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Jitter bugs

Lubomir Visnovsky, acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the off-season, admits to being a little...

Lubomir Visnovsky, acquired from the Los Angeles Kings in the off-season, admits to being a little nervous about tonight's home- and regular-season opener tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. (David Bloom, Sun Media)

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:56 AM ET

They'll all have opening-night jitters. It's only natural.

But for a select few - those who have never played a regular-season game with the Edmonton Oilers, those who have expanded roles this season, and those who have finally been able to make the cut - it'll be different.

"I don't see it being tremendously different," said Oilers winger Erik Cole. "But you want to make a good first impression on the organization, my teammates and the fans."

Cole is one of the reasons for the excitement surrounding the team heading into tonight's regular-season opener against the Colorado Avalanche (6 p.m.) at Rexall Place.

The Oswego, N.Y., native scored 30 goals the year the Carolina Hurricanes went on to win the Stanley Cup. He'll start the year playing on the Oilers top line with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.

"I'm not really worried about the expectations put for me," Cole said. "I feel like I'm very capable of being able to have a good year and to produce playing with those two, or whoever I happen to be playing with this season."

Lubomir Visnovsky is another reason for the optimism.

The veteran defenceman acquired from the Los Angeles Kings this summer was at first apprehensive about the prospect of playing in Edmonton. But he has since warmed to the city and is looking forward to the season opener.

"I'm a little bit nervous about playing my first game for the Oilers," Visnovsky said. "It's not like being a rookie. It's a little bit different. I remember my first game, it was in Washington and at the time I didn't know anything about the NHL because I had played the previous seven years in Europe.

"Now I know the NHL, it's just the first game with a new team, which is why it's a little bit different."

Visnovsky, 32, is expected to provide offence from the blue-line along with Sheldon Souray and Tom Gilbert.

The native of Topolcany, Slovakia, registered 41 points for the Kings last season, more than any defenceman in Edmonton had.

Tonight's game should be a memorable one for Visnovsky because it's a new chapter in his career, much like that night in Washington eight years ago.

"I remember thinking during the national anthem that this was the best league in the world and I was here," Visnovsky said. "Because I was a rookie, I knew I had to get better from game to game because I didn't want to go to the minors.

"On my first shift, Luc Robitaille scored a goal, so I was excited. I had one shift in the NHL and I was already plus-one."

Marc Pouliot, meanwhile, has been here before - in the lineup on opening day. However, this time around, the former first-round draft pick appears to have solidified himself a permanent place in the lineup with a strong training camp.

"I still have to prove myself," Pouliot said. "But I definitely feel better this year. I feel confident and physically I don't have any injuries. I think it's going to go well. The first couple of games you have to get into to get the confidence for the rest of the season and that's what I'm going to try and do."

OIL SPILLS: THE OILERS ASSIGNED D MATHIEU ROY AND LW ROB SCHREMP TO THE SPRINGFIELD FALCONS OF THE AHL. ROY HAD TO CLEAR WAIVERS IN ORDER TO BE SENT DOWN.

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WHO TO WATCH

Oilers: Erik Cole

Created a lot of buzz this off-season with his acquisition from the Carolina Hurricanes. This will be his first regular-season game as a member of the Oilers.

Avs: Tyler Arnason

Had five goals in eight games against the Oilers last year. Only scored 10 all season.

COMING IN

Oilers: 0-0-0-0, season opener.

Avalanche: 1-0-1-0, lost 5-4 at home to the Boston Bruins on Thursday.

INJURIES

Oilers: None

Avalanche: RW Scott Parker (concussion).

GAME NOTES

The Oilers lost six of the eight meetings between the two teams last season. Tonight's encounter is the first of six games between the two teams this year ... Mathieu Garon will get the start in goal for the Oilers. According to head coach Craig MacTavish, he was anointed the starting goaltender based on his play last season. The Oilers will start the year with three goaltenders on the roster ... Joe Sakic had two goals and seven assists in eight games to lead the Avalanche against the Oilers last season. Tyler Arnason had five goals and three assists against the Oilers. The previous season he had 11 points in eight games against the Oilers.


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