Whatever happened to the Battle of Alberta? Seems like Calgary dropped out, and Vancouver made it about the Battle of Western Canada. There is some bad blood between these teams. The last game these two played was in pre-season. In that game, Dale Weise took a run at Taylor Hall, seemingly trying to decapitate him with a hit to the head. Weise was suspended 3 pre-season games for the hit. The other incident was from Zack Kassian. It doesn’t seem like a far fetched story that Kassian is still learning how to skate properly and keep his arms from flailing around like an infant… after all, he’s only in the NHL. Kassian broke Sam Gagner’s jaw when the brick-head missed a check... on the play he decided he’d swing his arm and stick as hard as he could towards Sam Gagner’s head. This was accidentally on purpose. I’m not so sure he meant to hit Gagner in the face, but you’d have to be beyond useless of a hockey player to really swing your arm like that after missing a check. I’m not even sure that Doug Glatt would have done that. Kassian will miss this game, as he was suspended for the remainder of the pre-season plus 5 regular season games. I’m sure the Canucks will miss him so much compared to the Oilers and Gagner. That’s the way it goes, I guess. Anyways, those stories set the mood for this one. Bad blood.
I don’t entirely blame the Canucks. This is the type of game I want to see the Oilers play, minus the stupid stick swinging by Kassian. The Oilers are missing that edge in the game. I’m hoping that Luke Gazdic brings some of that edge. In his first game, he had a goal and a decisive fight win vs. Chris Thorburn (who is no slouch). He looks like he can play hockey, plus he’s a very skilled fighter. As long as he can play hockey around a Mike Brown level (obviously better would be preferable) I’ll be happy. I think this 4th line will need to play an important game tonight. Going into Rogers Arena, Eakins won’t have last change, so it will be tough to get the right match-up for that line.
Ryan Hamilton was recalled last night. Not sure who he’ll replace in the lineup. It’s fairly well known though that Eakins doesn’t like to carry bodies around on his roster, so it’s doubtful that this was just to bring him up to make some NHL money. He’ll play, it’s just a question of who he’s replacing. If I had my way, I’d probably take Smyth out… possibly. It’s hard to say. Smyth can definitely handle his own and won’t get roughed up, but he won’t play a dominating physical game at this point in his career. That said, it’s not likely Smyth is being replaced. I know Perron was sick before the last pre-season game, so perhaps someone else caught whatever he had. Anyways, this is all speculation at this point. We’ll have to wait and see. I’m not so sure that the coach has been enthusiastic with Smyth’s play, but who knows. He might like the sound 2-way game that a veteran would bring to the chaos Hall sometimes brings.
Some news unrelated to tonight… the Nuge is set to return on Monday. That is fantastic news. Lots of fans out there (and media) want to be able to say I told you so, so they’re making it well known that they are asking questions about whether he is being rushed. Doesn’t sound like he is. This might be the best time to get him into the game too, as the Oilers go on a tour of the East (save for one home game.. still against an Eastern team – the Canadiens). The majority of the games are against teams not so much known for their thuggery. Possible question mark with the Leafs there.
Can’t wait for this one to start. It honestly felt like forever ago that the last game was (Tuesday).
Edit: It seems that Hamilton has been recalled because a cold or flu is circulating on the team. Apparently Eberle sounds like shit, thanks to this plague. So there’s a possibility Hamilton subs in for him. Hopefully not.
Probable line-Ups :