EDMONTON, AB – Started preseason with a ‘W’ shutout.
goalkeeper Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard combined to make all 29 saves at Rogers Place on Sunday night as the Edmonton Oilers opened their exhibition slate with a 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets.
defender Markus Niemelainen opened the scoring in the first minute of play before a goalless stretch of almost 49 minutes was interrupted midway through the third period by James Hamblin’s goal in front of his hometown crowd.
Forward Ryan McLeod and Dylan Holloway added insurance 27 seconds before the last frame’s five-minute mark, helping the Oilers seal a win on home ice to open their seven-game preseason schedule.
The Oilers’ journey concludes Monday night with an away game against the Seattle Kraken at the Climate Pledge Arena.
Video: OILER TODAY | Aftermath vs. WPG 09/25/22
There’s no better way to start preseason than scoring on the first goal attempt.
Brad Malone saw a backhand pass from the right corner across the offensive zone and onto the tape from Niemelainen, who had all the space in the world between the blue line and the top of the left ring to hit his glove side on goaltender David Rittich and bury Edmonton’s first shot of the game 41 seconds after the opening image.
The 6-foot-6 rearguard from Kuopio, Finland, has yet to score an NHL goal in the regular season or playoffs and has one assist in 20 career games, but he has scored in his first-ever preseason competition for the oiler. In 15:25 Ice Age on Sunday, Niemelainen added six hits and three blocks in addition to his opening tally.
“He’s a great skater,” said defenseman and pro tryout Jason Demers. “It kind of surprised me how well Niemo got around on the ice, so I think it’s great to see guys like that in the league – a bit of variety and not just little water bugs.”
Video: POST RAW | Markus Niemelainen 09/25/22
How it must feel to be James Hamblin these days. The 23-year-old has been a standout player at Oilers Rookie & Main Camp, and now he’s off to a flying start to the preseason.
After the Blue & Orange scored another strong penalty, the Edmonton, AB product collected the rebound in the slot from a Demers shot and ripped a wrist shot in front of his hometown crowd to give the Oilers 9-38 safety in regulation.
Hamblin’s first goal of the season broke a 48-57 rule without a goal after Niemelainen had opened the scoring in the first minute of play.
Video: Pickard and Skinner unite to shutout in 4-0 win
SAVING THE GAME
Big Stu got the opportunity to start the preseason for the Oilers and he made a fortress out of it. The 23-year-old keeper made 19 of 19 stops in over a season and a half on Sunday night, with his biggest save putting an end to a dangerous 2-on-1 near the end of the first frame.
Saku Maenalanen opted to slide a backdoor pass to Jansen Harkins, but he placed well Dmitri Samorukov at the back end for Edmonton interrupted the initial game and set Jets forward Kevin Stenlund for an in-close rebound. Skinner sought the puck just outside the crease and brought his left pad to the quick chance, keeping a 1-0 game in the final two minutes of the opening period.
“For the first five to 10 minutes, you’re just getting your legs back in,” he said. “It was a little tiring at first but once I got my legs under me I felt pretty good. For the first bit I felt like I obviously had some nerves from the first game. You have to look back at the fans, which was a lot of fun but after a while I felt more confident with my nerves.”
Video: POST RAW | Stuart Skinner 9/25/22
The product of Edmonton, AB and former 78th overall pick by the Oilers in the 2017 NHL Draft, he’s poised for a big role between the whistles this season behind Jack Campbell, who signed over the summer after playing on AHL and NHL level has made great strides.
“It felt a little bit different than all the things I’ve been working on on the ice and a little bit off the ice,” he added. “But all in all I felt just as good. It definitely felt like I was moving a little bit better because I’ve been working on my skating a lot this summer, so that’s a nice feeling.”
CLOSING THE DEAL
The Oilers struck twice in 27 seconds just before the last frame’s five-minute mark to seal an opening W after Ryan McLeod scored a lucky goal with a reaching stick before Dylan Holloway deflected Evan Bouchard’s point shot for the late 4-0
“The legs felt really good,” he said. “I think a big part of that was getting some games at Penticton, kind of getting into game form early on, so the legs felt good tonight.
McLeod led all Oilers forwards that night with 19:45 ice time, including 4:13 on the power play, while Holloway had six team-high shots that came with his first preseason goal in the win.
“It was great. I was able to play in different situations anywhere on the ice,” added Holloway. “[Head Coach Jay Woodcroft] gave me a lot of chances so I think it’s good and I’m just happy with the way the game turned out.”
Video: POST RAW | Dylan Holloway 9/25/22
Skinner on whether the win contributes to a strong confidence he’s shown throughout the season:
“Keep it at the same level. I think after every game you don’t want to go too high or too low – especially the first game of preseason. I thought it was going well and I still have a lot of work to do on it and I felt that on a couple of the tracks during the game. Just keep working on the game.
Holloway on his strong start to the season at both rookie and main camp:
“I feel like it was pretty good. I’ve been fortunate to play with some pretty good linemates, so I feel like they helped me along the way. But I’m feeling good so far and I hope to continue for the rest of the camp.”
Video: POST RAW | Jay Woodcroft 9/25/22
Coach Woodcroft’s thoughts on the game:
“We wanted to play with a lot of energy at first. I thought that showed. I thought our pace was good. A lot of things that we worked on in our first three days of training showed and I thought that was excellent There were also some tricky moments but I guess that’s what you expect in the first preseason game but there was a lot of good stuff, a lot of players put in a really good preseason game and are starting to claim.
Coach Woodcroft on Skinner’s game tonight:
“I see a very professional young man. He is still a young man, but he has gone through all the necessary stages of development on his way. He never skipped a step. He excelled at every stage and put a lot of work into this summer to seize this opportunity. What I saw tonight was a goalkeeper who went out and made bi-savers when there were mishaps.”
“I thought he was a big factor in our penalty shootout tonight being so successful. It was a good first 34-35 minutes for him. I thought Pickard went in and did really well too. Both guys should be feeling fine. “
Coach Woodcroft on Holloway’s performance:
“I really liked him. The powerful step and his ability to break away from his check, I thought he was physical, I thought he showed up in offensive chances. He’s a big reason why our penalty shootout tonight was so successful. It was a good first game for him, I thought that line was an effective line for us tonight. I felt good when they were on the ice.
Video: POST RAW | Jason Demers 9/25/22
Coach Woodcroft on Demers’ game so far on a PTO:
JD was very professional out there, I think he has professional skills. You don’t play 699 NHL games without bringing something to the table. He moves pucks well, he has offensive instincts on the blue line. He played some good breakouts for us. I thought this couple, he and Niemelainen and Demers, was one of our best tonight and I felt good when they were both on the ice.”
“For me it made sense for our organization. It’s nothing that I did more than analyze the situation and make a recommendation. As he’s available and coming to the training camp with a PTO, it made sense to me. We’ve had some right-handed D-Men that were a bit bruised and he’s a person who comes to the arena every day with some juice.