Oiler rookies taken to school

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

They came to see The Three on the ice together at the same time for the first time in an NHL pre-season game.

And they didn’t.

The Calgary Flames made Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Pajaarvi disappear.

If nothing else it was a good, big old, cold bucket of ice water to throw on everybody in Edmonton who was getting a little carried away there with their early success in the pre-season schedule against a collection of juniors, minor leaguers and non-entities wearing NHL uniforms.

The talented trio had individual successes with Pajaarvi and Eberle each having a spectacular night.

Then they had this one, which was much closer to a real NHL game.

You could see the irritation with No. 1 pick Hall as he banged his stick on the ice in frustration on occasion.

He stayed on the ice, extending shifts way too long and jumped off the bench to create a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty before Pajaarvi could make it to the bench.

Pajaarvi seemed disconnected at times to Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner.

And Eberle was mostly nondescript.

None of them had a shot on goal. They were a combined minus five. And in a game in which only six Oilers failed to register a hit, they were half of them.

Pretty much what you’d expect the first time they saw the NHL like it is when it’s real. Around here, the only time it gets close to being real is a pre-season game against the Calgary Flames just before the start of the regular season.

“It was a lot faster game,” said Hall, who grew up on this stuff when he was a kid in Calgary until he moved to Kingston, Ont., when he was 13.

“It was a frustrating night. Things were coming at you. There were a lot of things I didn’t expect that weren’t in there the first games. I didn’t expect the pressure and the forechecking.

“A few times I had to take a hit. There was nothing I could do.

“It’s good, though. It was a taste of what is to come and what you have to deal with. It was a Friday night at Rexall Place with the Calgary Flames in town and the place was rocking.”

Well, until the team which ran the table with six wins in six games against the Oilers last year ended up with a 5-1 win.

“There was less ice and you get hit a lot,” said Pajaarvi.

“It was a good lesson. You have to use that to get you into the game.”

Eberle said they can’t miss the message.

“Obviously things are going to get tougher. Obviously you have to compete every game you play.”

While starting netminder Miikka Kiprusoff watched this one from the bench as the Flames saved him for the final pre-season game, a rematch against the Oilers Sunday in Calgary, it was a reasonable facsimile of the Flames lineup you’d expect to see here when the two teams open the regular season back here Thursday.

“That was certainly a step up,” said head coach Tom Renney of the escalation of the level of play.

He admitted he has some thinking to do in terms of who he will take down to Calgary to play compared to who he was planning to take for the game.

And you can bet there will be a teaching session with some messages delivered today.

“Taylor or Jordan or Magnus are not going to have success if they extend their shifts,” said Renney.

“It’s about small successes right now,” added the coach who said 40-second shifts is the way he wants this team to play.

“I have some currency called ice time,” he said of Hall now being a repeat offender in extending shifts in a pre-season game.

“It’s not exclusive to him,” he added.

As for the too-many-men penalties, he said “it’s about being smart and ready on the bench. Hall has to cover that.”

The thing about last night was that it was an eye-opener. But it wasn’t that The Three looked horribly out of place.

“I think they’re highly competitive people. There’s a calming down and playing hockey aspect here.

“I never suggested we didn’t have a lot of work to do.”

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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