Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe filled some needs over the summer with the acquisitions of Chris Pronger and Mike Peca, yet one question remained for his NHL club entering training camp.
Who would centre the top forward line?
With Petr Nedved gone to Phoenix via free agency and Peca more suited to a checking role, Lowe and Oilers coach Craig MacTavish were willing to gamble Shawn Horcoff was ready for front-line duty.
The 27-year-old hasn't disappointed in the first quarter of the season, partnering with Ryan Smyth and Ales Hemsky to give the Oilers their first legitimate scoring line since Doug Weight and Bill Guerin called Edmonton home in 2001.
"You really need to establish a dominant No. 1 line to have the type of success that we all crave here," said MacTavish, whose team takes a 12-10-1 record into Wednesday's game against the Wild in Minnesota.
As of Saturday, the Smyth-Horcoff-Hemsky trio had combined for 62 points â three more than Vancouver's Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison and one more than Detroit's top unit of Pavel Datsyuk between Tomas Holmstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.
"We're just focused on trying to establish an identity for ourselves, to be as good as we can be," said Horcoff, who scored 19 goals and 46 points in 50 games for Mora in Sweden during last year's NHL lockout.
Horcoff has 23 points in 21 games this season, more than halfway towards his career high of 40 points set during the 2003-04 season. In his first three NHL seasons, Horcoff had seasons of 16, 22 and 33 points.
The hustling six-foot-one-inch, 204-pound forward stood out last week against Detroit when Horcoff collected four assists against Detroit to equal Wayne Gretzky's record for assists in one period.
On Wednesday, the Trail, B.C., native will settle on helping the Oilers to a win against their Northwest Division rivals.
Edmonton is a respectable 7-7-0 away from home this season, but could be in tough against a Wild outfit that is getting healthier.
Marian Gaborik, the team's No. 1 right-winger, could make his return from a hip flexor injury at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. A final decision will be made following the morning skate.
Gaborik missed most of training camp and the start of the season because of a groin injury. He returned to post six points in three games, only to be sidelined again with the hip flexor.
"I don't feel any pain. Sometimes I feel a little tight there. But it's good," said Gaborik, who watched the Wild defeat the Nashville Predators 4-2 on Saturday.
If Gaborik does dress, he'll face a hot goaltender in Mike Morrison.
The Oilers rookie impressed MacTavish with a 21-save peformance in Monday's 2-1 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks and is expected to make his third consecutive start.
"It's going to be easy to play him again," MacTavish told reporters on Tuesday. "His numbers are good and we'll see how far he can take us."
Morrison, though, might be in for a long night if history repeats itself.
Edmonton and Minnesota have been forced into overtime in nine of their 21 all-time meetings.
Centre Marc Chouinard, who has missed six games because of a shoulder injury, remains out of the Wild lineup, as does blue-liner Andrei Zyuzin (knee).
Forward Todd White returned on the weekend after missing five games with a strained groin.
Oilers defenceman Cory Cross is ready for game action after spraining the medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
Edmonton concludes its mini two-game road trip on Friday against the Calgary Flames.