SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers rookies eager to play in Montreal

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:04 PM ET

MONTREAL - In a season of firsts for Edmonton’s rookies, making their debut in Montreal is a pretty big one.

This might not be the same ice that Rocket Richard or Guy Lafleur skated on, the Forum has been gutted and turned into an entertainment centre, but this is the town. And people in the seats who saw the legends play will be watching Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi tonight with the same discerning eyes.

“I know they’re excited and that’s where we want them to stay, excited about being here,” said Oilers coach Tom Renney, who watched the kids take their first steps into the Battle of Alberta, and then Madison Square Garden, and has little doubt they’ll be able to handle this.

“They’re certainly not overwhelmed by the prospects of playing here. For how they’ve been able to handle the season so far, I’m not going to suggest this is just another game, but I think they’re going to be fine.”

Eberle admits taking a moment or two at the morning skate to stop and smell the history.

“You look up and see the banners, it’s a pretty legitimate list up there,” he said. “To be part of the NHL, and part of the heritage with these guys, is pretty overwhelming.

“It’s exciting to come to buildings where people love hockey and understand the game and are passionate about the home team. Should be an exciting night.”

Hall is liking it, too.

“It’s definitely cool to play in a place like this,” he said. “This is definitely a big trip for our team. These are three teams (Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto), that if we play to our strengths we can get a lot accomplished.

“Montreal is a good team, we know that, we’ll have to play very well to beat them.”

HEMSKY READY: Ales Hemksy took the morning skate and declared himself ready after missing three games with a sore groin. He’ll skate with Sam Gagner and the slumping Magnus Paajarvi.

“The goal was to go for the morning skate and see how it is,” said Hemsky. “It’s feeling way better.”

How much he plays will depend on how everything reacts to his first game in nine days,

“We’re expecting that he’ll make a contribution,” said Renney. “But we’ll also have to manage his ice time appropriately coming off a bit of a tweak there.”

GONE BABY, GONE: With Nikolai Khabibulin back from a groin tweak, Martin Gerber’s brief but successful NHL call up is over. He’s back in Oklahoma City after going 2-0 in Edmonton. He stopped 57 of 60 shots in wins over Ottawa (4-1) and Colorado (3-2).

“I thought he was very good from start to finish,” said Renney. “It’s too bad that this is how the game works, when a guy comes of IR that’s just the way it is. I thought he performed really well for us. Going back to training camp I suggested that, he’s an NHL goalie.”

Khabibulin is scheduled to start in Toronto, unless Devan Dubnyk, who starts in Montreal, makes Renney an offer he can’t refuse.

With Hemsky back, Zack Stortini is the odd man out up front.

“I had to soul search on that one, but I had to get Hemmer in,” said Renney. “At some point in time it’s at someone else’s expense.”

Better that lineup changes are tough calls, than easy ones, though.

“I want to make sure that as a coach you do have some leverage,” he said. “You have to acknowledge the effort of (the fourth line) and Storts in particular. It can’t just be an automatic that he comes out.”

Follow me at Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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