DALLAS -- Last night was the only true representation of what the Edmonton Oilers will look like this season.
By all accounts, it's still a work in progress.
Icing essentially a full lineup, the Oilers did manage to pull out a 3-2 victory over the Dallas Stars in a half-empty American Airlines Center. But they were badly out-shot in the contest and took far too many penalties.
"It's kind of been the model for the preseason - that it's pretty hard at the end of the day to judge it," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "We were good five-on-five for large periods of the game, but we didn't play five-on-five very much.
"Obviously the biggest thing for us is that we can't take the penalties that we've been taking. It's just a killer.
"And at the end of the day it's even hard to judge your penalty-killing. We're in our zone a lot but we gave up one goal on eight opportunities. It's bending but not breaking."
The game had all the intensity of the final preseason contest for both teams.
Apart from a first-period fight between Oilers defenceman Jason Strudwick and Stars winger Brandon Crombeen, there was little of the ill-will and old-school thuggery encountered two nights earlier in Calgary.
In reality, the objective going in was not only to develop some chemistry as a team, but also avoid any senseless injuries.
Two weeks from now, no one is going to be too bothered by how the preseason turned out.
"I thought we came out really well and then we got into some penalty trouble," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau. "They threw everything at the net and sometimes the shots are misleading in this building.
"But we played okay, we did a lot of things well and other than the penalty trouble I thought it was a solid game."
After a strong start where Andrew Cogliano scored on the first shot and Sheldon Souray added another one on the power play, the Oilers appeared to shut it down.
It was either that, or the Stars took it to another level.
Crombeen scored from a bad angle on goaltender Mathieu Garon. Stephane Robidas then tied the game on the power play.
The second period was almost exclusively spent in the Oilers zone. Four power-plays allowed the Stars to enhance their shot-count, but they were kept off the board, due in large part to the play of Garon.
The Oilers goaltender settled in after giving up a pair of goals in the opening period.
After 40 minutes the Oilers were being out-shot 27-12. They only managed to add two more shots to their total, while the Stars peppered Garon.
The Oilers dressed their top two lines and Steve MacIntyre in place of Zack Stortini on the fourth unit. After an impressive debut in Calgary, the winger earned himself another look in the exhibition season and probably even a roster spot when the games count for real.
Strudwick drew in for Ladislav Smid on the third defensive pairing, a move which paid off as the local product scored the winning goal in the third period.
"That's a good team over there, those guys can skate," Strudwick said.
"It's nice to get a win to finish off the preseason. We have a lot of work to do this week, but it's nice to end with a win."
With one goal all of last season with the New York Rangers, Strudwick may not want to waste them all in the preseason.
The team flew home directly after the game.
They'll take today off, then head out on a team-building retreat to Jasper tomorrow.
The Oilers then open the regular season on Sunday by hosting the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place.
"I dread this time of year," Moreau said.
"It's so much fun to play regular-season games. Now it's enjoyable. That's the grind, that's the worst time of the year for me, now it's fun."