New look Oilers hoping to start on the right track at Rogers Place
As far as season openers go, tonight's inaugural game at Rogers Place against the Calgary Flames should be a doozy.
At the morning skate, the lower bowl was decked out in blue and orange T-shirts, specially arranged to make out a massive Oilers logo. Fans will be asked to don the T-shirts before the puck drops.
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On the ice, the players who made the opening night line-up went through some last minute drills.
For rookie captain Connor McDavid, the energy at practice was noticeably higher than normal and the 19 year old is eager to get the season started on the right foot.
"We made a lot of good moves in the off season and expectations for ourselves are a lot higher," said McDavid, who watched as former number-one overall picks Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov got traded.
"I know everyone in this room feels pretty good about our group going into the year so, not only are the fans expecting more, we're expecting more."
A few stalls away, veteran Oilers winger Jordan Eberle talked to reporters about the importance of starting the season with a few wins.
Eberle was named one of the team's three alternate captains during the preseason along with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and newcomer Milan Lucic.
Eberle has been a part of Oilers clubs that have seen some rock-bottom lows over the years, but he seems convinced things may change in Oil Country thanks to the new additions.
And there's no better way to start than by rekindling the stagnant battle of Alberta between two struggling clubs.
"For me there's a little extra incentive. My first game was against Calgary," said Eberle who scored his first career NHL goal in 2010 against then-Flames goalie Mikka Kipprusoff with a highlight-reel goal.
"It's always fun playing another Canadian market. Seems like the fans really get into it. The energy in the building is great. I think with the opening tonight too and having to get to play them, there'll be maybe a little extra energy. It won't be a tough game to get up for that's for sure."
In previous years the Oilers were criticized for being too soft, a team that could be easily intimidated and overpowered.
That should change.
The addition of players like Milan Lucic and several other big-bodied forwards should make Edmonton a tougher team to face.
The current crop of Oilers had a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night to set the tone for the coming season.
"Just create some confidence, create an identity, and those are things that you have to establish, those are things that aren't just given to you," said Lucic.
"You have to come together as a group in order to create that and feel good about coming to the rink and coming to the rink expecting to win hockey games.
"That's a swagger and mentality that you have to, like I said, create as a group and I think we had a good training camp.
"We did some things off the ice to come together as a team and I think that's what makes it so exciting about the season finally starting here tonight."
Tonight's renewed battle of Alberta begins at 8 p.m.