The Oilers tough guy, Luke Gazdic, has been making improvements to his game as of late. It has not gone unnoticed.
“The one guy, especially as of late, I think is making great strides is Luke in his game,” said Gazdic. “He understands his role and he’s getting better as a hockey player. Boy, there was a lot of talk from St. Louis to our bench and he was quick to engage. There was one individual on the other team who had a lot to say to Luke and then when Luke went out and stood beside him, he had very little to say.
“That’s part of the gamesmanship on the ice. There’s a lot of talk down there. Things are said that you can’t believe that are said sometimes and that gets people going.
“I think Luke has filled his role and, at the same time, he understands that he has to play. He’s got to get to be a better player and he’s doing that. He’s putting in the necessary work and it’s always great to see improvement in a guy like that. Some guys that… fill that role, that’s all they worry about is that role. They don’t do the extra to become better hockey players and he’s doing that.
Gazdic finished tonight’s game with an assist, two hits and a blocked shot in 7:40 of ice time. He is on a two-game point streak, his first of the season.
St. Louis Blues Head Coach Ken Hitchcock spoke to the media after the game and despite his team netting their sixth straight win, he was disappointed with the team tonight.
“We didn’t play well today,” said Hitchcock. “We didn’t play well. I think a lot of the drama that goes along with the day today really affected our players… We didn’t have the focus that we’ve had and we’ll have to get it back, on this road trip. We can play a lot better, but I think with all the drama, all the Olympic stuff, I think you could see it really draining on people tonight.”
The Blues have 10 players heading to the Olympics. The final rosters were announced today.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said Marincin played ‘okay’ tonight. The young prospect is still filling out his 6-foot-4 frame and the future could be bright for the defenceman once he finds the more physical side of his game.
“He’s not there physically yet, and that will come… He’s not of Zdeno Chara strength and size yet. But we’re hoping that he gets there and usually, they do.”
Marincin will get a chance to learn from Chara when he joins the Boston Bruins behemoth defenceman at the 2014 Winter Olympics with Slovakia.
Marincin will play with his home country of Slovakia, while Belov represents the host country of Russia.
The two join veteran Ales Hemsky as the three Oilers currently named to Olympic rosters.
Ales Hemsky will be headed to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia as a member of the Czech Republic team.
Hemsky, a member of the Oilers since being drafted 13th overall in 2001, has 21 points (6-15-21) in 44 games this season.
This will be his second Olympic endeavor as the forward played for the Czech Republic at the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy. He had one goal and two assists in eight games during those Olympics. Hemsky and his team earned the Bronze Medal with a 3-0 win over Russia.
This year’s Winter Olympics will take place February 7-23.
The Oilers find themselves in last place in the Western Conference and with Hockey Canada's roster announcement set for tomorrow, there is some speculation that the team's performance hasn't helped Taylor Hall's case to make Canada's Olympic Team.
"We certainly haven't helped him, that's for sure," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "This morning was probably the first morning that I was watching a show where they had all the names and they were talking about who would be and who couldn't be and when I see some of the names, yeah that guy is a good player but he's playing with these players and their team is doing this well. That's the one thing that pains me a little bit is if somehow Taylor finds himself off of it, I'm not sure we've helped him very much where he's helped our team a great deal.
"When you look at the Canadian team and what they have to select from, holy crap, there's some great players there."
Hall weighed in this morning about the team's performance possibly being a factor in his making the team or not. However, he says that he is more focused on the Oilers than Hockey Canada.
"It's probably not a positive that we are in the standings where we are, but I think my focus really, for the most part, has been on what we're doing here not Team Canada," said Hall. "Like I've said before, I'd love to represent my country. It's such an honour, especially at the Olympic level. But, my focus is here. I think I've played well and I think I've improved steadily as the season's gone on and I think we'll see how much I've improved tomorrow."
Hall has certainly made his case to be considered for the Olympic team. In 38 games this season, Hall has 16 goals and 25 assists. His 41 points are tied for 15th in the NHL in that category. He is third in scoring amongst all left wingers behind Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz and Chicago's Patrick Sharp.
"Well, I definitely think he's earned to be in the mix," said Eakins. "From the teams that we've played, on the left side, each and every night he's, if not the best guy on the left side, he's right there with the other skaters. How he can't be a strong consideration, I don't understand that. We're hopeful with fingers crossed, those kinds of things, that… we've talked a lot about his play this year. He's obviously a threat every time he steps on the ice. I think he is over a point-per-game, I think, by a couple. Not too many guys can say that. His defensive game has gotten better. So, all that bodes well for him…"
Hall says he has been given no indication by those in charge of making the decisions on where he stands for roster consideration.
"Nothing negative or positive," said Hall. "I've been kind of in the dark this whole time, so we'll see tomorrow."
Hockey Canada will unveil their 2014 Olympic team tomorrow morning at the Toronto Maple Leaf's practice facility.
The Edmonton Oilers decided to try something different this morning. Following their 5-3 win over Tampa Bay last night, Head Coach Dallas Eakins told the media that the team would practice at 8 a.m. today, which they did.
"It's a little early," said Taylor Hall. "For a guy like myself, I haven't put on the shin pads that early since minor hockey, but it was a good practice. I think everyone was upbeat and it's going to be nice getting home pretty early today."
The team appeared to have some jump this morning, despite the earlier start to practice. They went for about 50 minutes today. Eakins weighed in on practice and what made his decision to change times.
"Man, I thought they were good," said the coach. "Boy, they were sharp and we were moving the puck and had some jump in our step. I actually quite liked it from a practice standpoint and a work ethic standpoint. The whole thought process is a bunch of different things. I'm an early riser. I pull out of my driveway very early and I see my neighbours and people along the road and as you're going, you're thinking and finding inspiration.
"It's like… I wonder if that guy likes his job? It's six-o-clock and he's heading out, or that lady, and you hope that they do like it. Then you find yourself, I'm going to work. I'm not sure I'm going to work. I absolutely love coming to the rink every day and then you think about the players and what a privilege it is to play in the league. With us coming off of Christmas and New Years, the great people in this city and fans are all getting back to work. This is kind of the week which, if you've had your holidays, you're back into the grind and I just thought that this would be a good week for us to… Holidays are over, let's move practice up. Let's be like everybody else in this city and get up and go to work early.
"I say go to work early, but these guys play. We play a game for a living and I get to coach for a living. I just thought we'd change it up for the week and have a few early practices to be more like the fans and the people of this city who get up and go at it and grind it out every day."
No Corey Potter (groin) or Philip Larsen (illness)
The team is upbeat despite an early start to practice and the team is participating in some full-ice one-on-one drills and power play work.
As first tweeted by Bob Stauffer, the Oilers Power Play units look like this:
4-93-14-57-19 and 83-89-94-59-64
Oilers working on PP. 2 units: 4-93-14-57-19, 83-89-94-59-64— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 6, 2014
The Oilers are hoping that 21-year-old defenceman Martin Marincin is the real deal. They took him in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
After playing the past four seasons in Oklahoma City with Barons, Marincin earned his first call up to the NHL earlier this season. This is his second stint with the Oilers, and he has shown improvement since his initial time in Edmonton.
“He’s more assertive,” said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I think when you get that first one you’re nervous, you don’t dare want to make a mistake and I think you play hesitant a lot of times. When we sent him back, Craig (MacTavish) and I sat with him and gave him a very clear outline of what we needed him to be better at and most of it comes from being assertive and playing like he does in the American League.
“He’s come back and he’s done that for the most part. He’s got a lot of growing to do, he’s got a lot to learn about the game, but the thing he gives us back there is size. He’s not a heavy guy yet. He still looks like boy but his range with that stick, he can get us out of trouble with that long, long range.”
At 6-foot-4 and 188 pounds, the Oilers are hoping Marincin can develop into a big defenceman that they need on their blue line.