Mark Arcobello has been a surprise thus far, two games into this young season. The centre has done nothing but play like it's his last night wearing that Oilers sweater and that's the attitude his head coach is searching for. His play has also given the team flexibility in its lineup.
"I've thought he's been good," said Oilers Coach Dallas Eakins. "And actually when you look for maybe a bright light in a whole bunch of dark, I think he's been good. Not excellent, but I think he's played good and something that we're encouraged by is his play allowed Taylor Hall to buzz back over to the wing.
"He's in the right mindset. He understands where we're at at centre ice. He sees Sam Gagner, how long he's going to be out for and Taylor Hall was playing centre so he's in the mindset that I need another day here, I need another game, I want another game and that's how he has to go about it. We'd like that right through our lineup. Is that the right way to go about it for guys that we know are going to play here? Probably not. We have to employ a different way to get to them but Arcobello is going about it the right way.
"He firmly knows that he's dying for another game and another opportunity and another day on the roster and he's opened up some eyes with his play."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins did not have Ryan Smyth on a line at morning skate and during his pre-game media availability he confirmed that Smyth won't play tonight.
"Ryan's not going to play tonight," Eakins began. "Believe me, I've got my eyes set on about four or five of our forwards right now. I could have my pick of any one of them.
"I've challenged those guys to be better. The reason it's Ryan is I knew he would handle it professionally. I knew he wouldn't go into a dark place with it because he's such a good leader and teammate and he understands the process."
Eakins added that other players have been put on warning that they could be next out of the lineup.
"If we don't have some other players pick up their game and do it quickly, they'll be out of the lineup. I've already warned the players about this. It doesn't matter to me what the fan base thinks of you. You have to compete. You have to have results. If you're not, you're going to be held accountable."
The Oilers are on the ice at Rexall Place for morning skate in preparation for tonight's contest against the New Jersey Devils. Lines are:Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Perron - Gordon - Hemsky
Hamilton - Arcobello - Yakupov
Gazdic - Acton - Brown
Smid - Petry
Ference - J.Schultz
N. Schultz - Belov
Grebeshkov - Davidson
- PRACTICE - Story on Hall/RNH/Eberle Reunited
- RAW - Dallas Eakins
- RAW - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- RAW - Jordan Eberle
- RAW - Taylor Hall
The Oilers announced that they have recalled defenceman Brandon Davidson from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
Davidson has two shots on goal and a -2 rating through the Barons' first two regular season games Friday and Saturday against the Charlotte Checkers. He had one assist in two pre-season games with the Oilers.
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins was asked on Sunday about the compete level of his team and whether he was happy with it to this point in the season. What followed will be of interest to many Oilers fans.
"No," he said, matter-of-factly. "You have to get detailed with it. If I said you work hard, what does that mean? You've got to show instances of what we expect the compete level to be.
"But I will say this. The guy for me, who has been our best forward and who has demonstrated every night a passion for the game and his ability to get in on the forecheck and to protect pucks, to backtrack how we want him to is Hemsky.
"When I was coming in, it was like where's this guy going to fall. Is he in or is he out? He's been unbelievable. I said to our group this morning, 'we need more Ales Hemskys on our team right now. That kind of passion. And that's what I'm looking for.
"And then to show some video -- and listen, I could have done it on numerous players -- show a guy not going in to finish his check, a guy turning over the puck and then literally three minutes later the same player making the right play and competing so hard. It's like Jekkyl and Hyde.
"I think they're trying to find their way, it's like 'okay I'm going to do it the new way' and then they fall back to an old way. But that's okay. I was talking to one of our staff this morning. I didn't think we were going to come in here and flick a switch that I would say do this and they would all turn into robots. There's a muscle memory to this. There's a process to it and I love a good fight. And I am steadfast.
"I'm not going away anytime soon."
Perron - Gordon - Hemsky
Smyth/Hamilton - Arcobello - Yakupov
Gazdic - Acton - Brown
Jesse Joensuu did not skate (pronounced day-to-day), neither did defencemen Andrew Ference and Ladislav Smid (maintenance days).
Hall talked about moving back to the left side and playing with Nugent-Hopkins.
"I'm excited to be back playing with Nuge. I'm excited for him to be back, it's a huge addition to our team," said Hall. "I'm happy being on wing. I've played there for a long time and had a lot of success there so I'm comfortable with the position and I've just got to revert back to my old habits now."
Nugent-Hopkins echoed Hall's comments, being happy to play with familiar linemates.
"We talked and we're happy to be playing with each other again. It was a long recovery and I'm happy to be back."
Head Coach Dallas Eakins explained his thought process behind moving Hall back to the wing and putting Nugent-Hopkins with familiar linemates.
"As we did with Hall early, we thought it was important with him at a new position to put some veterans around him during training camp to help the process. Now with Nugent-Hopkins coming back it's good to give him some players that he's familiar with. The second part of it is, Hall's whole line that he had been playing with who were good in training camp (Smyth-Hall-Hemsky) have suffered a little bit early so we'll shake that up," Eakins began.
"Will Acton's line has played very well for me. Gordon has been one of the few guys that's been very consistent so far. Arcobello's pulling his weight. So we're able to go back the other way and see how it goes. We may not be finished with Hall in the middle but at least for the next game -- or at least for the start of it -- we are."
Dallas Eakins was asked about the pressures of being in a hockey market -- a market that certainly doesn't take an 0-2 start lightly.
"It's awesome," he said. "Because the other side of that is, when things are going great it's a big party in the city. I don't know how guys do it. I had a cup of coffee in a few organizations where hockey wasn't a big deal when I was a player. You lose, nobody cares, you win, nobody cares.
"That's the greatest thing about playing in a hockey market. They care. And you know what? The city and the fans should be angry. As angry as we are and our players are feeling it, too. Listen, they're not walking around and high-fiving each other and having a big party. They're feeling it too and they're upset and understand there's a process to this.
"I love it. I've got no problem with people saying something or tweeting something or whatever they want to do. I'm fine with it because if you're upset by their criticism then you can't be okay when they're patting you on the back. I'm all for it, let it go two guns a-blazing."
"Ference and Smid (who did not skate) got banged up a bit. Neither are life threatening. LaBarbera will play tomorrow. Hall's back on the wing with Nugent-Hopkins. They had success in the past. Gordon and Arcobello and Acton have played well enough to fill the holes.
"Are we done with Hall in the middle? Maybe not, maybe so. We'll see where it goes. And am I still mad about yesterday? Just look at my face. I haven't slept.
"We'll continue on the process. With last night's game, it's an incredible thing. Part of the message to the players this morning was they are greatly confusing me because I can show them clips where we have no compete level at all and then I show them clips where our compete level is way more than I even expect -- and out of the same people. It would be like me showing you a clip of me on the ice doing nothing and then three minutes later a clip of me on the ice being superman. So they're confusing me because I see they want to do it but then they're falling back. And maybe it's the new habits. Maybe it's 'okay, we're trying' then we revert back.
"As bad as it was, there was a little bit of good. It was just that those flashes of good were few and far between. So I'm a little bit confused by the group but that's part of the process here on building new habits."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins announced in his post-practice press conference today that Jason LaBarbera will be starting in goal on Monday against the New Jersey Devils.
"What I'll do is I'll look at the schedule and then I look at the month and I have it in my head where I'm going to go," said Eakins, talking about his mindset when choosing a starting goaltender. "But plans change all the time. If one guy gets hot, he's playing. I don't care what the plan is with the other guy. If one guy is running with it then that's the way it goes."