SUN Hockey Pool

Terrific trio for Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

Head coach Craig MacTavish wasn't sure what to expect when he put Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and rookie Sam Gagner together for the first time.

How does a 13-point night sound?

The trio was sensational yesterday in leading Team Blue to a 9-4 victory over Team White in the annual Joey Moss Cup.

Hemsky had three goals and two assists, Penner had four helpers and Gagner continued his hot hand from the Super Series, scoring two goals and adding two assists.

Granted, training camp scrimmage games, no matter how you dress them up, aren't worth the ice they're played on, but 13 points is 13 points. And every time Gagner plays he makes another case for being NHL ready.

"They make it pretty easy out there, they're very skilled players," Gagner said of his linemates. "Penner opens up a lot of room and Hemsky has great vision and great hands. It's a lot of fun to play with them."

Gagner's nicest goal came when he roofed one on Dwayne Roloson, who didn't get much help from the Whiteshirts in allowing six goals on 17 shots.

"Gagner made some great plays, made no mistake on the one pass Hemmer gave him, short side high," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "It's a great goal, we don't see a lot of those. It's good to see that style of goal. He obviously has a head for the game."

Hemsky, who's been sensational in camp, noticed that, too.

"He's a young, talented guy who can really move the puck," said the shifty Czech. "He's really smart. He has a feel for the game. It'll be interesting to see how he can do during the exhibition games."

Indeed, the sledding gets a lot tougher starting tonight when the Oilers open their pre-season schedule against the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m., followed by the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow.

"The exhibition games are a little bit tighter than the Joey Moss Cup," grinned Hemsky. "It'll be a different game. Those guys will be stronger, it'll be a bigger test for us."

A lot of the kids have been turning heads in scrimmages - Robert Nilsson and Kyle Brodziak, to name two - but it's not until you get deep into the pre-season games that positions are won and lost.

"I'm always very cautious this time of year because you're playing against watered-down opponents," said MacTavish.

"When the ice tightens up, as it inevitably does through training camp, it's important that you be patient in your assessment of guys who've had really good early training camp success."

PENNER FITTING IN: Penner has to pick up his pace a little bit, but everything else looks good.

"I'm getting the sense that it's all about skating for him," said MacTavish. "He has the hands, he can make plays. We'll get some tempo to his game; if we can get him skating at a high level he's going to really, really help us."

FIRST CUTS: The Oilers assigned 10 players to the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League and returned three players to their respective junior teams and one player to his team in Sweden.

Among the 10 players sent to Springfield were Rick Berry (D), Glenn Fisher (G), Stephane Goulet (LW), Colin McDonald (RW), Jacob Micflikier (LW), Geoff Paukovich (LW), Theo Peckham (D), T.J. Reynolds (D), David Rohlfs (RW) and Allan Rourke (D).

Vitaly Karamnov (C, Everett, WHL), Milan Kytnar (C, Kelowna, WHL) and Bryan Pitton (G, Brampton, OHL) returned to Junior and left winger William Quist was returned to Linkopings HC of the Swedish Elitserien.

The Oilers roster now stands at 47 players.


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