This is an early one today, as puck drop is at 12:10 MST. I typically hate the early ones.
Chris Vande Velde makes his season debut tonight. He’ll likely slot in with Yakupov and Paajarvi. That’s right. The lines were juggled a bit for yesterday’s practice.
Today we’ll see Hall with familiar linemates in Gagner and Hemsky. Gagner’s big 8 point night last year was played alongside Hall, but I believe Eberle was the other winger on that superb night. Hall, Gagner and Hemsky did spend time on lines together last year though and did look quite good. I suspect that line should be able to go power vs. power.
Eberle will play with Nuge and Hartikainen. Hartikainen has looked very good as late, battling hard in the corners. Hartikainen is also a strong net presence. This is something that might add that missing element for Nuge and Eberle.
Yakupov drops down the lines and will play with Vande Velde and Paajarvi. Tomorrow, Belanger should be coming off IR and replace Belanger on that line. I honestly think this line will likely disappear offensively.. but I suspect that they should be a hard working unit though.
Lastly, Ben Eager should return today to play with Smyth and Petrell. This is one of those lines that makes you groan when you see it on paper. But I think it will be a very defensively responsible, hard checking energy unit that will push the play into the offensive zone. Eager’s got some rust on him though, so that could throw things for a loop. But I think the efforts of Smyth and Petrell alone should be enough to carry the play the other way.
This will be a very tough win for the Oilers, so I am hoping they can at least steal a point.
Edit: Looks like Fistric is out for this one, as Krueger would like to give him another day to rest his back. So, expect to see him tomorrow vs. Columbus. Also, we can expect to see Khabibulin in a game this weekend. Krueger said it was possible Khabibulin could start today. I’d say that tomorrow would be the better game for him to start.
OILERS LINES (CONFIRMED)
Hall – Nuge – Eberle
Yakupov – Gagner – Hemsky
Eager – Smyth – Petrell
Hartikainen – Vande Velde – Paajarvi
Smid – Petry
N. Schultz – J. Schultz
Whitney – Potter