Oilers: Preseason update

By Guy Flaming

Teaser: OT loss to Minnesota does little to clear roster picture of<br />players hoping to impress

One might expect a game between the high tempo Oilers
and a team nicknamed “the Wild” to be a terrific spectator event but Saturday’s
game in Edmonton was anything but exciting. 
With both teams sitting several of their top players, the Oilers and the
Wild played a sloppy and often dreadfully dull game.  Hometown yawns were stifled temporarily when Finland born Tony
sent the game into overtime with a nifty twine bender late in
the game.  But the Mild, er, the Wild
found some offence and scored in the extra frame to win the contest 3-2.


The first period had its moments, most noteworthy
were several saves by Edmonton puck blocker Ty Conklin.  Named the game’s third star, Conklin was
very acrobatic between the pipes and made numerous high quality stops on
Minnesota shooters.


Conklin continues to solidify his position as the No.
2 goaltender in the organization just as many had predicted he would.


“I think Ty’s had a very strong camp and
he played well again tonight,” commented Edmonton’s Assistant GM Scott Howson
after the game. “He’s right where we expected.”


Four games into the preseason, the Oilers are now at
the point where the player cuts become a little tougher and each game holds
more importance.


“It’s a case where you evaluate each of the young
guys as individuals based on the way they played,” explained Coach Craig
MacTavish in the post game breakdown. 
“Some guys I thought played well. 
I thought Raffi Torres played well tonight again.” 


“Some guys played decently and some guys played mediocre.”


Torres was named the game’s first star in large part
because of his mid-air redirection of a Jarret Stoll pass that resulted
in Edmonton’s first goal.


“(Torres) is a great player and we just want to bang
out there and try to create stuff,” said Stoll.  “I thought we played pretty well tonight with Jamie Wright.  We cycle the puck and try to create chances,
we maybe could have taken it to the net a bit more but, we did create out


Another Hamilton combination finding continued
success from last season is the Finnish duo of Jani Rita and Tony
.  Peter Sarno has joined
the European pair and the results have been fairly impressive thus far.


“At the end of last season I played with (Jani Rita)
and we had good chemistry and Sarno is a good offensive center,” Salmelainen
agreed.   (Sarno) can pass the puck
really well and (Rita) and I… we’ve got some wheels so it’s easy to play with


Craig MacTavish liked what he saw from the two Finns
in the game against Minnesota.


“I think Salmelainen is a perfect example
of a guy who played an alright game but has game breaking speed and he can put
the puck in the net,” commented the coach. 
“That’s something that we need to have happen.”


It wasn’t a pretty game and both teams
struggled passing the puck.  There was a
lot of inexperience on the ice for both sides and MacTavish believes games like
this are important learning tools.


“These guys are all going to be benefited
greatly by experience and I know it’s only preseason but, that experience for
young players is invaluable.”


Young guys, for example, like Jani Rita
who is still trying to convince the Oilers that he is ready for the NHL.


“He’s going to make mistakes but he’s
also going to put the puck in the net if he gets an opportunity,” MacTavish
said in order to address concerns about Rita.


“I think he’s been better this camp than
he was before,” offered Scott Howson. 
“I think he’s a little more determined and has probably put a little
more pressure on himself to make it and we’re seeing that on the ice.”


Asked whether Rita would be too good for
the AHL to aid his development this year, Howson stated his case bluntly.


“Until you’ve established yourself as a
NHL player, I don’t think you’re ever too good to go back (to the AHL).”


On the other hand, MacTavish was more
open to praising Stoll for his effort on the night and hinted that a demotion
in his case, was not coming yet.


“I thought it was one of his better games
so far and he’ll continue to get the opportunity.”


For his part, Stoll is realistic and
knows that hard choices are on the horizon.


“It’s no secret that there have to be
cuts made and they’re going to come soon but you just have to go on the ice and
play your game and try not to leave any regrets,” reasoned Stoll.  “It’s the most important training camp in my
life so far for me and obviously there’s a couple of spots available and guys
are fighting for it.”


The Saskatchewan native also felt he
played a solid game and knows the time is right to put forth his best efforts.


“I thought it was an important game for
us guys who are trying to stick,” continued Stoll.  “I’m happy with the way I played.” 


The Oilers know that Stoll is very
reliable defensively but the center is also trying to show his potential to put
points on the board.


“I’m just trying to build on every game
and try to create offense too,” Stoll said. 
“You can’t just try and play good defense, when you get the chance
offensively you try and bury it.”


Edmonton’s next preseason tilt is in
Vancouver on Tuesday night against the Canucks.  The exhibition schedule ends with two games in Edmonton against
the Calgary Flames on October 2nd and 4th.


“Flaming” Hot:


Ty Conklin continues to shine despite consistent defensive lapses in front of
him.  Very agile and mobile, Conklin is
quickly earning the respect of those who doubted his ability to replace Jussi

Duelling centers Peter Sarno and
Jarret Stoll are not making MacTavish’s job easy.  This is the toughest call to make at this
point.  It is unlikely both will stick
but which deserves to stay more?  With
three preseason games to go, this one might be the last cut made.


“Flaming” Not:

Last season’s trio of the year, the
much heralded ‘RPM’ line was a combined –6 against Minnesota.  Reasoner, Pisani and Moreau only managed
three shots on goal over the course of the overtime game.

Mikko Luoma has played two consecutive lackluster games and may have made
choosing Marc-Andre Bergeron ahead of himself just a little easier.  While neither had a great game against the
Wild, Luoma admits to having a hard time adjusting to the North American game.


Quick Hits  


There will be new safety netting
installed at Skyreach Centre prior to the home opener on October 9th.  The new netting will be both thinner and lighter
than the current mesh which should provide for a less obstructed view for fans
sitting on the ends of the arena.


Bobby Allen has been cleared to play again and is scheduled to resume
practicing again on Monday after the team takes Sunday off.  Allen has been skating, but not practicing,
for the past week.


Mike York played his first game of the
exhibition season and played well in the debut.


Ethan Moreau and Scott Ferguson were the
alternate captains and wore the ‘A’ on their sweaters on Saturday.


Edmonton sat eight players against
Minnesota who would be considered starters by most people.  Ryan Smyth, Georges Laraque, Brad Isbister,
Ales Hemsky, Tommy Salo, Eric Brewer, Steve Staios and Radek Dvorak were not
dressed for the Oil.


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