Extra time at the blackboard

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers, like all NHL teams, will be spending some extra time at the blackboard when training camps convene - to adjust to rule changes designed to open up the game and generate offence.

An emphasis on cracking down on obstruction, removal of the centre line for calling two-line passes and the return of the tag-up offside are the most significant changes in terms of flow and strategy.

"There's going to be a lot of different things and we've got to get on it right away from the start of camp," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "We're going to run camp a little differently because of it."

Aside from changes to goaltending equipment, the addition of shootouts and expanded offensive zones, recommendations put forward by the NHL Competition Committee and approved by governors call for "zero tolerance" for interference, hooking and holding. "We're going to break camp down into three groups," said MacTavish, who'll hold his first on-ice session Sept. 13. "Two groups will scrimmage one day and the other group will practise.

"We'll start to integrate some of the changes. The two-line pass is going to be great entertainment. It's going to be important. There's stretch plays you work on. Your defencemen are going to have to have good feet to maintain legal body position on their checks."

STOP RIGHT THERE: While some fans are wondering if the Oilers are good enough in goal with the tandem of Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen, GM Kevin Lowe isn't in the market for a goaltender.

"We're not getting a goalie," Lowe said.

With about $31 million committed to contracts and qualifying offers, Lowe has some room in his budget to add a player, but he'll spend it up front or on defence, not on a stopper. Fans on one website, HFBoards.com, are indifferent enough about Conklin and Markkanen that they've morphed the duo into "Conkkanen."

BIG GUN: With Brad Isbister traded, six-foot-five, 230-pound Brad Winchester will get a long look on left wing when camp opens after scoring 22-18-40 and adding 143 penalty minutes with the Road Runners in the AHL last season.

"It depends on him," MacTavish said. "We've got a spot open for him on our team if he's going to play good, hard-nosed hockey. He gives us some great size. He can skate. He's got hands."

Don't be surprised if the former University of Wisconsin captain -- he signed a two-year, one-way contract worth $950,000 yesterday -- lines up with Todd Harvey and Georges Laraque on the fourth line.

AROUND THE RINK ... The Oilers yesterday made official their affiliation agreement with Des Moines of the AHL.


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