SUN Hockey Pool

Who's front and centre

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Assuming what you see is what you get as the Oilers head into the 2005-06 season, here's how the puzzle pieces might fit together:

-- Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen minding the twine. Conklin assumed the starting role when Tommy Salo got the boot out of town, and he went on to post 19 wins and a .914 save percetage. Markkanen has a fresh two-year deal in his pocket, allowing the Oilers to take their time in grooming either Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers for the future.

-- Defensive pairings: Chris Pronger schooling the equally large Alexei Semenov, captain Jason Smith and Steve Staios partnering up, and Igor Ulanov with Marc-Andre Bergeron.

Cory Cross would be a candidate to split time with Ulanov and be on reserve for other injuries.

If Matt Greene comes out of college, he'll get a long look, but the Oilers are likely to give them a season to grow in Iowa -- quite possibly alongside 2005 draft pick Danny Syvret.

-- The threesome of Shawn Horcoff centering Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky found some success as the 2003-04 season wound down, and they should be a unit together off the hop.

"If Hemsky comes here with the same zazz he showed at the world championships, he will be our best right-winger," said Prendergast.

-- Ex-Islanders Raffi Torres and Mike Peca on the No. 2 line with Radek Dvorak, who was second on the team in scoring two years ago with 50 points, on the right. "Mike definitely got pigeonholed on the Island, having to play a more defensive role and babysitting (Alexei) Yashin. If he's gets off to a good first half, I certainly think he's got 20 or more goals in him," said Prendergast.

-- The third and fourth lines are where could get messy. Marty Reasoner and Jarret Stoll will be the leading candidates for the pivot role on the third line, with either one and newcomer Todd Harvey in the mix to head up the fourth line. Ethan Moreau is guaranteed a spot on the left side and Georges Laraque won't miss many games on the right, leaving Fernando Pisani, Brad Winchester and Jani Rita to fight it out for the two remaining positions.

They could be joined by Rob Schremp and Marc-Antoine Pouliot if one or both show they're ready to jump from junior to the NHL.

Laraque managed only six goals in the last season, but he's got the ability to accomplish more. "Four-on-four, nobody can control him," said Prendergast. "He's got to develop a confidence to go to the net. If he starts to do that all the time, I think he could have a hell of a year."


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