Line Changes For Thursday. Is The Flu Or Something Else?

Thursday night as the Oilers take on the Columbus Blue Jackets, the roster and the combination in which it hits the ice will change. One has to wonder however, if these changes would be coming, if not for the flu virus that seems to have hit the Oilers like a Colby Armstrong hit on Marc Andre Bergeron.

Pat Quinn has shown a vast amount of patience when it comes to changing his lines. Unless he's had to mid-game, he simply hasn't done it, for the simple fact that he's developed a game plan and committed to sticking to it.

So when the Oilers came out at practice on Wednesday with a drastically juggled line-up, many couldn't help but wonder if these changes were permanent, or just a response to the absence of Gilbert Brule, Ladislav Smid, Sheldon Souray, Steve Staois and Ryan Stone; all of whom have been sidelined with injuries or flu like symptoms.

Gagner-Penner-Hemsky, Horcoff-Comrie-O'Sullivan, Cogliano-Moreau-Stortini and then a 4th line of Jacques-Nilsson with Kelly Buchberger skated Wednesday and all signs pointed to those being the match-ups against Columbus when the Oilers took the ice on Thursday night.

Of course, my money is on the abscence of Buchberger who was filling in due to a lack of bodies and might not be the most logical choice considering he retired about five years ago.

All joking aside, I might suggest, should the Oilers come away with at least a single point on Thursday, coach Pat Quinn give some thought to keeping these combinations to see if they spark some much needed chemistry for some players that could use a spark or two.

Sam Gagner has proven his ability thus far to get over that slow season start he's become well known for. With five points in eight games, he'll be replacing Shawn Horcoff on the first line. Horcoff, who while being relied upon to contribute in other areas, has been just plain unproductive on offense.

Mike Comrie and Patrick O'Sullivan had some amazing results in pre-season when Comrie led all NHL players with ten points. While neither has been bad so far this year, perhaps they can reproduce even some of that magic and go on another offensive tear. With a responsible Horcoff in the middle to let those two play the style of game they play well, they'll both have the foot on the gas pedal as they fly through an offensive green light.

The combination of Cogliano, Moreau and Stortini has been effective as a fourth line unit and will now get the chance to do so in a third line role. We can only assume then, that Jacques and Nilsson, along with likely MacIntyre (if Brule is still ill), will act as an energy line with some skill to boot.

9 games into the season, it will be interesting to see what the first major change of the season will bring. With a 5-2-1 record this season, it's understandable to keep things the same. That's a much different story than the previous year's in which the Oilers organization -- often referred to as the year's of the "MacTavish blender.", changed on a nightly basis.


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