Tonight is the night, the Edmonton Oilers are back on the ice in real game action. The team will ‘visit’ the Calgary Flames in their lone exhibition tilt at Rogers Place. The Oilers will begin their best-of-five Qualification Round on Saturday afternoon against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Flames begin their series later that night against the Winnipeg Jets.
The Oilers and Flames met in four highly-competitive tilts during the regular season. The Oilers went 1-2-1 against their rival, taking the final meeting 8-3 in Calgary in February. You might recall that game for its now famous line brawl and goalie fight between Cam Talbot and Mike Smith.
Setting The Stage:
Head coach Dave Tippett is hoping to use tonight’s game to get the club “up to speed” in advance of their game Saturday. Tippett wants his team to “ditch summer hockey” as fast as possible and get back into the rhythm of actual game play.
“We’re trying to get our mind in the right place,” Tippett said when asked about how he wants his team to approach the tilt. “We’ve talked about building towards game one right from the start of this camp, and there’s certain things you do to click your mind in, to get going. We’ve got a lot of scrimmage time, but you get into a game, you’ve gotta get thinking right. You gotta, summer hockey has gotta get out of you, you gotta get up to speed in a hurry.”
Tippett isn’t the only one who thinks tonight’s stage will be used for preparation. Zack Kassian was involved in almost all of the fireworks this past season, but knows there are other things at stake tonight and moving forward.
“It’s going to be a high-intensity game,” Kassian said. “At the same time, there’s so much at stake for both teams going into the playoffs. Everyone’s going to be smart. I don’t think it’s going to be like the last few games you saw. The Stanley Cup Playoffs isn’t a time to get redemption,”
Riley Sheahan was injured on Saturday in the team’s final scrimmage of training camp prior to heading into the bubble. Tippett confirmed on Monday that Sheahan was once again absent, replaced by European veteran Gaetan Haas.
Darnell Nurse missed the Saturday scrimmage after an awkward fall late last week in practice. He returned to the ice on Sunday and also skated Monday. Nurse is likely to play tonight, while Sheahan is not. The expectation is that Sheahan will be healthy for Game 1 on Saturday.
A bit of a twist tonight, as teams will be permitted to dress 20 skaters as opposed to the usual 18. The Oilers are expected to dress 13 forwards and seven defensemen along with Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith in goal. The reason for the expanded lineup? The NHL wants teams to get as many players into game action as possible with the limited time they have.
The Oilers have yet to announce who will start in Game 1 on Saturday. It should come as no surprise, then, that no starter has been announced for tonight’s game.
“They’ll both practice in the morning and get some good work,” Tippett said on Monday. “And then we’ll decide who’s going to play tomorrow night.”
The lines are projected based on Phase 3 training camp and are subject to change. This post will be updated when lines are confirmed.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Tyler Ennis – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Andreas Athanasiou – Gaetan Haas – Josh Archibald
James Neal – Jujhar Khaira – Alex Chiasson
Oscar Klefbom – Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Kris Russell – Matt Benning