Matinée game today - against the young, talented Philadelphia Flyers. They were the last team in the NHL to officially register a regulation win, but since gone on to a 4-game winning streak. The play of Joffrey Lupul was no small factor, despite the fact that he has spent some time on the 3rd line (can someone please confirm this for me?) and has 6 points in 10 games with a +/- of 2. He's on pace for 49.2 points so he will basically repeat his last year's performance at this rate, give or take the fluctuations of the 82 game season.
The Flyers have a vast array of weapons, from Richards, Briere, Carter, and Lupul to Timonen, Hatcher (PK weapon?), Eminger, and Alberts (claimed off waivers from Boston) on the blueline.
Erik Cole also ties into this little bonanza considering the pieces of the Lupul/Smith trade also went towards acquiring Cole. Lupul is no sure bet, but boy did he have a bounce-back season with Philly last year, with 46 points. Depending on how Cole plays in Edmonton for the rest of the season and whether we resign him, it might have been a waste to have given up on Lupul so soon.
But the argument always goes, not everyone who plays in their hometown will excel under the pressure. Take all the Torontonians and Edmontonians - Peca, Bouwmeester, who would either avoid the situation or go play @ home and fold under the pressure.
Lupul was reportedly one of those players who ate up the local celebrity status as the homeboy party animal. This was the reputation: it is not necessarily true. However, this is not necessarily suggesting acquiring hometown players is a bad idea; history shows that effective recruitment of local players will actually increase the "connection" with fans.
A shortlist of prominent local players past and present:
Well, the proof will indeed be in the pudding as Edmonton takes on Philadelphia. Last year, Edmonton's only meeting with Philly was in Edmonton and we took that game in Garon's first appearance (where he got beat on a beauty rush by Briere that still routinely makes it onto NHL commercials on sports networks). Evidently, Philly endedup in the playoffs - and we didn't.
Injuries might have been a factor. So far this young season the blueline has seen a rotating membership due to such injuries.
Also of interest is that the Oilers started the year on a 4-0 tear and subsequently just finished an 0-4-1 tear with a win in Carolina; whereas Philadelphia started 0-3-3 and went on to a 4-0 tear most recently.
Has the team turned the corner from that 5 game losing streak enough to halt the tide of the Philadelphia winning streak? We'll have to see.
Notes: Penner and Horpensky had big games vs Philly last year; Briere plays well against us
Prediction: Penner, Horpensky, and the offensive line with Briere will duke it up head-to-head; also, watch for MacT to throw out that Penner-Pisani-Cole line for momentum the way he did in Raleigh. I believe that line forced a Hurricane icing call at one point.
Who wins? Expect a slow start from the Oilers, as the second period will be key in back-to-back matinee contests on the road. So, I will not commit an answer at this point.