It's only a matter of time until Alexei Mikhnov is sent to the minors to get some playing time. The questions are, when and where?
Mikhnov, 24, has been perched in the press box for 10 of the Edmonton Oilers first 11 games, and he'll be in the cheap seats again tonight when the Nashville Predators come calling.
"That's to be determined very shortly," coach Craig MacTavish said, asked what's in the cards for Mikhnov.
"I don't want to really get into what my plans are now without having that discussion with the player."
Mikhnov's only game action was Oct. 23 against Phoenix. He didn't get much done in just 4:21 of playing time against the Coyotes. His place in the lineup has since been taken by J.F. Jacques and Toby Petersen.
"Ultimately, he's going to have to play," MacTavish said.
"There's definitely the likelihood down the road, I don't know how soon, that we'll send him down for four or five games in the AHL."
While there's value in having the big left winger learn the Oilers' system under MacTavish and his staff - especially given the language barrier and that the Oilers don't have their own AHL affiliate - it's coming to a point where the benefits are being counter-balanced by lack of game action.
"At the beginning, being around the system was important for us and him," vice-president of hockey operations Kevin Prendergast said.
"We've got him in pretty good shape at this point.
"MacT will have to make the call on what he wants to do with him in the next little while.
"He's a big guy, and he's got to play one way or another. It'll be the coach's decision."
Without their own AHL team, the Oilers have to wait for an opening in Grand Rapids, Hamilton, Iowa, Milwaukee or Wilkes-Barre.
With Stephane Goulet being sent from Grand Rapids of the AHL to Stockton Monday, the Oilers now have five prospects toiling with the Thunder in the ECHL.
That will prompt development coach Kelly Buchberger to jump a jet for the warmer climes of California today to keep tabs.
Topping the list three games into Stockton's schedule is goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has a 2-0-0 record with a 1.93 goals-against average and a saves percentage of .954.
Troy Bodie and Tyler Spurgeon have both scored 1-2-3 in their first three games, while Liam Reddox has 0-2-2.
Goulet was scoreless in two games with Grand Rapids before being assigned to Stockton.
AROUND THE RINK ... Petersen has ditched No. 45 and will be wearing No. 20 against Nashville tonight ... MacTavish is still looking to get Jan Hejda into the line-up, but don't expect that to happen tonight.