The Edmonton Oilers returned to practice Tuesday morning out at Millennium Place Arena in Sherwood Park. The players hit the ice for their first post road trip practice and Tom Renney and his coaching staff unveiled some new line combinations. These were the forward units upfront:
Eberle - Nugent-Hopkins - Hall
Hemsky - Horcoff - Smyth
Jones - Belanger - Lander
Eager - Gagner - Petrell
extras: Paajarvi - Hordichuk
While yours truly has been asking for changes to the forward units for some time now, I have to say, that these trios are boarding on stupidity. It is bad enough that they seem unwilling to break up the Horcoff and Nugent-Hopkins lines to create a much more balanced lineup but they are compounding things by putting together a bottom six that seems to be getting worse with each passing moment. How Eric Belanger continues to get one reprieve after another when Sam Gagner finds himself on the fourth line and Magnus Paajarvi in the press box, is unexplainable to me. The guys a great faceoff specialist and penalty killer but nothing more. While Gagner and Paajarvi are skilled players that are being asked to play the role of foot soldiers. Also, what's the point in having Lander play on the wing? The kid has looked lost whenever he has not been in the middle so why put him back on the wing? I have any idea...how about they just send him back to Oklahoma City and let him play? Why is this such a difficult thing to do? They had no problem sending out Linus Omark and he has at least proved something at this level. Lets hope that Renney and his staff are just having some fun with us and we will actually see some new line combinations on Wednesday, that actually make sense.
Defenceman Cam Barker's wonky ankle will keep him out of the lineup for the next month. Barker injured the ankle during last Thursday's game against the Boston Bruins and did not play in either of the teams final two games on the road trip. While the former third overall selection has not been a standout to start the season, his presence, size and ability will be sorely missed on the backend.
Ryan Whitney looks to be on schedule to return to the Oilers sometime within the next ten days to two weeks. The timeline that coach Tom Renney gave for the talented defenceman's return was "3 weeks or a little longer" and that was back on October 27th. Barring any setbacks, look for Whitney to get back into the lineup no later then Nov.28th, when Edmonton hosts the Nashville Predators.
Don't be surprised if General Manager Steve Tambellini starts to seriously look at acquiring the top four defenceman that this club desperately needs. With Whitney and Barker both out of the lineup, this blueline is paper thin and they will be in tough to keep their heads above water with this group.
Tough guy Darcy Hordichuk has been cleared to play but the club hasn't given a firm date as to when we may see him back in the lineup. I would expect him to work on conditioning this week and make next Monday's game against the Dallas Stars as his target date. The Stars are the perfect opponent for Hordichuk to get back in against. They play a physical game and have players that would be more then willing to engage with the Edmonton enforcer.
The talented forward has gone down to Oklahoma City and has been putting up points for the Barons. In six games, Omark has collected six points and been playing with Teemu Hartikainen and Tyler Pitlick. Many were fearing that Linus would be not be happy down in OKC and would possibly look at heading back to Sweden, if he wasn't going to be playing in the NHL. So far, Omark has been great and by the sound of things, is playing hard for coach Todd Nelson and working on improving aspects of his game that the Oilers want him to develop. That being said, if the diminutive winger doesn't get recalled to the big club at some point, his tune may change.