|The Oilers new top line, centred by rookie Taylor Hall, has come out strong in the early going. (JOHN GRIESHOP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES — Two games in, the Edmonton Oilers top line featuring Taylor Hall in the middle is looking particularly potent.
In Thursday’s 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks, the unit scored three goals between them, combining for nine points in total.
Hall had a pair of goals and an assist, while Ales Hemsky had four helpers and Dustin Penner chipped in with a goal.
“Everybody brings something special to the line, there’s no doubt about that,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “Taylor is just a fearless kid that wants the puck. He can play the game, he knows where the net is and navigates the ice extremely well. He certainly doesn’t look out of place in our own end as a low forward.”
Hall was moved to centre to fill in for Shawn Horcoff and Gilbert Brule, who are both out injured.
The NHL rookie hadn’t played the position since junior, but seems to have made the adjustment quickly.
Against the Sharks, Hall helped set up the Oilers second goal, scored the third and added an empty-netter to record the second three-point game of his career.
He also won six of the 15 draws he took on the night, matching Sam Gagner’s team high on the night.
Penner, meanwhile, also had a strong outing.
He was involved early and gave the Sharks difficulties in front of his own net. He converted a Hemsky feed in the second period to give the Oilers a two-goal lead at the time.
“Pens is a big, strong man, he’s a power forward,” Renney said. “From the other end of the rink to the hash marks on down, he can protect the puck well, he gets to the front of the net well, he’s not an easy guy to take the puck off, so you can appreciate that that helps us, naturally.”
Hemsky, the team’s lone All-star this year, had his most productive game of the season, setting up four goals and hitting the post on two other occasions. It was his best game since returning to the lineup from a groin injury.
“Hemmer is just slick, he makes great plays with the puck. He’s got tremendous poise in all facets of the game when he has the puck,” Renney said. “But what I was really impressed was just how hard he came back into his own zone. As a line they really worked hard to come back and chew up some ice on the back check. But certainly Hemmer, he looked every bit the leader that he is, by putting up the effort that he did by coming back into our zone a number of times.”