Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Oil Notes: Hall Likely Ready, Line Combos & Khabby News

With the Oilers in the midst of a four day break, the club returned to the ice for one more practice before Prince takes over Rexall Place for a concert Tuesday night. Edmonton had both Taylor Hall and Corey Potter skating with the regular troops minus the baby blue no-contact jerseys but goaltender Nikoali Khabibiulin was absent from practice.

It was believed that Hall would be ready to go come Thursday in Phoenix and that still seems to be the plan. The former first overall selection had the following to say after Monday's practice, "I didn't have any problem with shooting or with contact or anything, so I'm hoping to get cleared to be in the lineup on Thursday." With Taylor's return imminent, the coaching staff took the opportunity to try out some new line combinations at practice.
  • Eberle - Nugent-Hopkins - Gagner
  • Hemsky - Horcoff - Hall
  • Jones - Belanger - Smyth
  • Paajarvi - Lander - Eager
  • Extra: Hordichuk
Not surprisingly the RNH line is staying intact, despite having a less the stellar performance in Calgary on Saturday night. The trio were very good on Friday so giving them a few more kicks at the can seems to make perfect sense. Ales Hemsky has played his best hockey of the season when he has been playing with Hall so it was no surprise to see them both skating on a line with Shawn Horcoff. Which means veteran Ryan Smyth will be bumped down to the third line, on what could be a very good line with Eric Belanger and Ryan Jones. These lines give Edmonton the ability to throw three different looks at their opponents and all three have the potential to put the puck in the net.

With Khabibulin missing practice and Devan Dubnyk getting the surprise start on Saturday, there are whispers that the Russian netminder is possibly battling an injury. The club said it was nothing more then a maintenance day for Khabby but with his recent injury woes the alarm bells are starting too sound. Adding fuel to the fire, was that the Russian netminder was unavailable to talk to the media after Fridays win because he was "being worked on" and some are starting to draw their own conclusions. Everyone is aware that they can't ride Khabibulin too heavily but in order for the coaching staff to look to Dubnyk for relief, he needs more performances like he had on Saturday against the Flames.

As previously mentioned, Corey Potter practiced with the team on Monday and appears very close to returning. Potter likely won't go against the Coyotes on Thursday but it sounds as though he will be a good bet to return on Saturday night against the San Jose Sharks.

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