Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Exhibition: Oilers 3 Coyotes 2

Edmonton Oilers fans were treated to what many are hoping will end up being one of the leagues best lines in the not to distant future. Rookie Ryan Nugent - Hopkins and Taylor Hall led the way with three point nights, while linemate Jordan Eberle chipped in an assist as the Oilers held on to a 3-2 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin went the distance for Edmonton between the pipes and picked up his second straight victory after a tough opening act against the Minnesota Wild. Ales Hemsky played nearly sixteen minutes in his pre-season debut and while he wasn't able to get on the score sheet, the veteran winger looked right at home playing alongside former linemates, Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff. The Coyotes dressed the closet thing to an NHL lineup that the Oilers have faced this pre-season and the club managed to hold their own against a veteran lineup.

The Good

  1. Obviously, the three kids were the big story heading into the night and they did not disappoint. You saw the instant chemistry that was present between Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle right off the bat in the opener against Chicago. It seems as though the same thing is occurring between Hall and the 2011 first overall draft pick. While I don't think the trio will play together all season long, the injury to Sam Gagner may just lead to the three youngsters starting the season as a unit.
  2. It was obvious that the Oilers top line of yesteryear, Hemsky - Horcoff - Smyth, still have chemistry as a unit. Much like the kid line, I can't see the three staying together as a line all season long but because of the current injury situation, starting the trio come October 9th seems like the way to go.
  3. Another solid effort from Khabibulin in the nets has Edmonton looking like they will start the season with both their netminders playing well. While Dubnyk has been the better of the two thus far, the veteran Russian goalie's game is starting to round into to form.
The Bad

  1. Much like the game before, not a lot of negatives on the night but I did think that Jeff Petry continued to fight it a bit on the backend. He hasn't had the best of pre-seasons to begin with and it seems as though it could be a bit of a struggle for him to find his game heading into the season.
  2. The biggest negative on the day for the club, would have to be the news that came down about centre Sam Gagner. The centre is said to have a "high ankle sprain" and is considered week to week. Not the news the Oilers were hoping for but I am sure it was what they were expecting. High ankle sprains take time to heal, just ask Taylor Hall, so to think Gagner would be in the Oilers lineup anytime before the first week of November, in my opinion, seems like wishful thinking at best. The injury will open up a fourth line centre spot to start the season and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to see rookie Anton Lander claim the job come opening night.

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