fernando Pisani, Ethan Moreau and newly acquired Erik Cole. Hemsky led the team with 71 points last season (20G-51A), while Horcoff finished second with 50 points (21G-29A). Moreau and Pisani are returning from injury-shortened seasons. Cole will add some offensive punch, netting 22 goals and 29 assists (51 points).

The team is looking to Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano to build on their breakout rookie campaigns. Gagner scored 13 goals and 36 assists for 49 points at only 18 years old. Cogliano notched 18 goals and 21 assists for 39 points last year. Edmonton will need contributions from youngsters Robert Nilsson, Kyle Brodziak, Mark Pouliot and Zack Stortini to make a playoff push.

Dustin Penner had a disappointing campaign last year, notching only 47 points (23G-24A). Edmonton lured him away from Anaheim with a high-priced offer sheet. Penner was a major contributor as a rookie on the Ducks run to their first championship. His clutch postseason play secured him a hefty contract, now Penner wants to live up to the expectations.
Edmonton was blindsided by Chris Pronger’s trade request after the team’s Stanley Cup run. The Oilers may have finally found his replacement with the offseason trade for Lubomir Visnovsky. The 32-year-old defenseman notched 40-plus points in each of the last three years for Los Angeles. Sheldon Souray was limited to 26 games last season after suffering a shoulder injury. His return should boost the blue-line offense and give the power play a booming shot from the point.

Tom Gilbert is another offensively blessed defenseman. The 25-year-old notched 13 goals and 20 assists (33 points) last season. Steve Staios and youngsters Ladislav Smid (22) and Denis Grebeshkov (25) are built more in the stay-at-home mold. The team also signed Edmonton native Jason Strudwick as insurance on the blue line.
Mathieu Garon edged out Dwayne Roloson for the No. 1 goalie position with the team last season. Garon finished the season with a 26-18-1 record, 2.66 goals against average, .913 save percentage and four shutouts. Roloson led the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final three seasons ago and wants to reclaim his top goaltender status. At 39 years old, Roloson wants to make a final push for the postseason as the top guy. The two have split the duties so far this season. Roloson started on Wednesday against Columbus so the Penguins will likely face Garon.
Ales Hemsky had his coming out party during Edmonton's Stanley Cup run at the age of 22. He notched 19 goals and 58 assists (77 points) in his third NHL season. Hemsky was clutch in the postseason, netting six goals and 11 assists for 17 points in 24 playoff games. His production tailed the next season at 53 points. Hemsky rediscovered his touch last year when he led the team with 71 points on 20 goals and 51 assists in 74 games. So far this year, he is once again leading the pack with 12 points (3G-9A) in the team's first 12 games, and carries a four-game scoring streak into the Pittsburgh game.
“We’re doing a lot of things right. Honestly, I just think it’s a string of bad luck right now.”
- Tom Gilbert said to the Edmonton Journal about the team’s penalty killing
Edmonton Oilers goaltending coach is Pete Peeters. Penguins fans mostly likely will remember Peeters as the goaltender who surrendered Mario Lemieux’s first career NHL goal. Lemieux picked up the puck on his first career shift, skated around Hall-of-Fame defenseman Ray Bourque, and beat Peeters on his first career shot. Rumor has it, Lemieux ended up having a pretty good career.

Author: Sam Kasan

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