Just a day after cutting 13 players from their training camp roster, the Oilers will go back to work tonight in the first of two games this weekend. In the first half of a preseason back-to-back, the Oilers will host the ‘left-behinds’ of the Vancouver Canucks. With most of their veterans in China, it’s going to be a younger and more AHL Canuck lineup in this one.
The Oilers had a similar lineup on Wednesday in Winnipeg, but still found a way to score a 4-1 victory on the road. Tonight it is expected that a few more of the veterans will see action, but with a game tomorrow night against Winnipeg it is distinctly possible we won’t see a full cast this evening.
What we do know is that Laurent Brossoit will start and play the entire sixty minutes, while rookie Kailer Yamamoto will be in the lineup. Yamamoto has looked quite good this preseason and has three points (2-1-3) in two games. Another strong game tonight will only strengthen his case for a roster spot on opening night. He’s certainly earned this lengthy look.
As mentioned, the Canucks lineup is quite young and has an AHL feel to it. Most of their big names and veterans are in China right now, and only a handful of notables remain. Jake Virtanen is the most notable forward left on the roster, while goalie Richard Bachman is a former Oiler. Cole Cassels, Olli Juolevi and Andrey Pedan are the other familiar names in this group.
Here is how the Canucks will line up tonight at Rogers Place.
Michael Carcone – Michael Chaput – Jake Virtanen
Anton Rodin – Jayson Megna – Nikolay Goldobin
Darren Archibald – Zack MacEwen – Alexis D’Aoust
Griffin Molino – Cole Cassels – Yan Pavel LaPlante
Ashton Saunter – Phillip Holm
Andrey Pedan – Guillaume Brisebois
Jalen Chatfield – Olli Juolevi
Richard Bachman (Michael Garteig)
On the Oilers side of things not much is known for tonight. As I said above, the only things we know for sure are that Brossoit is going the distance and that Yamamoto is going to be in the lineup. I’d be willing to wager that one of the top two lines will be in after having Wednesday off, and I bet we see a number of bubble players in this game.
Here is tonight’s likely lineup as per Jason Gregor of TSN1260.
Milan Lucic – Leon Draisaitl – Drake Caggiula
Iiro Pakarinen – Chris Kelly – Kailer Yamamoto
Joey LaLeggia – Brad Malone – Ty Rattie
Mitch Callahan – Grayson Downing – Patrick Russell
Gregor offered no guess on defense, but I bet we see one NHL pairing (perhaps Larsson-Klefbom) in the lineup with players like Yohann Auvitu, Mark Fayne, Dillon Simpson and Ryan Stanton getting minutes in this one. It appears the Oilers will be testing their depth against this Canuck squad.
Things To Watch:
Brossoit was shaky in his preseason debut against Calgary but he looked very good on Wednesday in Winnipeg, shutting down the Jets behind a weaker Oiler group. Tonight he gets to go the full game for the first time, and I’ll be intrigued to see how he does. Against this Vancouver group, I would expect a good outing for LB.
Up front I’ll be watching the fifth center battle between Chris Kelly and Brad Malone. This is the third game for each player this preseason and neither of them has been able to get a lead on this job. Tonight would be quite a nice night for one of these two players to assert their dominance and claim a roster spot.
How will Kailer Yamamoto do on a line with two grinders? I’m not sure there is going to be a ton of offensive opportunity for the youngster in this one and I’m actually a little disappointed the Oil put him in this spot. Regardless, he’ll be worth watching because if he does create offense it’s going to be impressive.
Defensively I want to see Auvitu again. He really caught my eye on Wednesday night and I think he is awfully close to cementing himself a spot on this roster. I’m also quite interested in seeing which other bubble defenders get a look tonight. With the long shot players basically out of camp, it’ll be interesting to see who Todd McLellan elects to look at.
Check back here tonight after the game for a complete postgame recap! Enjoy hockey once again my friends!