There is no denying the offensive abilities of Taylor Hall. The Oilers forward has 25 points (11-14-25) in 24 games this season. Today, he was named the NHL's 2nd Star of the week for the period ending December 8. During that span, Hall scored four goals and added two assists.
"It's good," said Hall. "I feel like I've been playing pretty well lately. I've definitely improved in my own end since the start of the year, and I feel like I'm trending upward. I hope that continues."
Hall has shown his ability to put the team on his back and lift them up offensively, but now his focus has turned to the defensive part of his game.
"Taylor Hall is always going to get his offence, he is," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "He's strong, he has speed, he's got good vision and he has good hands. The place that Taylor is improving, not only from the eyes of the coaches but our people upstairs, is his defensive play. It's small, little things that we have been promoting with him and he's taken to heart and he's getting better at. He's turning into a much more rounded player and he's a horse. When he's on, he carries our team. He gives us energy and he's a guy that we look to, to produce in a number of different situations. He's been very good as of late."
Sometimes improving defence has everything to do with slowing things down.
Eakins said, "It's awareness, it's what's going on around him, it's protecting the 'good ice'. We call it the 'good ice' all the time. Taylor's about speed and he's about momentum. Speed is your friend until it isn't. Coming back into our zone, talking about protecting that 'good ice', a lot of times you have to stop in it. It was one thing that was not there at all in his game early, but he's taken the necessary strides to get better at it. He still has work to go, he knows that, but he's taking great notice of how important the defensive game is…"
Hall is happy with his improvement defensively and says that team success has been a factor.
"I like the way that I'm playing defensively and obviously, our team is scoring a lot of goals lately and that's helping," said Hall. "We're winning games and in turn, that's going to create some individual success. I've been shooting the puck a lot lately, I've been getting shots to the net and whoever I am playing with, we seem to have some good chemistry. Like I said, I hope that continues and it has to. It's fun to win. Even though we're not winning every game, I feel like we're doing the right things and we're on the right track."
Boyd Gordon played just nine shifts in Columbus on November 29. He has not played in a game since that night, sitting out due to injury. Head Coach Dallas Eakins told the media Gordon was ailing from a number of injuries, but today he narrowed it down to his shoulder.
"Honestly, it was just the shoulder," said Gordon. "If I didn't hurt my shoulder, I wouldn't have missed any time. It kind of came slow. You get to a point where it gets better and you kind of peak a little bit. I'm definitely close, I'm not there yet, but we'll see how it goes the next few days, skating here."
There is no timeline for his return to game action, but he has begun skating the team with a non-contact jersey.
"It's just a little bit sore but that's a pretty common shoulder injury. Like I said, it's getting better. We'll see how it goes the next few days."
The Oilers didn't have a traditional practice today as part of the team participated in fitness testing, part of rookie Head Coach Dallas Eakins' devotion to his team's conditioning.
The coach says he hasn't seen the results of the testing but, just from observing, the team appeared to be working hard.
"I haven't seen the results," said Eakins. "It looked like they were working hard but looks aren't the important things, it's the time. We had tested about half the team a week ago, on a day, and we had the other half today."
Ilya Bryzgalov skated this morning, taking some shots, as he works to return to game action since leaving the game against Dallas on December 1.
Bryzgalov has remained out of the lineup due to 'concussion and whiplash-like symptoms', but he says he is feeling much better, but couldn't clarify if it was a concussion or not.
"It's much better," the goaltender said. "I don't know exactly what the term is but, like I said before, I feel much better."
Bryzgalov described his symptoms for the media following practice today.
"It was headaches most of the time and there was trouble with sleeping and right now, that's pretty much it."
Both Head Coach Dallas Eakins and Bryzgalov could not provide a timeline for his return.
"Whenever the medical staff says he's ready to go," said Eakins. "You've got to watch those head, neck, or whatever you want to call it, injuries. You don't want to fool around with them. When you start getting closer and it's your knee, it's easier to say, ' four more days'. When it's anything above the shoulders, it's open-ended."
When asked if he has ever experienced upper body injuries in his career before, Bryzgalov said yes with the most recent one being in 2010.
Oilers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov talked to the media this morning after skating briefly. The goalie is working his way back from 'concussion and whiplash-like symptoms'.
Bryzgalov told a story of when he was a young child, pertaining to a past concussion experience.
"I had a concussion when I was 12 and was hit by a motorcycle," he said. "That was really bad. I was in the hospital. It knocked me down for like, two weeks. (This time is) not as bad as I've had before."
20-year-old sophomore winger Nail Yakupov is in a bit of a scoring rut. He has not registered a point in his last six games. This after his streak of scoring a point in four straight and five of six, from November 10-21.
But before the decision was made to put those three together, Eakins did some research.
"You go through as a staff and as a coach and you do your homework on the players. I've watched a lot of Yak play last year. I've watched every one of the goals that he scored. I've watched where they've come from, I've watched who he was on the ice with and I continue to try to find him a spot for him to score, because I think that if he scores, it's going to help his whole game. That being said, what we're asking is for him to take a firm belief in the notion that saving a goal and keeping a goal out of our net has the same result on the scoreboard. That's the challenge. We continue on.
"I think Yak's got four power play goals and we're still looking for some chemistry with him… Taylor has the ability to not only wake up his line mates, but wake up the whole team. After going back and reviewing Yak's last bunch of games again, then I decided let's trying him with Hallsy and Sam and see if that ignites something."
Yakupov has four goals and five assists in 28 games this season.
Mark Arcobello has been a surprise for the Oilers, so far this season. Undrafted, 'undersized', and under appreciated, 5-8 Arcobello has 15 points in 25 games with the Oilers this season. He also leads the team's forwards in hits.
Arcobello scored his first goal on Rexall ice against Colorado on Thursday night. He finished the game with five shots and a goal and an assist.
"His poise, his positioning on the ice," said Oilers veteran Ryan Smyth. "He's a guy that thinks the game very well and those types of players go a long ways. I thought early on in the year, he was our most consistent player."
Arcobello leads the league in rookie assists with 12 this season.
Oilers lines this morning:
N. Schultz-J. Schultz
Morning Skate --> RT @EdmontonJack Looks like Petry in for Potter. Rest of lineup should be intact as EDM seeks its 7th win in 10 games.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) December 7, 2013
The Edmonton Oilers have played 30 games this season. Here are some of the quick stats surrounding the Oilers players through the first 30.
- Jordan Eberle leads the Oilers in points this season with 25 (10-15-25)
- David Perron leads the Oilers in goals with 12 and is tied for second on the team, with Taylor Hall, in points with 24.
- Perron has scored eight goals in his last nine games and 12 points in that span.
- Eberle has the only shorthanded goal this season for the Oilers.
- Perron has the team's shot lead with 95 through the first 30 games. His previous career high was 166, set in 82 games with the St Louis Blues during the 2009-2010 season. He is on pace for just under 260 shots on goal this season.
- Jeff Petry leads the team in hits with 79.
- Petry leads the team in blocked shots with 54.
- Mark Arcobello leads all Oilers forwards in hits with 48.
- Arcobello leads the league in rookie assists with 12.
- Hall is averaging just over a point-per-game with 24 (10-14-24) in 23 games.
- The Oilers are 11th in the league on the power play with a percentage of 19.8%.
- Ryan Smyth has two power play goals this season. He is two PP goals back of Wayne Gretzky for second all-time in career power play goals with the Oilers (125) and three back of Glenn Anderson (126) for tops all-time.
- Smyth is second all-time in games played as an Oiler with 922. Kevin Lowe is tops with 1,037.
- Hall is two overtime goals away from tying Smyth as the team's all-time leader in that category. Arcobello has the lone overtime goal for the Oilers this season.
- Hall is six games away from 200 career NHL games, his hat trick last night gave him 75 career NHL goals.
The Oilers have recalled defenceman Anton Belov from the Oklahoma City Barons. He played 0 games during his assignment to OKC.