Head Coach Tom Renney still doesn’t want to give too much away. Understandable.
"Yes, they're expected back soon," he said about Ben Eager
and Ryan Whitney
Within the next 48 hours soon?
Eager is expected back as soon as can be. The 27-year-old winger has missed all but one period since Sep. 18, when he endured a concussion on an unexpected collision with Kirill Tulupov in the Joey Moss Cup, who is now with the AHL’s Oklahoma City Barons.
"He's going to play," Renney remarked.
""I'm excited to get back and get going," Eager added. "It's been a long time; it's been a month now, but it seems like it's been three. I've been ready for the past two weeks and I'm excited to get back in."
Eager was signed to a three-year, $3.3 million deal in Jul. 1’s early-morning hours, and was expected to bring a tough-as-nails brand unmatched by the departed J-F Jacques and Zack Stortini.
One month has passed, but he’s now ready to go and will be expected to bring the same presence promised four months ago.
"I'm going to play my game," Eager explained. "I've got to get in and be physical. I feel as good as I ever have, so I'm not too worried. I get hits when I'm moving my feet, so I'm going to try and do that and maybe bang a couple goals in."
The latter is an especially important point. The 6’2", 240-pound forward scored seven goals and 17 points last season with the Atlanta Thrashers San Jose Sharks; he’s a proven veteran with an ever-expanding two-way arsenal.
"Just take it easy," Renney said. "[Ben’s] got to be a contributor. He's a bright player, he's a big strong man, he's a physical guy, he can shoot the puck well and he's got good hands. The big thing for Ben is to ply everything he's been watching and hearing about into a game situation. That's where he has to slow down and take it easy.
"That's why we acquired him in the off-season," Renney added, regarding Eager’s physical play. "We weren't able to look at his body of work in training camp and the exhibition games, so we'll have to do a little bit of that now. He's got to keep it simple."
DON'T BE THE PREY
The Oilers went 2-1-1 vs. Nashville in 2010-11, winning once at Rexall Place and once at the Predators’ home rink, Bridgestone Arena in Tennessee.
Although the Preds don’t have many big-name stars on the roster, their team-game is down to a science and has helped Nashville remain as one of the league’s most challenging opponents.
"They do have Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne, though, and those guys are elite players," said ex-Predator Ryan Jones
. "They're a six-man unit every time they step out on the ice. They play their system well and they've played it for a long time. Couple that with being a hard-working team and that's a good recipe for success."
Jones, who played with the Predators from 2008-2010, is excited to go back at it against his former team.
"It's still a little bit exciting," he said. "But it's been almost two years. It's another game and I've got to go out there and play hard; and there's a certain amount of professionalism when you're playing against your friends and guys you know well.
"You go out there and battle hard. That's what I plan on doing. I want some good bragging rights and the two points tonight."
"We can't look at this time and think they're vanilla, because they're not," Renney added. "They're well-coached. They play the game at a high speed and they're about counter-attacking. If we want to fall into the trap of thinking that we’re going to dance our way through this one, we're in serious trouble."
That’s something the Oilers’ bench boss is stern about. Improving on the team’s 1-1-1 record is a must, but doing so is up to his 23-man squad.
"The bottom is line is to make sure we're engaged; let's pay attention to developing our own game, and that includes energy, and that includes a good forecheck, and that includes good re-loads. We need to make sure we're on the right end [of the score] this time."
, who posted 34 saves, a 0.92 goals-against average and .971 save percentage vs. Minnesota and this season, will get the nod in goal.
Head Coach Tom Renney said at this morning’s press conference that he may dress seven D men, as an unnamed forward has come down with an illness. That will be a game-time decision.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
Tonight, a Ryan Smyth
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NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
: This is the first of four meetings between the teams. Last season, the Oilers went 2-1-1 against the Predators, one of only three Western Conference teams they enjoyed a winning record against.
: While the 2010-11 Oilers won their first two games before losing six in a row on their way to a League low 25 wins, this season's team has already shown some fight against strong competition. They opened the season with a shootout victory against Pittsburgh and were narrowly edged 4-3 by the defending Western Conference champion Canucks on Saturday. That mettle will be tested against a strong Predators squad that started the season with two division wins on the road.
: After starting the season with two strong road wins, Nashville returned home to lose their next two, including a surprising 5-2 loss on Thursday to a Phoenix Coyotes team that until then had gone winless in their first two games. Hosting the Devils on Saturday, Nashville enjoyed a 2-0 lead entering the third period only to allow two unanswered goals by New Jersey before losing 3-2 in the ensuing shootout.
Devils backup Johan Hedberg, starting in place of injured starter Martin Brodeur, stopped both Preds shooters while his counterpart in the crease, 2011 Vezina finalist Pekka Rinne, failed to stop either of New Jersey’s shooters, Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise.
"We let it get away by a hair," said Predators coach Barry Trotz. "There are so many positives out of the whole deal. We saw a little bit more of Predator hockey, especially in the first period."
: While the Oilers were expected to go as far as their young stars could take them, few expected that it would be 18-year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
leading the way so soon. Playing alongside two other first-round picks, Taylor Hall
and Jordan Eberle
, the top pick on June 24 has been a star in his first NHL campaign. After scoring the tying goal with less than five minutes remaining against Pittsburgh, Nugent-Hopkins had his coming-out part in Edmonton on Saturday with a three-goal performance.
The third of Nugent-Hopkins' three goals gave the young Oilers a 3-2 lead in the second period. But Alexandre Burrows tied the game with 16 seconds remaining in the period before Sami Salo’s third-period goal, his second of the contest, proved to be the winner.
"Everyone knows he's a good passer," said Hall, "but it was great to see him score tonight."
: With eight points to lead the team, including a four-point night against St. Louis, David Legwand has led the offensive charge for Nashville. Sergei Kostitsyn has also done his part, registering an assist in each of his four games this season. … While Nugent-Hopkins has four of Edmonton’s five goals this season, his linemates haven't gone unnoticed. Hall has three assists so far this season, all on Nugent-Hopkins goals, while Eberle has three assists of his own.
: For the Predators, Francis Bouillon, Mike Fisher, and Martin Erat are all out with upper-body injuries while Patric Hornqvist returned from a lower-body injury on Saturday but played limited minutes and didn’t record a shot. … Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky
(shoulder), Ryan Whitney
(ankle), and Ben Eager
(concussion) are all day-to-day while Sam Gagner
is out week-to-week with an ankle injury.
: Hall and Nugent-Hopkins mark the first time in over 20 years that the two most recent top picks in the NHL Entry Draft have played on the same team together. The last time occurred when Mats Sundin and Owen Nolan, drafted first overall in 1989 and 1990 respectively, laced them up for the Quebec Nordiques. That team lost 50 games and finished last overall to earn the first pick in the Draft for a third straight year, which they used to select Eric Lindros.
: Enjoying the best start of his pro career, Legwand is reminding the hockey world how much he means to the Predators franchise. The first draft pick in team history, Legwand is the franchise's all-time leader in games, shots, goals, assists, and points and ranks in the top four in plus-minus and penalty minutes.
-- Tal Pinchevsky, NHL.com