With 13 projected roster players in their lineup, the Edmonton Oilers were expected to have their way with the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. At best, the visitors iced three players who will start the regular season and their lineup looked like a real stretch to include at least eight who have logged 100 professional games to meet NHL preseason requirements.
All that didn't matter because a trio stood out for all the right reasons in a 2-1 victory that featured four bouts, including two between Todd Fedoruk and Darcy Hordichuk.
Eddie Lack continued to fast track his career by stopping all 10 shots in 31:31 of playing time before giving way to Manny Legace and the towering Swede has now turned aside all 22 shots he has faced in the exhibition season. Mark Mancari made another strong case for a right wing spot on the fourth line by making a nifty centring pass for an Owen Nolan tip-in to open scoring, showing a strong stride and the ability to man the point on the power play. Cody Hodgson had more jump and three scoring chances, killed penalties, won 15 of 24 draws and many were again in the mix to win a roster spot — especially on the fourth line.
"Our guys played a hard game," said coach Alain Vigneault. "We've got guys battling hard and trying to be physical and bring that dimension to our team. We're going to have some tough decisions."
Mancari scored Tuesday during a 5-1 loss in Calgary and has shown he can make things happen in the corner and in front of the net. At 26, he has played 36 career regular-season games and that's why he was signed to a one-year, $525,000 US contract. If the braintrust had to form the fourth line today, it could be Maxim Lappiere, Mancari and a left winger to be determined.
"I think I've got more in the tank," said Mancari, who logged 21:21. "I'm being put in some new situations and I've got to get better — that's the only way I'm going to make this team."
Said Vigneault: "He knows his strengths. He's got that good shot on the power play and another guy we're taking a serious look at."
Not only did Lack once again stand tall, he handled pucks with ease behind the net and even threaded a long lead pass. He got a pad on a Sam Gagner shot early, stopped Shawn Horcoff in the slot and then robbed Ryan Smyth on a cross ice power-play pass by Jeff Petry.
"It was good," shrugged Lack. "It's just the preseason and I'm enjoying every minute out there. I've just got to keep going and practice hard."
A Jordan Eberle deke of Manny Legace late in the second period was the only blemish, but Legace then stopped Magnus Paajarvi late in the game to preserve the win. The diminutive Mike Duco even got under the skin of the Oilers and scored a shorthanded goal by banging home his own rebound. After chirping at Taylor Hall in the neutral zone late in the first period, Duco drew the ire of Smyth and then Theo Peckham, who wrestled him to the ice. The better impression was streaking away on a shorthanded breakaway late in the second period and poking his own rebound past goalie Yann Danis.
For his part, Hodgson proved he can compete and contribute. He was stopped in the slot in the third period and finished with 17:27 of playing time.
"It was a full team effort tonight," said Hodgson. "The faceoffs were something I really worked on in the summer and the wingers really helped me tonight because a lot of them were 50-50 and they won a lot. "They also set me up with a lot of plays I should have buried. I feel a lot more comfortable and really enjoyed it out there."
Nolan said the same and knows he's not going to get a free pass at age 39 and pull seniority to earn a roster spot.
"It's still getting back to the timing and pace, but I definitely feel that I can keep up," said Nolan.
Maybe Vigneault put it best about the grizzled veteran.
"It's a matter of can he keep up with the pace because in my mind he understands what he needs to do," he said. "The hands are still there."
OF NOTE — Other bouts were Aaron Volpatti/Peckham and Steve Pinizzotto/Alex Plante. Winger Steve Begin suffered a foot injury Tuesday and was replaced by Antoine Roussel.
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