Hemsky Luongo

The Oilers are taking shootouts very seriously this season


One of Ralph Krueger’s key initiatives as Edmonton’s bench boss this season is improving the Oilers’ success in the shootout.

“We see shootouts as a specialty team,” Krueger told the Edmonton Sun. “We have a power play. We have penalty killing. And we have penalty shots in the shootout.”

It’s a curious decision, given most clubs don’t offer much in terms of shootout prep.

There are usually attempts at the end of practice, occasional chats with the goalie for shooter tips or, in the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a “mustache boy” competition.

The Oilers, though, take shootouts far more seriously — especially since Krueger crunched the numbers and realized Edmonton only won 11 of 33 shootouts in two years under Tom Renney.

Here’s more, from the Sun:

“This year we’re taking the penalty shooting part of the game very seriously,” said Krueger.

“We have a group of five or six players. And Freddie Chabot, who has been analyzing goaltenders in the league through and through during the lockout, putting some good information together, will be coaching it primarily.”

Krueger gave Chabot credit for the shootout success.

“Freddie picked them, not me. We have a new specialty team. That’s all Freddie.”

In a compact 48-game schedule, Krueger figures, it’s an area that could make the difference between a team finishing eighth or ninth in the standings.

“A playoff position could be decided by a point.”

“We now have a clear picture of what the goaltender is going to do. They all have a history. The shooters, too. Preparing Devan [Dubnyk] for them is a big part of it, too.”

Krueger first got the idea while coaching Switzerland during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

He put his third goalie in charge of monitoring shooter trends and tendencies, and the move paid off reasonably well — the Swiss lost to Canada in an opening-round shootout (the Canadians only scored once) before beating Belarus via shootout in the qualification round.

It should be noted that Edmonton won its first game of the year via shootout — a 3-2 decision over the Canucks.

Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky both converted their chances while Dubnyk stoned Alex Edler and Alexander Burrows on consecutive attempts.

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen