Three Oilers, all in contention for a fourth-line winger spot with the team, showed very well in the team’s 3-2 pre-season win over Arizona. Jesse Joensuu, Steve Pinizzotto and Tyler Pitlick did exactly what their head coach wants them to do on the ice.
“Just what those guys did tonight, all three of them,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “They were all skating, they were all playing a big man’s game. They finished every check, they were able to keep cycles alive, they were able to retrieve pucks on the forecheck and tonight they ended up driving the game. You need that out of those players. It seemed like everyone played well as a group and they had great energy, not only on the bench or on the ice but in the room as well.”
Joensuu scored two goals, both assisted by Pinizzotto. Joensuu had six hits, while Pinizzotto had four on the same line. Pitlick drew a couple of penalties and added three shots and four assists.
The competition seems like it’s not over yet, with all three players doing their job and doing it well tonight.
“It was a huge shock for me to come here, but I knew what this team needed and I think that’s my game,” Pinizzotto said. “I’ve just got to bring energy to the highly effective players. The first-line guys build energy off that, the crowd builds off that and all it takes is one big hit to get everyone going. I can be a pretty effective player with this team if I can get the confidence under my belt and I just try to get better every day.”
Joensuu said after the game that he is more prepared for a camp battle now than he was as a younger player.
“I’m not good that I wouldn’t have to play good in training camp,” he said. “I feel now that I’m older, it is easier to perform than when I was on my entry-level deal it felt like those were the most important games of the whole season. I think I tried too hard then and now it’s easier.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins had said before in camp that Martin Marincin had yet to hit his stride. Marincin, who played 44 games with the Oilers last season, was clearly in a battle for his position on the team. Eakins says the 22-year-old made a statement in the team’s 3-2 win over the Coyotes on Wednesday night.
“I thought Marty Marincin really upped his game. He had, I thought, struggled a little bit but he firmly put his stamp tonight that he is very interested in staying here and reclaiming his spot.”
Nurse, who was selected seventh overall in 2013, showed “flashes of what he can do.”
“I think his game, compared to last year, is much better,” Eakins said. “He’s a little more settled back there. The difference for him this year is our defence is better. It’s a different battle set up. All three guys played well for me.”
The reaction in the press box of Rexall Place was unanimous. Leon Draisaitl, the third-overall pick in this year’s draft, is playing himself into that second-line centre spot to start the season. The big, talented 18-year-old hit a couple of posts, and was making plays all over the ice.
After scoring 105 points last season in the WHL with Prince Albert, his offensive skills are coming to light here at the NHL level. But it is Draisaitl’s willingness to learn that stuck out to his head coach.
“He showed some great flashes of what he can do,” Dallas Eakins said after the game. “There were some learning points in the game as well. The one really good thing is our young players are not shy on the bench, they’re asking questions, and he was doing that when he wasn’t sure. He showed some flashes.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins provided some updates on injured defencemen Andrew Ference and Jeff Petry. Ference injured his right arm in the pre-season game against Chicago, while Petry has been nursing a shoulder wound.
Both appear to be getting better.
“Petry continues to get better, which is a good sign,” Eakins said. “He’s out there, he doesn’t have any pain shooting the puck anymore so he’s moving along nicely, which we like. Ference was out there. He rubbed some dirt on that injury, it’s sore still, not ready to play but he’s able to get through the practice part.”
Tuesday's line combinations for the first group are as follows:
#Oilers 1st group: Hall-RNH-Yakupov, Perron-Draisaitl-Eberle, Pouliot-Gordon-Purcell... D: Marincin, Klefbom, Aulie, Fayne, Nikitin, Schultz— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) September 30, 2014
The second group hit the ice as follows:
#Oilers 2nd group looks like: Tkachev-Yakimov-Westgarth, Hendricks-Khaira-Pitlick, Pinizzotto-Acton-Joensuu, Gazdic-Arco-Lander— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) September 30, 2014
Jeff Petry skating for a second consecutive day. No Andrew Ference, still healing a banged up right arm.— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) September 30, 2014
The Oilers may have a blueline battle brewing. Brad Hunt, 26, was a Second-Team AHL All Star last season. He scored 50 points (11-39-50) in 66 games with the Oklahoma City Barons. He played three games on a call up with the Oilers.
Now Hunt is making an impression on the Edmonton staff.
“You cheer for guys like Hunt,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “He loves playing hockey and he can play, that kid can play. He’s shooting on the power play, he’s ready to tee it up. He’s not deferring to others, he knows when to move the puck, he knows when to jump in the play and he turned out to be an excellent partner for Darnell. I thought Darnell was good, I thought Hunt was excellent.”
Hunt scored nine power play goals last season in OKC. Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson called him the team’s, “top power play guy.”
The power play is just one tool in Hunt’s arsenal, but it’s up to him to keep playing well if he wants to stick.
“That would be in his back pocket for sure. He can do it. He’s going to have to push his way in with 5-on-5 play, but tonight Hunt showed that he can play at this level of play right now.
Pitlick scored a goal, that was eventually disallowed. He played 17:32, including just over six minutes on the power play and some time on the penalty kill. He finished the night with one shot on goal and four hits.
“It was fun to play with him,” Hall said. “It seemed like he was comfortable playing his game and that’s how you want to make guys feel when they come on a line with you. We had a few chances. There was a lot of power play time tonight so it was a bit tough to really shore our game, but for the most part I felt he played well.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins also felt Pitlick played well.
“I thought he played good,” Eakins said. “We talked about it this morning that it was a bit of a reward for him. He was a factor in our last game (against Winnipeg) and he did his job tonight. He went up and down the wing, supported those guys, we got him a little power play time too to see how he could handle it. We thought he had a good game.”
Third-overall pick Leon Draisaitl is one of the possibilities and he’s shown flashes of his playmaking skills in the pre-season so far. 2013 third-round pick Bogdan Yakimov has come in and impressed from the opening face-off in Penticton, BC at the Young Stars Tournament. Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander have NHL experience are locked in that same battle.
So far, it looks like the rookies are pushing to get noticed and when asked on Monday if the Oilers would hesitate in starting the season with two rookies at centre, Head Coach Dallas Eakins says there wouldn’t be any.
“I don’t want to speak for my boss, but we’ve had the talks and I don’t think we’d hesitate at all,” he said. “But we are looking to go with the guys who have earned their spots in camp… You don’t want to play safe all of the time. Safe is okay, he doesn’t need waivers so send him down, keep this guy and see what happens. We want to go with the guys who have earned the spots. Is there a danger with that in waivers? Absolutely. But that’s where the battle is.
Eakins stressed that there is still a battle to be played out here, but whoever has earned a spot will stay with the club.
“There is still lots of time here and I’m not sure that they’ve outplayed those guys, but there are certainly all of these guys in the mix. No one has stepped up way ahead of each other yet. It will be real interesting here over the next few games to see who’s going to step up. My real honest answer, and I will be honest, I don’t think there will be any hesitation. We’ll take the guys who have played well, played the best and who we think are going to help us win our first game.”