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Young Oilers face early test on road trip

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 2:40 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013
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Hall was second in team scoring to Eberle with 27 goals in 61 games last season, and didn't start playing until November as he recuperated from shoulder surgery. Yakupov is penciled in on the left wing with Sam Gagner at center and veteran Ales Hemsky on the right.

Captain Shawn Horcoff is expected to center the third line flanked by Ryan Smyth to his left and big-bodied Finn Teemu Hartikainen on the right.

Arguably the biggest offseason addition to the Oilers was defenseman Justin Schultz. A 22-year-old free agent sought for his laser-beam breakout passes, Schultz snubbed other suitors last summer to sign with Edmonton, where the forwards are eager to take advantage on the rush.

Schultz was an American Hockey League star for Oklahoma City in the lockout, racking up 18 goals and 48 points and pushing Eberle for the scoring lead. Krueger, however, said Schultz will learn that life at hockey's top rung is a grind.

"He's going to have some adjustments to make here. We're going to be patient with him and everybody needs to be patient with him," Krueger said. "We're very confident he's going to become a top player, but he needs his time to deal with the game without the puck. It will be a lot more challenging here. The physical battles down low in our end will be a lot more difficult."

Joining Schultz on the top three defense pairings are veterans Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry, Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz and newly acquired Mark Fistric.

In goal, 26-year old Devan Dubnyk takes over as the No. 1. He is expected to play two thirds of the 48 games with the rest going to veteran Nikolai Khabibulin.