The Oilers can only hope that Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins prove to be their bright future up the middle. The two young centres will be living together for the time being, with Draisaitl getting the news that he would be staying in the NHL past his first nine games.
“For now, I’m going to move in with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins,” Draisaitl said. “He’s going to take me under his wing I guess and I’m really thankful for that. He’s a great guy and somebody I look up to. He’s a great centreman and it’s fun being around him for sure.”
Leon Draisaitl remains with the Oilers past nine games, but there is always room for improvement. Head Coach Dallas Eakins expects Draisaitl to just continue to improve and show the things that kept him here.
“What every player on our lineup is doing,” Eakins said. “We’re always looking to improve our habits, we’re looking to be students of the game, we’re looking to be very fit, we’re working to compete very hard every night. It’s nothing that we aren’t asking of all our players.”
The decision to keep Draisaitl was an easy one according to Eakins. He continued to improve and never fell off when it came to facing the pressure or competition.
“He continues to improve,” Eakins said. “If he had fallen off of a cliff somewhere along the way that would have been the easy decision. It’s been a very easy discussion. He’s earned his right, he continues to get better and those are positive signs for us.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke with the media after practice on Tuesday and provided injury updates on the team.
Nikitin (back spasms) will likely have an MRI and Hendricks had a simple maintenance day today after plenty of bumps & bruises last night.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 28, 2014
Their statuses have been upgraded to “day-to-day.”
Nikita Nikitin missed last night’s game against Montreal. He is suffering from back spasms and will likely have an MRI.
Matt Hendricks was the only other player to miss practice on Tuesday, but the prognosis is good. It was a maintenance day for the winger after a tough game last night. He was knocked out of the game for a bit after being pushed into the boards by P.K. Subban. He did return to the game.
For the time being, Leon Draisaitl will continue to don the Edmonton Oilers sweater. The club made that official on Tuesday morning after practice when Head Coach Dallas Eakins made the announcement.
“You shouldn’t be surprised that he’s on the ice,” Eakins said. “He’s part of our hockey team, he’s earned the right to be here today and be in the lineup tomorrow. It shouldn’t be a be a big distraction for our team. It’s part of the process of us getting better and it’s not a big topic at all in our room. All we’re concerned about is practice today and the Nashville Predators tomorrow.”
The third-overall pick in this year’s draft will play his 10th NHL game tomorrow night against Nashville.
Stay tuned for more from practice.
Scrivens, Bachman & Fasth (groin) all participating in #Oilers practice today in Leduc. Nikita Nikitin, however, is not on the ice.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 28, 2014
Davidson is the extra defenceman
Goaltenders Scrivens, Fasth & Bachman are all participating in practice
No Nikita Nikitin on the ice. He missed last night's game. No Matt Hendricks either. He was on the receiving end of a head first hit into the boards last night. He returned later in the game.
The Oilers have racked up four straight wins and they’ve come against quality opponents. Perhaps their toughest task yet was tonight against Montreal and they shut them down, 3-0.
A large contingency of Habs fans were in attendance at Rexall Place and they energy in the building was high. The Oilers and Habs fans chanted and screamed throughout the game. It was loud and exciting.
The Oilers fed off their crowd, as they have all throughout this homestand.
“I know one thing,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “Since we’ve been home here our crowd has been able to push us along, whether we’ve been even in the game, down by a goal or up by a goal. The guys are talking about it on the bench, when they get behind you like that. It happens when these teams like Montreal or Toronto comes in there are lots of people that want to wear their colours. When you’ve got your own fans up there fighting with the other ones, our guys want to get in on the action too. It was electric down there on the ice. There was a lot of stuff going on down on the ice, a lot of players yapping back and forth and you saw the battles. It made for a fun night here in the building.”
The Oilers have rattled off four straight wins, all against Eastern Conference opponents. They’ve been quality opponents too, with the Oilers beating Montreal, Tampa Bay and Washington.
But why haven’t the Oilers had success against teams in their own conference?
“It may be a confidence thing, I’m trying to figure it out,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “It’s easy to sit and say that word ‘heaviness’ in our division and things like that. I’m starting to not buy that. It may be a confidence issue and we’re going to look at that. That’s a very good hockey team that we played tonight and we were able to play with them, we got some excellent goaltending, we were able to kill penalties when we needed to and we were able to score when we needed to. I can’t see why we can’t have that same type of confidence that our players exuded tonight against teams in our own division.”
The Oilers still have plenty of hockey left to prove they can get their own conference record on par with that against the East. As they’ve shown, starting 0-4-1 wasn’t the end of the world either. They’re sitting at 4-4-1 with two games left in their homestand.
“I think it’s great,” Benoit Pouliot said. “Our start wasn’t the best but it’s a long season. We’re only nine games in so there’s a lot of hockey left. Even though you start bad… we’re not going to be winning every night for sure. It’s just a matter of being consistent at doing it and not going into a slump like at the beginning of the year and we’ll be fine.”
Nail Yakupov had a difficult season last year. It resulted in some frustrations with the winger, who saw his successful rookie season get overshadowed by a less productive sophomore season.
The first-overall pick in 2012 has bounced back to show marked improvement in his third NHL season.
“Night and day,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “His confidence level is much higher, he has a firm grasp on how to play without the puck and he’s getting good looks at the net. Last game he had a couple of incredible (Grade A) chances that just missed. He knows that if he keeps getting those chances they’re going to go in. All that stats stuff will look after itself if he keeps playing the way he is. He’s been a real physical play for us as well. He’s come in not afraid to throw his body around, he’s providing some electricity with the puck.”
Eakins says he’s a better player having gone through a disappointing year like he did.
“He’s a far different young man this year than he was last year and that was a hard year for him last year. It’s tough to go through, but the silver lining in all that is that it’s important to go through because it makes you stronger, you learn lessons and then he’s able to help out players coming on behind him that will go through it too. He’s a far better player and he’s maturing nicely for us.”
The Oilers have shown an ability to rebound when their opponent takes the lead or steals back momentum by tying things up. It’s been a theme for them in their three straight wins.
That mentality that they can bounce back in the face of adversity has been a turnaround from last season.
“I think it’s a combination of everything,” Jeff Petry said. “It has really been said by the coaching staff but also from the players, maybe even before the coaching staff had said it, that it was just our feeling as a group to move forward we’ve got to a team that if we do go down one or we’re up one we’re not changing the style of play. We’re going to play that style for 60 minutes and that’s something that we’ve just got to sustain.”
There is a calm demeanour on the bench when the Oilers get pushback from their opponent. They’ve been able to erase the memory of a negative play and turn things around on the next shift.
“It is more calm,” Petry said. “It’s not if a bad play happens it deflates the bench. It’s the next shift that’s the most important. Whoever is going out there is going out there to do a job and to focus on that next shift. That play that happened just prior is done. I think that’s something that we’ve done a lot better. If we do get down a goal it’s not, ‘here we go again,’ it’s let’s turn up the pace even more to get back in there, get down there and score a goal to tie it up.”
Oilers goaltender Viktor Fasth expected the worst when he felt something happen to his groin in the game against Los Angeles on October 14. Luckily for him, the MRI was much more encouraging than anyone expected it to be.
“That was really good news,” Fasth said. “I thought it would be more serious than it was. I was really glad to hear it wasn’t that bad.”
Fasth was on the ice for practice with the team for the first time since injuring his groin.
“It felt good to be on the ice today,” he said. “I’ve been skating for a couple of days here and today was the first real action with reacting and stuff but it felt good.”
There may be some recovery left to do for Fasth, who said he doesn’t know when he will return to game action.
“I don’t know. Today was the first day with real practice. I’ve been skating and doing a lot of work with the goalie coach and the trainers here. But I hope to be back soon.”