With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still absent (All Star Break), the line combinations are as follows:
Taylor Hall left the ice early with an apparent injury but he has since returned.
On January 20, the Oilers hard fought efforts brought them a shootout win over the Capitals in Washington, D.C. It was a win the players were genuinely proud of, with they way they stuck together, came back and pulled it out in the end.
So when faced with an All Star break immediately following a rush of good vibes, would the players welcome the break or wish they could keep going?
“It always creeps in your mind a bit, but it was a good break for everybody,” Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “The guys seemed recharged and energized and, like I said before, I liked the way our practice went. Sometimes your first practice back after time off gets really sloppy but today was not that case. It was a pretty good day.”
The Oilers returned to Edmonton on Monday for their first practice since the morning of their win in D.C. Some of the players had wished they could have played some more before the time away, but all of them are feeling refreshed.
“I was talking to my dad on the way home (after the Capitals game) and I wasn’t really ready for a break,” Jordan Eberle said. “It was more that we were excited. Hockey is really fun again. When you’re winning games, that’s how it is. But that being said, you get to take a breath, you get a little bit of a mental break and you can come back here with some jump. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off.”
Benoit Pouliot was in the group of players who welcomed the time away, despite riding high after the win.
“I think it was nice for everyone,” Pouliot said of the break. “I don’t think it will break up anything. The whole league is in the same situation as us. I think everyone enjoyed their four or five days off and now we’re back on the ice today. I don’t think it’s going to mess anything up. We’ll just be back tomorrow against Minny and be ready.”
In their first practice back at Rexall Place since the All Star break, the Oilers felt they put forth a good effort. The message to the players when they first hit the ice was to focus on continuing to make gains through good practice habits.
“Once again, focus on the practice,” Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “We wanted to have good execution, have a high tempo and that’s what we saw today. I was happy with it.”
“I think the message today was to get back to what we were doing,” Benoit Pouliot said. “We played well in Washington and the game before that too so we’ve just got to get back to it and get our legs going. It’s been a good four or five days since we’ve been on the ice. Practice was good, quick and intense. We’ll be ready for tomorrow.”
The lone negative from practice today was when Taylor Hall left the ice with an apparent leg injury after getting hit with a puck. He returned to test it out but then left again. Nelson says he fully expects Hall to be fine and play tomorrow against Minnesota.
Jordan Eberle feels there are differences in the way this team is playing now versus the beginning of the season or previous years. Under Interim Coach Todd Nelson, the Oilers are 5-4-2 in the last 11 games and have played some competitive hockey.
“I think more than anything, we’re more confident about our game,” Eberle said. “We’re playing better as a five-man unit. I think systematically, from a viewer standpoint too, I know a lot of people came up to me during the break and said, ‘you guys look like a team. You’re playing as a unit together.’”
Eberle says the Oilers have an opportunity to finish out the season strong and potentially generate positive momentum heading into next season.
“We’re starting to find an identity here,” Eberle said. “I think we’re starting to play a little bit better and with a couple of results the last little bit, if we can finish the season strong then I really like where we are heading into next season. It’s really an opportunity for us to keep playing well and feel confident about what we’ve got going next year.”
The Oilers selected William Lagesson with the 91st pick in the 2014 draft. Now the defenceman has selected his next career stop. Lagesson has committed to play college hockey at the University of Massachusetts.
Lagesson, playing in his first USHL season, has 12 points (1-11-12) in 25 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints. He leads all their defencemen in scoring.
Lagesson played for Sweden at the 2015 World Junior Championship.
The Oilers are on the ice for practice just outside of Washington, D.C.
The Oilers are on the ice for practice this morning at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida.
The line combinations are as follows:
The Oilers are working on dump ins and shooting drills.
The Oilers worked on a drill Friday that’s familiar to those who watched Todd Nelson coach in the American Hockey League. The team pushed the two nets to either side of the centre circle and worked on 3-on-3 battles in tight quarters.
The thought process behind the drill is to get the puck off your stick quickly and decisively and score as much as you can in a short period of time.
“It’s like a game, you don’t have much time,” Benoit Pouliot said. “At the same time, it’s a fun drill for the guys to have fun and try to score the most goals possible. I’ve done that drill a couple of times on other teams too and it’s just good for your quick passing and quick release. You have 2-3 seconds with the puck in the offensive zone too so you have to make a quick decision.”
Practicing quick decisions with passing and shooting could help the Oilers bolster their offence, which hasn’t produced at a satisfying level to the players.
“It’s just in tight and bearing down on goals,” Luke Gazdic said about the drill. “We need to get some more goals for a team that’s known for its offence. We haven’t been scoring a lot lately. The production has mainly been from one player (Benoit Pouliot) the last couple of games. It’s nice because it also lightens the mood a little bit. It’s fun. It’s a tough drill but it has a purpose and it’s nice to get stuff like that in.”
“It’s fun,” Oscar Klefbom added. “We did that a lot together in OKC. It’s a fun drill. The puck is going to go fast out there and it’s good for the forwards just to have a quick release and their head up all the time.”
How did the players fare in Nelson’s drill?
“I thought they did fine and moved the puck quick and shot when they had to,” the Oilers interim coach said. “It’s amazing that defence in that drill always seem to do better than forwards just because they check more in a game, so they’re used to the checking aspect, and then when they get a chance to shoot they like to shoot the puck. It was good. I thought the guys moved the puck quick and shot when they had to.”
The Oilers are on the ice for practice in Tampa Bay.
Gordon is absent