SUN Hockey Pool

Make or break with Oilers

Yan Stastny is in the mix for the 14th and final spot at forward on the Oilers' roster. But he's...

Yan Stastny is in the mix for the 14th and final spot at forward on the Oilers' roster. But he's got tough competition from power-play specialist Robbie Schremp. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

If Craig MacTavish hasn't already made up his mind, and his roster, the next 48 hours will likely be the last chance any player has to change it.

And if you're Craig MacTavish, two games in two nights against the Calgary Flames - games six and seven of the eight-game pre-season schedule - should provide all of the insight you need to make those final few decisions.

"These are a couple of big games coming up," said Yan Stastny, who's in the mix for the 14th and final forward spot. "I think these next two games are going to be make or break for a lot of players.

"It's a little nerve-wracking. The guys here make it as comfortable as can be, but time is winding down and guys are gripping the sticks a little tighter trying to do what they have to do to make the team."

With veterans eating up the first 11 spots at forward, and Todd Harvey and Brad Winchester taking 12 and 13, it's down to Stastny, Robbie Schremp, and Jani Rita for the last job.

Schremp, with his shot and his power-play work, probably has the inside track, but that's not to say Rita or Stastny couldn't jump the line. "We still have some question marks out there but we expect those to be answered pretty shortly," said MacTavish.

UP TO SPEED

"We know there's a lot of areas of improvement that can be made with him so we have to make a decision on how quickly we can get him up to speed on the NHL game. Right now, I'd say if we were playing tomorrow he'd be in the mix, but the regular season doesn't open tomorrow.

"We have three more games to prolong that decision. But he's very much in the mix and he senses that. We'll see what he's got in these next two or three games."

All Schremp is trying to do is stay focused and avoid doing anything to mess up his chances over the final week of camp.

"Hopefully I can do some good things and leave them with some positive thoughts over the last couple of games," he said.

'HOPEFULLY I'LL STICK'

Nervous? "Oh yeah. You have a chance to play in the NHL and it's coming down to the next two games. I'm just trying to enjoy it and not think about it too much. If I do get sent back I had a good experience so far, learned a lot. Hopefully I'll stick, but who knows?"

Rita, Edmonton's first pick, 13th overall in 1999, has been given several chances to make the Oilers and hasn't taken the big step. If it doesn't happen this year, a change of NHL scenery might be in everyone's best interest.

"A player gets to the point where if he hasn't made it to the NHL they want a second opinion," said MacTavish. "And the organization, you have to give him that second opinion with another organization."

They're not there yet, but Rita will have to step it up over these final games.

"Jani hasn't played all that much through the pre-season, we need to get him some more minutes to see what he can do," said MacTavish. "We certainly haven't closed any doors on him and he'll get a good opportunity in the next couple games."

They all will. And then it's in the coach's hands. "That's the tough part, you have no idea what they're thinking," said Schremp.

"Are they happy, are they mad, what do they want to see. The toughest part is wondering what's going on.

"But it's winding down, the time coming whether you have to stay or go, so it'll be interesting to see what happens."


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