Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Oil Notes: Eager Is Close and Foreshadowing Lineup For Saturday

I am sure Ben Eager did not expect his career as an Edmonton Oiler to start out in the fashion it has. After signing a three year deal with the club on July 1st, the rugged forward was looking forward to being a regular and getting a new lease on his hockey life in Edmonton. After an on ice meltdown in last years playoffs cost the San Jose Sharks, Coach Todd McLellan decided he could no longer trust the gritty Eager out on the ice and yanked him from the starting lineup. Edmonton was going to be the spot that Ben Eager would show everyone he could still play the game and not just be a side show. Unfortunately for both the club and player, a concussion, suffered during the Joey Moss Cup, has kept the 27 year old out of the Oilers lineup for the entire pre-season and the season opener. It appears that the time to see what Ben Eager can bring to the table, is just around the corner.

Eager will be traveling with the club to Minnesota but it has not been confirmed if he will be in the lineup or not. With the waiving of defenceman Taylor Chorney on Monday afternoon, one would think that the club would be activating one of the players off the IR list. Likely candidates would be Eager or Ryan Whitney. With Corey Potter still in the fold and Whitney still feeling some pain in his ankle, all signs are pointing to Eager being that guy. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see Eager suit up against the Wild because I think it  is a 100% certainty that he will be in the lineup against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night. The former Chicago Blackhawk is ready to go and just waiting for the tap on the shoulder to let him know he's in.

"The last week or so I've been pushing pretty hard and I'm starting to get my legs back and get into shape," Eager said. "There's been no symptoms, so it's been nice. I haven't been cleared to play yet but hopefully that's not to far away." 

Adding Eager to the lineup will change the look of the bottom six and it will be curious to see who comes out...especially against the Canucks. You would think that both Eager and Darcy Hordichuk will play against Vancouver, so the club will have to decide who comes out. They may very well look at adding Lennart Petrell into the mix as well because the Canucks have run the Oilers show for the last number of years. The bigger bodies in the lineup make sense and if I were laying money on it, I would expect all three in the lineup and both Anton Lander and Linus Omark to come out. It will leave them with only three centres but Eric Belanger and Shawn Horcoff could split a few extra minutes playing with Eager and Petrell, as I am sure Hordichuk won’t see the ice much. That being said, they could start with a Eager - Petrell - Hordichuk fourth line, as the feisty Finn has played centre previously in his career, and see how it goes. This would bump Ryan Jones up to the third line for the night to replace Omark and Petrell can slide into Lander’s spot on the penalty kill. The only vacated spot that needs to be filled, would be Omark’s second unit power play slot. One of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Ales Hemsky are more then capable of being double shifted on the PP to ensure Jordan Eberle has someone to get him the puck in Omark's absence.

Not a fan of taking Omark out but in this situation. I think it makes the most sense. Also, if yesterday’s practice was any indication, he is a little banged up from blocking a shot on opening night. He was wearing the "no contact" jersey along with Eager and Sam Gagner.

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