Edmonton - September 24, 2013 - On a night in which the Edmonton Oilers did not dress the majority of their core forward group, the likes of Will Acton, Jesse Joensuu and Tyler Pitlick used the opportunity to send a message to head coach Dallas Eakins.
Second period goals from Acton and Joensuu proved to be all the Oilers would need, as they reeled off their third consecutive preseason win, edging the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 2-1.
Netminder Devan Dubnyk was solid in between the pipes, stopping twenty-eight of the twenty-nine pucks fired his way, while defenceman Anton Belov was simply outstanding in his second appearance of the exhibition campaign.
Despite having missed the first week of camp, the talented Russian rearguard appears to have already secured a spot within Edmonton's top six blueliners.
In what was a rather uneventful opening frame, Chris Thorburn would send the Jets to the dressing room with a one goal lead, courtesy of a last minute lucky bounce. Thorburn's harmless looking shot somehow managed to deflect off the shaft of Dubnyk's stick and drop in behind the Oilers towering puckstopper. Was it an ugly goal? Yes it was but it was more of a bad break than a bad goal on the part of #40.
Edmonton wasted little time in picking up their netminder, as the big Finn potted his third of the preseason, just 2:39 into period two. After gaining the Jets blueline, defenceman Philip Larsen left a nifty little drop pass for an incoming Tyler Pitlick, who simply snapped a shot on goal that Joensuu redirected past Winnipeg starter Edward Pasquale.
While most expected the former New York Islanders second round pick to make the squad out of camp, Joensuu has been one of the bigger surprises of training camp. The big man has shown a willingness to not only engage physically but also the ability of scoring those greasy goals from in tight...something which has been absent inside the Oilers bottom six for sometime.
Just under seven minutes after Joensuu got them back on level terms, Edmonton would grab their first lead of the night. Will Acton found the back of the net for the second straight game, deflecting home Belov's point shot, for what was the eventual game-winner. The former Toronto Marlies centre, who continues to improve with each and every outing, has made a solid case for being the Oilers fourth line centre come October 1st.
In just his second game since arriving from Russia, Belov looked very comfortable in his new NHL silks, logging just over twenty-two minutes of ice-time. The twenty-seven year old was given a long look on the power play and one thing is clear, the Oilers #77 has likely never seen a puck he hasn't wanted to fire on net. While we are talking about a fairly small sample size, everything we have seen from Belov says NHL defenceman.
While the likes of Acton, Mark Arcobello, Belov, Joensuu, Larsen and Tyler Pitlick, who was probably the best of the bunch, showed very well against the Jets on Monday night, the trio of Ryan Jones, Anton Lander and Linus Omark were not so lucky.
After looking good to start camp, Jones has seen his play level off of late and could be in danger of losing what appeared to be a certain roster spot. As far as Lander goes, the former second round pick continues to be a "non-factor" on most nights but Edmonton's lack of depth down the middle should keep him here until the end of camp. That said, if he has any intention of making this team, this would be as good a time as any to step up and be noticed.
Bringing us to Mr.Omark. Personally, I have always been a fan of the diminutive Swede's game but to be perfectly honest, he has been a no-show throughout training camp. He has been given the opportunity to play with some of the Oilers most skilled players and, frankly, hasn't pissed a drop. Omark trailed only Nail Yakupov in powerplay ice-time against the Jets and was invisible for much of the evening.
Don't be surprised to see #23 sent down to OKC later today or following tonight's game against the New York Rangers. It may not be the ending some were hoping for but the Linus Omark experiment appears to be all but over.
Next game: vs New York Rangers (09/24/13 - 7:30 pm MTD)