Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Purcell
Yakupov - Draisaitl - Eberle
Perron - Arcobello - Pitlick
Gazdic - Hendricks - Pinizzotto
Defence Pairings have changed:
Forward lines the same so Gordon still very much a question mark, D-pairs Ference-Petry, Davidson-Fayne, Hunt-Schultz.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) December 16, 2014
Oilers captain Andrew Ference spoke Monday about the news of the day -- head coach Dallas Eakins being relieved of his duties.
“It’s an awful day, I’m sure, for (MacTavish) to have to do that to a good man,” said Ference. “It’s the human side of the business without a doubt. He’s somebody that I think is an extremely good role model for the guys on this team, getting to know him the last little while.
“He’s a good coach that deserved a better fate here.”
Ference was asked whether he felt that a new voice would help change things and he put the onus on the players to buy into what any coach is trying to implement.
“The responsibility is on us. The Xs and Os can change, you can adjust those and move those around but the general philosophy of how you win at this level, it’s not that different from one successful team to the other. They might approach the game from a systems standpoint differently but from the way they play for each and with each other as a collective group, buying into whatever the coach says and tells you to do is an important thing.
“No matter what it is, the most important thing is buying in and doing what you’re told. I think that if you can do that as an individual and contribute your part to the team you’ll collectively have good success.
“It takes everybody to do it, to be part of the machine.”
Oilers winger Taylor Hall spoke to the media shortly after the team arrived in Glendale, Arizona for Tuesday's game against the Coyotes.
“It’s a tough day for everyone. It makes everyone look in the mirror. Everyone shares responsibility. We wouldn’t be doing this interview right now if we were winning and doing our jobs the best that we could,” Hall began.
“We haven’t been putting wins on the board, that’s fairly obvious. When that happens someone inevitably is going to take the fall and unfortunately that had to be Dallas today.”
The left winger was asked how much things change now that Craig MacTavish -- the team's general manager -- steps behind the bench to start.
“I think everyone is going to be on watch for sure. It’s going to be very interesting to see how well we play. I have a feeling we’re going to come out real hard and everyone is going to be trying to impress the brass.”
Hall talked about feeling like the team let down Coach Eakins.
“I feel a lot of pain for him because I know how much he cared about the group and I know how much we cared about him. We didn’t get it done for him and now with Craig — and eventually Todd — being here. Everyone’s gotta play better. Myself included. I haven’t been nearly as good as I can be.”
Oilers forward and alternate captain Jordan Eberle talked about the team's new interim head coach Todd Nelson and his history with him.
“Todd is a very smart guy. I know he watches all our games in OKC and having him in training camp and having him in the American League for half a season, he knows how to get the most out of players. He’s smart, he’s a very friendly guy off the ice and knows when to get on guys too,” Eberle stated.
“Having a new face and MacT back there will change things a bit but at the end of the day it comes down to us. They can only put the guys out there and we have to perform.”
Eberle echoed Taylor Hall's thoughts that the team feels responsible for Eakins' job loss.
“It’s tough. I think any time you lose your head coach you feel responsible as a team and as a player. It’s obviously not his fault, it’s deeper than that. It goes towards our team and our performance.
“We take a lot of responsibility as individuals in this locker room and we definitely feel like we let him down.”
Eberle was asked whether it was time to break up the core or even if he felt it would be good to move on. He was very quick to say how much loved being an Oiler and playing in Edmonton.
“I love playing in Edmonton. I would never want to leave here. Performance wise, I haven’t played my best and I know everyone in that locker room feels the same way,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve even touched the surface of where we can get to.
“The only thing we can do moving forward is play as hard as we can, and improve.”
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins talked about continuing to find the right mix.
“We continue to search for goals (on the power play) and we’ll keep changing it, adjusting it, hammering on it,” he began.
“Hendy (Matt Hendricks) will not leave the front of that net when the puck’s up on the point. He’s good on retrievals. He’s heavy on pucks, we’ve got to have that. What happens on your power play usually is when a guy like that goes on it, there’s usually someone with skill who moves off or moves to another unit. It’s where we’re at now. We have to have somebody in front of the net.”
The head coach added that he felt that losing Boyd Gordon's faceoff ability -- he remains out with a back injury -- puts the team in a tough position.
“When you get into these situations, boy do you miss Boyd Gordon and the value that he brings our team in the faceoff circle.”
With Pitlick in front of the net on the other unit, Eakins is taking a page out of the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
“Pitter is going to be our bumper up there. He was doing it in Oklahoma City. We were chatting with (Barons head coach Todd Nelson) down there and he was real efficient there.”
While Pitlick has not been a centre for most of his pro career, Eakins does like his faceoff ability.
“He has centre in his background and can win face-offs as well. We’ll put him in that role on that unit.”
Pitlick played centre for a good number of shifts on Friday against Anaheim.
“I only moved him there for a shift or two and he did so well that I just let it run, I kept going with him. I thought he looked really good there. Is that a long-term approach for him? Probably not, at this level. But he was one of the guys for me last night that was going. He was playing and he was being physical. He’s in the mindset right now, whatever we ask him to do he just nods his head. You end up having a lot of time for players like that.”
Like last Sunday, the Oilers are not skating tomorrow morning. With the team coming off four games in six days and the Rangers playing tonight (and also not skating tomorrow), Coach Eakins felt that fresh legs were important for the club.
"You see that first period last night, we're pooched. Fourth game in six nights. With a win last night and better execution you wouldn't have seen us today. I would have liked to keep them right away from the rink to get them some rest but we needed touches. We had to go back on that power play again. We got that done today and now we need them to rest," Eakins stated.
Tyler Pitlick will be on a line with Mark Arcobello and David Perron on Sunday night against the New York Rangers. For Pitlick, he's skating with a couple of players he's familiar with. He skated with Perron in his first game up with the Oilers back on December 1 and played with Arcobello in Oklahoma City.
"I think it’ll be great," said Pitlick of his new linemates. "Me and Arco played together my first year in OKC pretty much the whole year. And on and off throughout the years that he was there. He was up and down quite a bit.
"I’m familiar with him and we’re kind of familiar with each other. We can trust each other so I think it’ll be good to have that factor," Pitlick continued. "Me and Perron played together that first game and I thought we played well together getting pucks in deep, playing a simple game and letting the forecheck take care of the work."
Arcobello added that he was looking forward to playing with Pitlick.
"He plays hard every game. He’s got good speed and size and likes to throw the body. It’s nice to have him on the forecheck. He’ll chip it in and press a lot of those D. It’s going to be good."
Line combinations are:
Looks like Hall-RNH-Purcell at practice this morning. Yak-Draisaitl-Eberle. Perron-Arcobello-Pitlick. Gazdic-Hendricks-Pinizzotto.— Reid Wilkins (@ReidWilkins) December 13, 2014
- EXCLUSIVE | Tom Gazzola goes 1-on-1 with Oilers GM Craig MacTavish
- Saturday's Post-Practice Interviews
- COMMUNITY | Inner City High Luncheon
- COMING SOON - ASK AN OILER | Mark Fayne
- RAW | Luke Gazdic
- RAW | Nail Yakupov