April 29, 2012
Oilers star in Canada-Swiss exhibition
By Terry Jones, QMI AGENCY
FRIBOURG, SWITZERLAND - It was sort of a slapstick silent pictures scene.
Team Canada’s three Oilers were the three stars of a 2-1 shootout win over Switzerland, and the team was lined up at the blueline to see which one of them would be awarded an expensive Swiss watch for being named player of the game.
“Number four-tee …” the announcer said in English, with a combination of German and French accents from this city that divides the German north and the French south of Switzerland.
Jordan Eberle thought the guy said “No. 14.”
The player voted MVP and top forward of the 2010 world junior skated forward to humbly accept the watch when the announcer finished the sentence.
“… Devan Duuuubnyk!”
Eberle’s U-Turn might have been his most impressive move of the game. And he had a lot of impressive moves in Canada’s first pre-tournament game leading to the world championship in Helsinki.
Eberle had Canada’s best three chances of the game, for sure, scoring on the last one with eight-tenths of a second — that’s 0.08 on the scoreboard clock — remaining in regulation.
And with Dubnyk stopping all three Swiss shooters in the shootout and Eberle scoring the only goal on Swiss world junior star Reno Berra, he was, indeed, the hero of the game.
And unlike in the NHL, where shootout winners don’t count in statistics, they do in IIHF international goal tabulations for the young man who had a much bigger one to save the Canadian bacon late, with 3:14 remaining at that world junior in Ottawa.
“I feel like I should give that watch to Ebs,” laughed Dubnyk as he sat on the Canadian bench after the game.
“It looked like he really wanted it.
“Ebs was great. And Nuge … you see that hit?”
Nugent-Hopkins, on the ice in a shorthanded situation, knocked a Swiss forward on his butt in the slot in front of Dubnyk with what had to be scored the most impressive body check of his pro career.
“I didn’t see that,” said Eberle.
“Of course you didn’t. You were in the penalty box,” said RNH of the Lady Bing finalist, who only took five penalties all season but went off at 16:58 of the first period to serve the first penalty of the game.
Eberle, who had a shorthanded breakaway stopped by Berra and missed converting a brilliant back-door setup from Nugent-Hopkins, said it was fun playing with his Calder rookie of the year-candidate teammate on the big ice.
“He probably would have had the watch if I converted all my chances,” Eberle said of RNH. “He fed me so many times when I couldn’t score.”
Eberle sent the game to overtime, deflecting a pass from Duncan Keith in midair through the pads of Berra.
Nugent-Hopkins had a blast playing the game on the big European ice.
“It felt pretty cool. It was something new for me. It’s definitely wider and gives me more time.”
Eberle isn’t enjoying being on the big ice so much as being on the ice as significant player now.
“I have a different role than I had the previous two years,” he said.
While 2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry and his Anaheim Ducks mate Ryan Getzlaf haven’t checked in yet, Sutter used the two Oilers for all they were worth in this one.
“I used both in key moments of the game,” is how Sutter put it.
“I really respect their defensive responsibility. Nothing they did surprised me. They are both elite young players,” he added of the two showcasing themselves for 2014 Sochi Olympic spots.
“And Dubnyk played great. He made several really key saves at some really key moments.
“All three played great.”
His best three players, Sutter agreed, were Edmonton Oilers.
“We’ve got to get the whole group playing to the level of those three guys,” was how he chose to phrase it.
With the won’t-go-away idea that the former Calgary Flames coach is going to be given the Edmonton coaching job if he passes this audition for Team Canada GM Kevin Lowe, Sunday could be considered a memorable beginning if it works out that way.
Sutter coached the Oilers real well.
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