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.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says he has a plan for rotating his two goaltenders. Ilya Bryzgalov has started six of the last eight games for the team, but that doesn’t mean he has overtaken Devan Dubnyk as the team’s number one netminder.
“No,” Eakins said when asked if Bryzgalov was the number one based on his recent stretch of starts. “It just means he’s played six of the last eight. Both of our goalies are more than capable of being the number one guy. (Dubnyk) has already had a lot of starts. We’re just trying to get Bryz up to speed. I think he’s earned his starts and it’s important to get a guy like him some workload now. His body is ready for it and we’ll see how he reacts.”
Bryzgalov made 24 saves in tonight’s 5-3 win over Tampa Bay. Dubnyk has 10 of the Oilers wins this season in 30 games while Bryzgalov has three in his 12 games.
Oilers winger Jordan Eberle returns to the lineup after sitting out one game with a knee injury, following a run in with Logan Couture in San Jose.
“It was awkward,” said Eberle of his collision with Couture. “I just tried to step up and hit him and just felt my knee tweak a bit. I think the adrenaline of the game kept going. I felt all right to play then the next day, it hit me. Like most injuries, it was really, really sore. It’s tough to sit out, but you kind of get a (different) perspective from up top and I’m happy to be back.”
In 43 games this season, Eberle has 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points, which is tied for second on the team.
37-year-old Ryan Smyth seems to have found the fountain of youth this season. He is not only able to keep up with the speed of play on the ice, but has been a solid forward for the Oilers this season. It is all thanks to his preparation on and off the ice, which has allowed him to continue to perform.
“Over the course of the year, he’s been solid,” said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I think when you get up in the late stages of your career, you really start to focus in on everything that’s going to make your body churn. What you put in it, how you’re going to train and all of those things. He made a real big commitment to that this summer.
“He’s helped us on the penalty kill. I’ve tried to utilize him where he’s best on our power play. He’s one of those guys that is willing to go stand right in front of the net and take a beating. He’s been a solid guy and a guy that the rest of our group needs to look at how he carries himself in the community and how he carries himself with our fans. He’s a pro and we need a lot of our guys to emulate that.”
Smyth has six goals and eight assists in 34 games this season. He has already bettered his totals from last season, as he finished the 2012-2013 campaign with two goals and 11 assists in 47 games.
Taylor Hall was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to close out the first period. After Gagner's five minute major and game misconduct, the Hall penalty put the Oilers down two men at the start of the second.
The Avalanche capitalized on the 5-on-3 advantage.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins addressed the penalties and his response after the game.
"The Gagner penalty was a penalty," said Eakins. "I thought it was by accident. When his stick came up, I thought you could see it immediately that when the guy went down Gags was concerned. When you mean to do it, you skate away with a smirk on your face.
"All I was looking for from the official was the explanation. He went over to the box, signalled two minutes with his finger, did the cross-check, put Sam in the box and suddenly everything changed after the jumbotron showed it."
Coach Eakins added Hall was not the player who said something to the referee at the end of the period.
"I came out at the start of the (second) period after a cooling-down period, as we're supposed to do as coaches, and was basically told by the ref to… well, I can't say what he said to me. Just looking for simple explanations, but couldn't get them."
The Oilers have acquired a conditional 6th round draft selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.
Omark has played in 29 games for the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League this season, scoring 14 goals and adding 15 assists to lead that team in scoring.
Omark was originally a fourth round pick of the Oilers in the 2007 NHL Draft.
After getting downed 8-2 by the Oilers on December 5, in Edmonton, it is fully expected that the Avalanche will come out with a little extra motivation to exact revenge tomorrow night.
"Absoultely, like Columbus," said David Perron. "We beat them 7-0 and they beat us the next game… It wasn't much of a game there. We need to be ready from the start. It's not going to be goals every night against this team, that's for sure. Their coaching staff over there, I know them a little bit, I know a few players over there and they weren't happy after the last game. They'll come out hard."
Colorado will be looking to defend their arena in front of their home crowd.
"Anytime a team beats you like we did to them, you want to come back with a good response," said Jordan Eberle. "Especially, in your own building. We expect a different game for sure. From us, we've lost… four in a row now. We've got to get back on track."
The last time the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche played, two tough guys duked it out in a good tilt. Edmonton's Luke Gazdic and Colorado's Patrick Bordeleau squared off after the Avs player made a hit that Gazdic disagreed with.
This is not the first time these two titans battled on the ice.
"I've been fighting him since I was young," said Gazdic. "I was 20 when I started. He was usually getting the best of me."
After that fight on December 5, Gazdic was the clear winner. Head Coach Dallas Eakins said that after watching Bordeleau play in the American Hockey League, he had never seen him lose a fight until that night.
"He was feeding me pretty good and I just came out with a cross from the right and it just got him pretty flush," said Gazdic. "Then, I just tried to take over from there. That's what happens. Sometimes you land, I don't want to say it was a lucky punch because I was trying to do it, but every once in a while you land one flush and that's what happened."
When asked if he expected Bordeleau to request a rematch, Gazdic didn't know if or when it would happen.
"Some guys like to get a little retribution."