The Edmonton Oilers return home for their third game of the preseason tonight against the Vancouver Canucks. It is the second and final meeting between the sides this preseason. They will meet back at Rogers Place in 13 days to kick off the 2019-20 regular season. For the Oilers, this is the first of a back-to-back set that will see them host the Calgary Flames on Friday.
The Oilers were busy making news on Wednesday, with three key stories emerging from the Alberta capital. First was the second set of cuts this camp. The club assigned Vincent Desharnais, Luke Esposito, Jake Kulevich, Ostap Safin, Beau Starrett and Nolan Vesey to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
Starrett, Esposito, Desharnais and Kulevich are all on AHL contracts. Safin is starting his pro career after injuries plagued him in junior, but will be worth watching this winter. The club assigned Stuart Skinner to Bakersfield earlier Thursday.
Secondly, the club agreed to a PTO with Russian F Anton Burdasov. Burdasov skated with the club on Wednesday and could get into game action as early as tomorrow against the Flames.
Finally, all looks good with Connor McDavid. The captain is at full speed and looks good to go for opening night. GM Ken Holland told the media Wednesday that he is “pretty optimistic” about 97’s chances to suit up in 13 days.
In a big development, Holland also admitted that “there’s a chance he could play next week.” We could see McDavid in the preseason after all.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Joakim Nygard – Ryan McLeod – James Neal
Tomas Jurco – Cooper Marody – Alex Chiasson
Tyler Benson – Gaetan Haas – Patrick Russell
Markus Granlund – Brad Malone – Anthony Peluso
Oscar Klefbom – Joel Persson
Dmitri Samorukov – Matt Benning
Keegan Lowe – Caleb Jones
Koskinen gets the start, his first of the preseason, and will play half the game. Shane Starrett, who played exceptionally well for large stretches Tuesday, will replace him.
Keegan Lowe, captain of the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, will get a look tonight. He’s a recall candidate if injuries really strike, and will be a key cog for Bakersfield this season. Nice of the Oilers to give him a game at Rogers Place. I think he’s earned that. Condors camp opens next week.
Vancouver Canucks Lines:
Sven Baertschi – Bo Horvat – JT Miller
Loui Eriksson – Adam Gaudette – Josh Leivo
Tim Schaller – Jay Beagle – Tyler Motte
Landon Ferraro – Lukas Jasek – Justin Bailey
Guillaume Brisebois – Chris Tanev
Jordie Benn – Troy Stetcher
Oscar Fantenberg – Brogan Rafferty
Markstrom will start for the Canucks, who once again ice a largely NHL lineup against the Oilers. This is will be the first chance for Oilers fans to see JT Miller as a member of the Canucks. Vancouver acquired the veteran on draft weekend.
What To Watch For:
What a golden opportunity it is for Ryan McLeod. The rookie pro will center the Nugent-Hopkins line, giving the veteran a night off. He’ll get proven scorer James Neal and roster hopeful Joakim Nygard to work with. His speed and two-way ability are strong, but can McLeod score enough to stay in the NHL?
Dave Tippett told reporters earlier on Thursday that if we watch one thing tonight, it should be center ice. McLeod is getting a real chance to make his mark and push for a roster spot. He’s worth keeping an eye on.
Big test for the entire Haas line in this game. Russell has shown well so far and firmly put himself in contention for a depth role. Another good performance might give him an edge for an extra forward spot. Haas has to start showing something, he’s quickly being passed by cheaper competition.
Is Tomas Jurco playing his way onto the NHL roster? He was arguably the Oilers’ best forward on Tuesday and gets a look with Cooper Marody and Alex Chiasson tonight. If the Sheahan line is the ‘heavy’ trio in the bottom-six, could these men make up a soft minutes scoring line? Something to watch.
Joel Persson passed his first test with flying colors on Monday. This will be a much tougher test against an actual NHL lineup tonight. A good showing could further tighten his grip on a starting job.
Puck drop is at 7:00 pm (9:00 pm est) on 630 CHED and Sportsnet 1.