VIDEO: Saturday's Practice | RAW: Nelson | RAW: Gazdic | RAW: Fraser | RAW: Klinkhammer
AUDIO: Todd Nelson | Luke Gazdic | Matt Fraser | Rob Klinkhammer
Nikita Nikitin was a new absentee for Oilers practice on Saturday. He took a shot off the foot last night in a 4-0 win over Dallas.
“He’s day to day. He’s making the trip with us, we’ll see how he is tomorrow and we’ll make decision then,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “He took a shot off the foot, it’s a bone bruise so we’ll have to see how it reacts. Today was a day he really didn’t need to go out there and skate. So we’ll see how he is tomorrow and make that decision then.”
Three other injured Oilers players will travel.
“We’re going to take (Matt) Hendricks and (Boyd) Gordon and (Tyler) Pitlick as well so (Head Athletic Therapist T.D. Forss) can monitor them as we go,” Nelson said. “I’m not sure if they’re going to be available for the game in Colorado. We’ll take it day by day. One of the guys should be able to come back for the games in California so we’ll see what happens.”
“It was tough,” said Klinkhammer. “It’s a lot different from what I’m used to, obviously. I’ve got to be a little more patient low and in the middle. You can’t run around as much. It’s tough to get hits like that where I’m just used to going up and down my wall, crashing and banging. I don’t think I’m going to be a regular centreman in the NHL, but it’s nice to fill in while those guys are out.”
Anytime you switch positions it can be a tough transition.
“He was good. He’s a great player,” Klinkhammer’s linemate Matt Fraser said. “It’s obviously hard changing positions but he did a great job. It kind of falls on me and (Luke Gazdic) to help him out on faceoffs and stuff like that. But he was good. He was talking lots on the ice and that’s all you can ask for.”
Klinkhammer played just 6:46, all even strength. He finished the night with a takeaway, a blocked shot and was 0-for-5 in the faceoff dot.
“He was good. I think he’ll tell you himself he struggled in the circle a little bit, but he was good,” Gazdic said. “He got adjusted pretty quickly. He said he had a history there a little bit. We were just trying to give as much help as we could and I thought we were good in our own end and got a couple chances offensively too.”
Klinkhammer took a few faceoffs at morning skate, but had a tough time matching up against established centres in the game.
“It was tough. It was a lot harder than I thought,” Klinkhammer said. “They had some good guys over there so they won them pretty clean on me.”
He added, “Those guys have been doing it their whole lives and they definitely have a leg up on me. It was a tough go, but that’s the way it happens.”
Gordon will travel with the team and could play sometime on this upcoming road trip.
Andrew Miller made Oilers franchise history with his first NHL goal on Friday night. Miller became the first player in Oilers history to score his first career goal with a penalty shot.
“It was a great shot and we’re very happy for him,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “He’s had some pretty good opportunities and he just hasn’t found the back of the net. It was nice to see him score that one. Any time you score your first NHL goal it’s an unbelievable feeling and I’m sure he’s enjoying it right now.”
Miller went bar-down with a sweet shot, at 16:40 of the third period.
“Usually I get a little nervous, but I was able to kind of calm down, take some breaths, do my move and luckily it went in,” said Miller.
The last player to score their first NHL goal with a penalty shot was Jay McClement with the St. Louis Blues in 2005. Prior to Miller, there had been only five players in NHL history to do so.
When Miller scored, the fans exploded into cheers and increased the already palpable energy of the building.
“The energy was great, the fans were unbelievable in that,” Oilers goaltender Richard Bachman said. “I was trying not to get too jacked, I was just trying to stay even-keeled but it was hard not to when he did that. Especially for his first goal, it’s a pretty fun way to do it and fun building to do it in, to get that kind of ovation afterwards.”
The Oilers have agreed to terms with defenceman Ben Betker on a three-year entry level contract.
Betker, 20, was taken in the sixth round (158th overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft. He has played 64 games this season with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, scoring six goals and adding 25 assists and 63 penalty minutes. His points (31), assists (25) and plus/minus (+19) this season were all career highs.
Offensively, Betker had his strongest month in January. He finished the month with three goals and 12 assists in 14 games. He was +12 in that stretch.
Betker has size, standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 220 pounds. Betker and the Silvertips play the Spokane Chiefs in the first round of the WHL playoffs.
When Martin Marincin scored his first NHL goal, assisted by Andrew Miller and Anton Lander, Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson probably had flashbacks to Oklahoma City and his days as head coach there. Nelson coached all three of those players in OKC last season and the start of this one.
If he didn’t have flashbacks then, he definitely did when Marincin, Lander and Oscar Klefbom were on the ice attempting to kill off a Colorado 5-on-3 power play. With Andrew Ference and Boyd Gordon already sitting out tonight’s game, Mark Fayne and Matt Hendricks both went down to injury. The situation made it so the younger players on the roster had to step up, and they did so by helping the Oilers win 4-3.
“We had a young group,” Nelson said. “They played hard for each other. I had to shake my head there on that 5-on-3 because I had Anton, Klefbom and Marincin (out there) and that’s who we had on the 5-on-3 down in OK City at the start of this year. The young guys played well.
Miller recorded his first two NHL assists tonight, helping his linemates (Lander and Taylor Hall) turn in a good night.
“Andrew Miller had a great game,” Nelson said. “I thought he was moving his feet. He had a couple assists. Anton, that whole line played outstanding: Hall, Anton and Millsy. We had a lot of good efforts from our younger players and that’s great to see. I think it’s going to give them confidence moving forward.”
Nelson’s familiarity with the multiple players on the roster who have played under him in the AHL seems to lead to confidence between player and coach.
“I think it’s a big advantage because, from working with them in OKC, you develop confidence in the players because you’ve had them for a number of years,” said Nelson. “So I think it’s a lot easier for me as a coach to say, ‘Ok, I can use this guy in this situation,’ because I’ve seen them handle it before. I had no problems putting Andrew Miller (out there) in the last minute and 40 seconds. He deserved it as well, he earned it. It was a good game from our young guys. I thought they really took charge. When Colorado kept coming and they had some good opportunities, it was good to have (Ben Scrivens) step up. But our young guys played well.”
There was no word on the status of the Oilers injured veterans, immediately following the game.
VIDEO: RAW: Nelson | RAW: Anton Lander | RAW: Mark Fayne
AUDIO: Todd Nelson | Mark Fayne | Anton Lander
The Oilers are on the ice for practice at Rexall Place.
Gordon tweaked his back and Ference has an undisclosed upper body injury. There weren’t any further updates on Tuesday, except that the two players will continue to be evaluated.
“Gordo is the same thing I said (Monday) night where his back seized up and he took today off,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow. Obviously, at this time of year, we’ve been playing a lot of games and guys need time off and time to rest. As for Andrew Ference, it’s an upper body injury and he’s going through further testing and we’ll find out more tomorrow.”
Ference is doubtful for tomorrow against Colorado.
The Oilers do have two more forward options now. Luke Gazdic (illness) and Matt Fraser (concussion) have both been cleared to play. The Oilers will make lineup decisions tomorrow ahead of their game against the Avalanche. Gazdic and Fraser rotated on the fourth-line wing with Matt Hendricks at centre and Rob Klinkhammer on the other wing at practice with Gordon absent.
Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse was named the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds Most Valuable Player at the organization's annual awards banquet on Friday night.
"It means a lot," said Nurse, according to sootoday.com. "Looking at our team, there are a lot of guys that could have got it. It's a nice thing to be recognized for. I've been here for a while so I've been through both the ups and downs. It's a great organization and I wouldn't change a thing that's occurred over the last four years."
Nurse, 20, has 31 points (9-22-31) in 34 games. He missed a month with a knee injury.
Sault Ste. Marie is the top team in the OHL Western Conference, with 106 points in the standings and a record of 52-12-0-2.
VIDEO: Friday's Update | RAW: Nelson | RAW: Hall | RAW: RNH | RAW: Pouliot
AUDIO: Todd Nelson | Taylor Hall | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins | Benoit Pouliot
The Oilers have taken the ice for practice at Rexall Place.
Taylor Hall is no longer wearing non-contact yellow. He is in light blue with the line of Miller-Lander-Hamilton.
Hall & Miller-Lander-Hamilton
Gazdic & Hendricks-Gordon-Klinkhammer
Fraser left the ice early after a couple of drills.
Oscar Klefbom is not practicing. Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said it is just a maintenance day.