Jets and Oilers open the season tonight (lineups included)

- October 1st, 2013

EDMONTON — Busy morning down at Rexall Place.

The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers finished their final preparations with the morning skate and it’s clear both sides can’t wait to get this 2013-14 season going here.

There are plenty of storylines to follow this evening.

Here are a few of the things I’ll be keeping my eye on:

* How will Mark Scheifele do in his first game as the 2nd line C with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi?

* How will Jacob Trouba fare on a pairing with Zach Bogosian that is expected to log big minutes

* Will Jets top unit of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler continue to carry the load again

* Is Ondrej Pavelec ready to take his game to another level

* Will the Jets be tougher to play against and can they do a better job defensively against this high-paced Oilers’ lineup

* How big an impact will Dustin Byfuglien have on this game?

There are plenty of other things that are sure to stand out, but those are a few things that could catch your attention.

The Oilers have heightened expectations for this season and it will be interesting to see if they can break their long playoff drought, which dates back to 2006. The Jets have a similar plan in mind and would love to get back to playoffs for first time since 2007, the only time the Atlanta Thrashers actually made it.

New Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins has ties to Winnipeg and it’s fitting he’s going to make his regular season debut against the franchise that he made his NHL debut with, back in 1992-93.

Eakins was asked about his first NHL game as a player this morning and compared the feelings he was going through now for this latest debut.

“Mike Lalor was my defence partner that night and he asked me how many games I had played. I said none and he went ‘oh, okay.’ I’m much more at ease now,” said Eakins. “I haven’t thought much about (the coaching debut). You get so busy that you’re into it. I’m just excited to get going, I want to get playing. I want to see where we’re at. We’ve got challenges early (with two top centre’s out to injury).

Speaking of Eakins, the early feedback on him is quite positive.

“(Eakins) isn’t too rattled by it, he’s ready for this,” said Oilers captain Andrew Ference. “He’s a man that has his convictions and knows exactly what he wants to do. I don’t think he’s phased by the stage or anything like that. He’s on a mission. Tonight is the start of that mission.

“I talked to him right off the bat, after free agency and the way you talk to him from conversation No. 1 to right now, he is a black and white guy. You know exactly what you’re getting from him and as a player, that’s probably one of the best qualities you can have in a coach — honesty. It’s not always what you want to hear but it’s honesty and he’s going to hold you to your highest. You set the bar for yourself and he’s going to make sure you try to get to that bar every night. That’s what it takes to win. Players appreciate that approach where you know what your role is, there’s not a lot of grey area. You take away all of your excuses that you could possibly have.”

Video reaction and the game-day web story have already been posted at www.winnipegsun.com, but for those of you wondering, here are the projected lineups for tonight’s tilt between the Jets and Oilers (puck drop set for roughly 9:15 pm CT).

Jets

Andrew Ladd-Bryan Little-Blake Wheeler
Evander Kane-Mark Scheifele-Devin Setoguchi
James Wright-Olli Jokinen-Michael Frolik
Eric Tangradi-Jim Slater-Chris Thorburn

Toby Enstrom-Dustin Byfuglien
Jacob Trouba-Zach Bogosian
Mark Stuart-Paul Postma

Ondrej Pavelec (Al Monotya)

Spares: RW Matt Halischuk, Anthony Peluso, D Adam Pardy

Oilers

Ryan Smyth – Taylor Hall – Ales Hemsky
David Perron – Mark Arcobello – Jordan Eberle
Jesse Joensuu – Boyd Gordon – Nail Yakupov
Luke Gazdic – Will Acton – Mike Brown

Andrew Ference – Justin Schultz
Ladislav Smid – Jeff Petry
Nick Schultz – Anton Belov

Devan Dubnyk (Jason LaBarbera)

Spares: LW Ben Eager

Injuries

Jets
D Grant Clitsome (lower-body)

Oilers
C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder)
C Sam Gagner (jaw)
D Denis Grebeshkov (groin)
LW Steve MacIntyre (knee)

Categories: Hockey

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