They haven’t skated together through the first three days of training camp, so it was a little surprising to see Taylor Hall line up beside Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky Tuesday night in the Edmonton Oilers annual intrasquad game.
But judging from the performance of trio, it’s a combination that may become customary for the club.
“It was great, they know the ins and out of the game, they’re great passers and Horcoff is a great face-off guy, so we had the puck for most of the night,” Hall said. “We weren’t in our end a whole lot, so playing with them it was a good introduction for me here at Rexall.”
Granted they were going up against their own teammates, and the only players who really took the contest seriously were those battling for the few spots not accounted for on the roster. But it was a good start.
The trio tallied for six points in the 3-0 win for the Blue squad to claim the Joey Moss Cup.
Horcoff looked perhaps the most impressive, regaining the jump that an experimental training regimen last off-season had cost him.
The veteran displayed his speed on a short-handed marker in the second of three 15-minute periods, then showed it off again in the third, splitting between a pair of defencemen to set up Hall for a simple tap-in.
“I’m feeling better,” Horcoff said. “I went back to some things that I knew were going to make me successful this summer. Things that I’m comfortable with and I feel as though I have that jump again, which I have to have if I’m going to play well.”
Having just run through drills in the first three days of training camp, Tuesday’s scrimmage was the first time the Oilers had an opportunity to get a feel for each other in a game situation.
They open their pre-season schedule Wednesday night in Vancouver against the Canucks. On Thursday, they’ll host the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Hall, who played in a pair of games in a pre-season rookie tournament last week, looked extremely comfortable alongside the two veterans.
“We’ve been skating for a while, but it’s the first time I’ve actually seen him out there and he looks pretty confident,” Horcoff said. “He’s a pretty special player with a lot of talent. I think the more comfortable he gets, the better he’s going to be.”
Part of the reason for lining up Hall with Hemsky and Horcoff was to take some pressure off the future franchise player.
Ever since the Oilers made him the top pick in this summer’s NHL Entry Draft, Hall’s every move has been scrutinized. The kid can’t sneeze without someone blogging about it or sending out a Twitter feed.
“What we tried to do is make sure that he feels comfortable so he can just go play,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I’m sure they (Horcoff and Hemsky) gave him real, good feedback both on the ice and on the bench where he could go out and have some fun.”
Perhaps more impressive than his two points were Hall’s instinctive abilities of knowing where to go to compliment a pair of players that have played together for years.
“It was a pretty good pace out there and I felt I fit in pretty well with the pace,” Hall said. “I haven’t practiced much or played with Hemsky before, but when you have player like that, that is such a good passer, he’s not a hard player to read. You know that if you’re able to get open, he’s going to get the pass to you and that’s what I tried to do tonight.”