Edmonton Oilers forward Anton Lander has had a remarkable and potentially unexpected season in the American Hockey League with Oklahoma City. Named OKC’s captain, Lander has 48 points (18-30-48) in 43 games with the Barons this season.
That point production hasn’t translated to the NHL yet, mostly because Lander has been placed in a different role during his time in the NHL. With injuries to the Oilers lineup, Lander has been given more opportunities to play more minutes with more skilled players and he’s shown more confidence as a result.
“I think he looks like a different player because he’s playing with different players,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “When he’s been up before, he’s usually played that fourth-line role and we wanted to see how he could handle playing with maybe a different group of guys. I think he’s played fine. He certainly looks like he has more confidence than he had earlier in the season.”
The Oilers are hoping the former 40th overall pick in 2009 continues to develop moving forward. Lander turns 23 in April.
The Oilers took the ice at Russ Barnes Arena for practice on Friday morning.
Jordan Eberle was in attendance and skated throughout the entire practice. Eberle, who tweaked his knee, could be back in the lineup as soon as Saturday.
Eakins says it's "good news" Eberle (knee) has participated in the full skate today. #14 most likely of injured guys to return tomorrow.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 21, 2014
Anton Belov has been cleared to play.
Belov also cleared to play, #Oilers have 8 d-men at their disposal.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 21, 2014
Ryan Smyth had several good looks on the power play, close to the net, in the Oilers game against the Sabres. Smyth is one power play tally away from breaking the franchise’s all-time record for power play goals in a career. He tied Glenn Anderson with his 126th against the New York Islanders on March 6.
It is clear that Smyth’s teammates are trying to get him number 127.
“I think that they would admit that they do,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “I thought he had a couple of glorious chances there to put that puck in the net. I’m not going to stand here and lie and say that doesn’t matter to us, it does. It’s something that we all want for Ryan but we’re not formulating that power play around them. But I see them sometimes where I see the pass is up top and they see Ryan’s stick and they’re going to go for it. You’ve got to breathe on that. That’s something special, that’s them supporting their teammate and trying to get something for him personally.”
Tyler Pitlick had a chance to skate for a little bit on a line with Anton Lander and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov out with injuries. The 22-year-old forward played just 10:05, adding a shot and three hits to his stat sheet.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says he felt that Pitlick was a little tentative with the puck in his first game since being recalled on Wednesday. The coach also commented on whether or not he felt they’d continue with Pitlick in that role or move him around.
“I thought he was a little tentative, which is natural for a guy getting called up,” Eakins said. “We’ll have to see if that’s part of his role, playing there. But I thought he tried extremely hard, he was attentive on the bench, I thought he was trying to finish his checks but I just felt him a little tentative with the puck but that’s a natural thing for a guy like that.”
Pitlick’s game is at its strongest when he ‘hits everything that moves’ and shoots the puck.
Tyler Pitlick has earned praise in Oklahoma City for his maturity and consistent development. The former second-round pick (31st overall in 2010), appears ready for NHL duty. He had his first NHL call up earlier this season and played well, but saw his time in Edmonton cut short with a knee injury in his third game.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke today about exactly what Pitlick needs to do in order to stay in the NHL this second time around.
“I had a quick conversation with him and the word from Oklahoma City is that he’s been playing a real solid game and we want him to do that here. I thought he showed pretty well the last time he was here and he got hurt and I just encouraged him to pick up where he left off. He had a good start the last time here and sometimes that gets derailed by an injury. But he’s just got to go up and down his wing and finish his checks, be responsible with the puck. He can shoot the puck, that’s for sure, we’re looking for that and be very responsible defensively. Pitlick is one of those guys, he’s going to have to do everything. This isn’t about him coming in and scoring or him just playing defence, he’s got to wear all the hats if he’s going to stay here.”
Pitlick is in the final year of his entry level contract and would be a RFA at the end of this season.
After tweaking his knee, there were reports that Jordan Eberle may have had an MRI or had one scheduled. However, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said Thursday that those weren’t true and Eberle, one of their roster’s stars may not be out very long.
“We don’t feel there’s a need for one now,” Eakins said. “Not saying it’s never, but the misinformation in the twitter world is always quite amazing. But he tweaked his knee, there’s no MRI scheduled and we’re hopeful he won’t be out very long.”
Eberle has 53 points (23-30-53) in 69 games this season. He will miss tonight's game against Buffalo.
With the Oklahoma City Barons going with the youth movement and having success with their lineup, Steve MacIntyre has not played since February 23. However, he could get the chance to shake off the rust here in the NHL should they need his services in light of injuries to their lineup.
“I haven’t taken it lightly, the amount of games I’ve played,” MacIntyre said. “I try to make sure I’m ready to go if I’m in, I’m out or whatever. I don’t really change too many things up. Obviously, game shape is different than practice shape but you can’t really practice for that, you just kind of get thrown out there and hope for the best. I’ll be looking for the oxygen tank, I imagine, if I get in behind the bench somewhere.”
MacIntyre has played 10 games for OKC this season, with 34 penalty minutes.
The Edmonton Oilers have reassigned goaltender Laurent Brossoit to the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons from the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
Brossoit heads to the AHL, leading the ECHL in shutouts with seven and he’s second in GAA (2.06) and tied for third in save percentage (.924) and wins (21).
Brossoit is also a three-time CCM/ECHL Goalie of the Week.
Oilers centre Sam Gagner has 10 points in his last 11 games, dating back to February 6. Gagner spoke after practice about his recent play and how he’s feeling much better than he did at the start of the season.
“I’m feeling better, I’m feeling more confident,” he said. “I’m obviously not happy with how my year has gone. I think the Olympic break was good for me to just kind of refocus and I’m feeling better and our team is playing a lot better, which helps…”
Gagner has 33 points (8-25-33) in 56 games this season, but has been averaging roughly a point-per-game in the last stretch of games. He credits his attention to detail and staying focused as the driving force behind his recent play.
“I’ve been trying to make sure I’m sharp and I’m working on some things in practice. But I think this game is so much mental and just kind of having a mental break and allowing myself to focus on the right things has been good. There’s a lot of season left here and I’ve just got to make sure I’m doing the same things.”
Gagner had a two-point night (1-1-2) against Nashville on Tuesday night.