Young blue-liners face off

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

DALLAS -- Is it decision day in Big D?

While Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish won't make his next roster cuts until after the Vancouver game tomorrow, he's got a good idea who's who in several positions.

One of the closest battles for jobs has a pair of rookie defencemen, Danny Syvret and Matt Greene, pushing veterans for one of seven roster spots MacTavish has designated for defencemen.

That makes tonight's tilt against the Dallas Stars significant for the young blue-liners, and both will be in the line-up when the puck hits the slush at the American Airlines Center. "You want to give them at least a couple of games," said MacTavish, who'll get his second look at the rookies tonight. "One to get their feet wet and try to establish some confidence, and then you give them another to see what they can do."

Syvret, 20, a slick, puck-moving type, might have the edge over Greene, the banger from the University of North Dakota. According to MacTavish, it's the style Syvret plays that has caught his eye.

"My initial impressions are that Danny reads the ice very well and he's an extremely intelligent player, not that Matt isn't," MacTavish said. "He's a quick study as well, but his game, the way he has to close gaps and put himself in position where he's going to be a factor physically, his reads are more complex.

"Danny can sit back and play the game more with his head, where Matt's got to react more and trust his reads. Those reads are more critical, so it's a little bit different."

The veteran on the bubble is Alexei Semenov.

Jeff to go the distance

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who came on in relief of Ty Conklin in Sunday's 6-5 shootout loss to the Stars and stopped 12 of 13 shots, will get the call in goal. The plan is to have him go the distance. Devan Dubnyk is the backup.

- Expect to see rookie Robbie Schremp in the middle between Ryan Smyth and Jani Rita on the top line. Raffi Torres, Jarret Stoll and Fernando Pisani will stay together as a second line.

- It'll be the twin towers in one defensive pair with Chris Pronger playing alongside Cory Cross. Danny Syvret will pair up with Marc-Andre Bergeron and Igor Ulanov and Greene will be a tandem.

AROUND THE RINK ... MacTavish will make his second major roster cut after tomorrow's game against Vancouver at Rexall Place, at which time as many as a dozen players could be released and re-assigned.


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