SUN Hockey Pool

Youth, vim 'n' vigour

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:32 AM ET

It was the end of the pre-game warm-up, the time when Ryan Smyth usually stays out there flipping pucks to fans in the stands.

There was no Smyth out there, of course.

But instead there were four players - Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Tom Gilbert - out there on the ice together after everybody else had departed for the dressing room.

Why, exactly, Kyle Brodziak didn't stay out there with them, I have no idea.

But from then on, it was the five young players who provided most of the eye candy for the fans. Even if the truth of it was that it was the oldest guy on the ice - goaltender Dwayne Roloson - who was the No. 1 reason why they won the hockey game.

EVERYONE HAD JUMP

When you come to review opening night for the Edmonton Oilers, it wasn't just the kids but virtually everybody feeding off each other, adding energy and enthusiasm, as the Oilers opened the season with a 3-2 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks.

It's hardly surprising that the fans would head home happy considering the way the season ended last year and the emotional roller-coaster they rode as GM Kevin Lowe had a fist full of dollars he couldn't spend.

"The skill level looked all right," said the GM, who probably wouldn't have minded if Dustin Penner had a hat trick but was quite happy to see Gilbert and Brodziak score, Cogliano and Gagner assist, and Nilsson pot one in the shootout. "Those guys are tough opponents. I thought we did all right. It was a good start for our young players to get their feet wet. They were really poised.

"The two young ones, Cogliano and Gagner, playing in their first NHL games, played elite level hockey. They both thought the game very well. The No. 1 asset a player has is an ability to think the game," said Lowe.

"The kids were great," said Jarret Stoll, the Oiler who fired the winner in the shootout.

"They contributed, that's for sure. That's why they made this team.

"It was a great combination between the veterans and the young guys. And it was exciting for the fans."

It's called getting off to a good trip and getting out of the gate great.

But the Oilers who haven't lost a home opener since 1998, have looked good for openers before.

Considering the way some of those seasons ended up, nobody is going to jump up and down and make any stupid statements about what we watched. Coach Craig MacTavish went out of his way to keep an even keel in the post game interview room which the Oilers finally created.

But, that said, there was a smile that kept coming to his face.

"It was a fun game for everybody," he said. "At times it looked like the Kentucky Derby up and down the ice.

"The team played with a lot of energy. We're much better four-on-four, that's for sure."

He recognized the kids storyline.

"It's a great story when you have as lot of young guys here and helping. Now we just to find out how substantive it is. Tonight those guys made plays."

He especially liked to see Gilbert get a goal standing in the San Jose crease.

"How many times and how creative can you say get pucks and bodies to the net," he said of a young guy actually listening.

ROLOSON CAME UP BIG

And Roloson, despite having to come up large to get the win, liked what he saw in front of him.

"It think it was pretty good," he said of his first impressions. "It was a smart game by everybody. The young guys brought a lot of enthusiasm. When you see one guy do it, other guys do it and it just snowballs."

This is half as many wins as Edmonton won in the last 20 games last year. And there was pizzazz and razmataz.

There was all sorts of speed and, despite a 0-0 score through two periods, plenty of action and scoring chances.

After a season that was no fun at all, it was a lot of fun to be back in the building.


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