Poor defensive coverage and an anemic face-off record cost the Edmonton Oilers an unblemished start to their 2010-11 campaign in Minnesota Thursday night, dropping a sloppy 4-2 decision to the Wild.
The youthful Oil will attempt to learn from their mistakes Saturday night, as they prepare to engage the Calgary Flames in the second round of the Battle of Alberta.
Those mistakes, in part, translated into a dreadful night on the PK, as the Oil allowed an aging Wild squad to tally four times on the PP. It’s no secret within the organization, to Head Coach Tom Rennie or the club’s opponents – Edmonton hasn’t had a solid faceoff man since Jarrett Stoll and Marty Reasoner left the Alberta capital via trade and free agency. Not that either player was so fabulous in the circle, but without question, they brought some level of legitimacy to Edmonton’s special teams play.
Hence, Rennie and company find themselves, not only developing rookies, but veterans, like Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Cogliano, the latter of who continues to struggle in the face-off circle. And this after a pre-season pronouncement by Cogliano that he was hopeful his head coach would return him to his natural position of centre, having spent the off-season apparently focusing on his craft.
Although early, it appears little dividend has been reaped from Cogliano’s summer exploits thus far.
Rennie will start Oiler heavyweight Steve MacIntyre Saturday, after the Edmonton tough man put his signature on the 2010-11 Battle of Alberta by dispatching Calgary pugilist Raitis Ivanans with a pair of thundering rights during the Oilers’ home opener last week. Ivanans has yet to return to a Flames’ lineup already decimated with injuries.
So who will dare to dance with SmackIntyre’s knuckles in the second installment? Edmonton nemesis Robyn Regehr might find himself in MacIntyre’s sights, especially if the bruising D-man takes any liberties with Oiler rookies Hall, Eberle and Piaarvi, not to mention his favourite Czech to check, Ales Hemsky.
Nonetheless, the second half of Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada twin-bill is shaping up to be another dandy tilt, and another small step in acclimatizing “the new Kids in the Hall” to the importance of the Battle of Alberta.
In the meantime Oiler fans, chins up…sticks down!
About the Author
Written by Scott Pattison
Scott is an award-winning sports writer whose career spans more than 20 years. He's proudly covered the Oilers since moving to the Alberta capital in 2000.