Another set of eyes is exactly what an Edmonton hockey fan needed tonight. If you didn't go to the home game and you're anything like me, you probably tried to watch both games at once online. It was a case of sacrificing a little bit of the details to get a sense of the overall picture.
There was simply too much to watch in both games to watch just one of them.
In Edmonton, the Oilers group rallied from a 3-0 deficit and outplayed their opponent after the first period, only to be downed by a late goal. The line of Paajarvi, Lander and Omark looked like the best one from either team on this night. Lander continued his strong play with a goal and an assist in this first step up from the Young Stars Tournament. Lander is used to the SEL, so it's no surprise that he has continued to be a force. It's possible that Lander could earn a spot on the NHL team, but one wonders if that's the best thing for him. He'll be a key contributor to the squad in Oklahoma City, and the playing time he gets down there would serve him well. He'll probably find himself in a similar situation to what Linus Omark went through last year. As soon as Brule suffers the inevitable injury, the Oilers will be burning up the phone lines to get Lander back to E-Town.
Unfortunately, Nikolai Khabibulin allowed 3 goals on the 10 shots he faced in half a game of action and didn't do much to alleviate fears that he won't be bouncing back - and this was only the pre-season. Tyler Bunz looked solid as always, and the goal he allowed came through a pile of traffic with the Wild on the powerplay.
Taylor Hall was a minus-2 in this game. He showed offensive flair as always, but couldn't convert. Then again, it was his first game action since early March.
Antti Tyrvainen scored the tying goal and seemed to play well enough that he may survive the next round of cuts.
In Saskatoon, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins came on strong right out of the gate. He stripped players of pucks, created scoring opportunities and assisted on a goal that was tipped in by Ryan Smyth. He definitely survived the first test and didn't look out of place in his professional debut. In fact, at times he looked dominant. Although there will probably still be people saying "he missed the open net when Chicago pulled their goalie! The Oilers should have drafted Larsson!"
Devan Dubnyk played better in this game than Khabibulin did in his, and this is another piece of evidence that suggests that Dubnyk must be the starter right now.
Seeing Ryan Smyth in Oiler silks again was great, even if he was just a tiny, grainy little image that sometimes bounced around on the screen thanks to the lag. The line with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle was dangerous all night and there's every possibility that that combination could carry right into the regular season.
Boy was it ever nice to watch some Oilers hockey again.