It's just an off-ice workout for the Oilers this morning as the Rexall Place ice has been covered in preparation for a concert.
We'll have interviews with several Oilers shortly, including the NHL's first star of the week Taylor Hall.
A scrappy and heated second period provided a spark for the Edmonton Oilers while it may have doused any momentum the Ducks were trying to create. After Steve Pinizzotto grappled with Matt Beleskey, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that the Ducks seemed rattled and they even took it out on him.
“I do know it certainly rattled their team,” Eakins said. “They’re a composed group, Anaheim. (Anaheim Head Coach Bruce Boudreau) has done a great job with that team. They’re so composed and then when the first one erupted, it seemed to set them off the tracks a little bit and I thought they got really distracted. I thought that worked in our favour. They were so upset they were even yelling at me which is always great when I didn’t even throw a punch.”
Eakins said it was some of the top players on the Ducks who were talking at the Oilers bench. He also says that second period was yet another bonding moment for the team as they continue to fight for each other.
“Their top guys. I think they thought I sent (Pinizzotto) out there to do that and I would just never do that, especially now. We’re out of it, they’re getting ready for the playoffs, I have nothing but the upmost respect for (Boudreau) and especially (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Corey) Perry those two are two of my favourite players to watch but they were certainly upset by that. So the answer to your question is I thought it worked great in our favour. Not only did I think it took their top guys out of their composed state, but then I thought it was another bonding experience for our guys. They knew they were in the fight together and they were supporting each other again.”
Anaheim defenceman Stephane Robidas also talked about a ‘loss of composure’ in the game.
Several Oilers also talked about the second period and how it helped the Oilers in the game.
“It’s good for us,” Taylor Hall said. “It gets everyone going and it seems to get the crowd going a lot, especially at home. Those guys (Steve Pinizzotto and Matt Hendricks etc.) play hard and they want to defend the teammates that they’re on the ice with and it’s great for us. If we can keep playing tough and keep playing with pride, that’s going to follow along.”
Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz scored the game-winning goal against Anaheim tonight and it’s his second-straight game with a goal. Schultz jumped way up in the play to score tonight, stuffing in a loose puck on the doorstep.
“He was good,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “He was working all 200 feet of the ice, I know that. He was really skating, he was up on the play, he’s been good at picking his spots so it didn’t surprise me that he was there to bang it in.”
Schultz says he’s constantly looking to create that offence and recently he’s been able to do so.
“You’re always trying to jump up and create offence and the last couple of games I’ve had opportunities to do that,” Schultz said. “We’ve been playing really well as a team and it makes it easier for me to jump in so I’ve just got to keep doing that hopefully I’ll get a few more.”
When a defenceman commits offensively it could present a risk of the puck going the other way, but the Oilers want Schultz to keep jumping up and getting creative.
“There’s going to be some liabilities with every player,” Taylor Hall said. “He’s an offensive guy so he needs to be as offensive as possible and the other parts of his game are really rounding out well.”
Schultz finished the game with 23:05 of ice time and a goal and an assist.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke at length this morning about some of the changes the coaching staff has made over the course of the season. After the team’s rough start to the year, Eakins had to take a step back and figure out just what fit better with the current roster and how to tweak his systems to their game.
Eakins says implementing his swarm defence right away was a ‘mistake’.
“I know exactly how we have to play now,” he said said. “I think the only thing I’ve really changed is listen, as a coach you can do one of two things. You can try to take the square pegs and put them into round holes or you can find the system that’s right for your group. I know the one mistake I made with our group was implementing that swarm defence to start the season. We weren’t ready for it, it left us exposed, it left our goaltending exposed and that’s on me. I take full responsibility for it. So when you get to the point in the season, and it was fairly early on, that you know this isn’t going to work you can do one of two things as a coach. You can go, you know what? Screw you guys we’re going to keep doing this until we get it to work or we can move to something else that’s maybe better for the team.”
So Eakins decided to take the second approach and change things up, which he says has been a good adjustment for the team.
“I knew in my heart at that time that it was time to move on and so I made the change. I think we’ve adjusted quite well, we need to add one more tweak to what we’re doing and it’s just an aggression thing now. But we won’t move to that until training camp. We’ve upped it a little bit but the next step will be next year. I think that’s the one thing I know for sure. The only other thing that’s happened here and this is one you don’t know as a coach until you get into it, we had to totally reset this group on the way they viewed themselves, the way that they thought they were going to play the game, the way that they thought they were built and the biggest thing were the habits. The only good from our suffering this year has been that we’ve been able to take as a group, as individuals, take a hard look at the good teams and what they’re doing and our group fully understands how we need to play, what our identity needs to be moving forward and that’s about the biggest bit of encouragement I have moving forward.”
Getting his players to play with more aggression on the forecheck was the next step in his constant tweaking. The team exhibited some success on that front on their recent road trip.
“It was the next step. I believe in bringing things.. I guess I equate it to school You’ve got to learn to add and subtract before you move on to multiplication… We started with our forecheck and as we learned more about ourselves, we were at a time where I thought it was time to go with it. We need more offensive zone time, we have to find more offence and that’s a way to do it. It hasn’t just been the top line there, it’s been our whole team. They’ve been very aggressive, our (defencemen) are up and that’s something that we’ll firmly continue forward.”
Goalie Viktor Fasth has had a rough season. Following a solid season with the Anaheim Ducks, Fasth suffered an injury that would allow him to play just five games this season with that club. Then, following a trade to Edmonton, he would hurt his neck in practice and miss some time with his new team.
Fasth is just looking to put this season behind him by finishing it up strong and moving on to next year.
“After every season, you want to end with a good feeling and you’re looking forward to next season with some good memories,” Fasth said. “I mean, the start of the season or most of the season has been a struggle for me with injuries and of course you want to end on a high note here.”
Fasth has played in five games for the Oilers since being acquired via trade and has a 2-1-1 record with a 2.83 goals against average and .896 save percentage. He gets the start tonight against his former team.
22-year-old forward Tyler Pitlick has been banged up this season. Twice injuries have cut his time in the NHL shorter than he’d like. Now recovered from his latest knee injury, Pitlick could play tonight against Anaheim.
This season has been a challenge for Pitlick who earned his first NHL call up early in the year but has played in just eight games due to those setbacks.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I want to be at the best of my ability so I can play my best and show them what I got but I’m just glad it was a minor thing this time and not something that’s going to put me out a while. I guess there’s a bright side to it I guess.”
With four games left in the season, the young prospect wants to show the organization everything he’s got and he knows this last week is a big one.
“They’re huge. I’ve got to give it everything I have, show them what I got and it’s going to lead up to next year. I’ve got to have a few good games.”
The Edmonton Oilers American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons, earned a huge 5-4 shootout win over the Hamilton Bulldogs on Wednesday night.
The victory gives them 73 points on the season, putting them two back of the 7th (Rockford) and 8th seed in the Western Conference (Charlotte).
The Barons continue their playoff push with two critical games against the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday and Sunday at home in OKC.
The win was also marked by pro debuts for two Oilers prospects; Jujhar Khaira and Greg Chase. Khaira, a third round pick (63rd overall) by the Oilers in 2012, finished the game -2 with two shots on goal.
Chase scored his first professional goal, the game-tying tally at 15:35 of the third period. Chase was selected 188th overall (7th round) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He finished the game +2 with three shots on goal.
The Barons have seven games left in the regular season.
The Oklahoma City Barons announced today that they have signed Mitch Holmberg to an AHL Standard Player Contract for the 2014-15 season. The news came after the team signed the winger to an Amateur Try Out (ATO).
In addition to signing Mitch Holmberg to an ATO, the #OKCBarons have signed him to an AHL SPC for 2014-15.— Oklahoma City Barons (@okcbarons) April 2, 2014
5-foot-10, 175 pound Holmberg has played for the Spokane Chiefs since 2009. This season, he had 118 points (62-56-118) in 72 games for the WHL team.
Holmberg, 21, will report to the Barons to help them in their pursuit of the AHL playoffs.
The Edmonton Oilers held an optional skate on Saturday morning in which many faces were absent. Head Coach Dallas Eakins says the team is trying to give their players, who are banged up, some rest.
“Exactly and mostly guys banged up where we just thought it was better to keep most of the guys off the ice, put a few guys on and go from there,” Eakins said. “We’ve got a ton of guys right now that are banged up and some guys that have been playing big minutes and we’ve got to do our best to get them ready for the games.”
“Pitlick took a shot through his pads, on the knee. There’s nothing in the x-ray so we’re fairly confident he should be able to suck it up and play and Jones is out for the season. He’s got a torn PCL, which I don’t know much about but it’s in his knee.”
Fasth skated this morning and appears to be nearing a return from his sprained neck.
“Viktor is progressing and that’s good news. But there’s never a timeline on that other than he came off the ice yesterday and was good, today he’s had another good day so that all looks very well going forward.”
Nail Yakupov (ankle) also skated and, although it’s a good sign, he needs some more time to heal.
“He’s been out just over a week so he’s going to need some practices for sure but I know he still has some discomfort in there.”
The Oilers do not plan on recalling anyone from Oklahoma City, according to Eakins, and will dress defenceman Philip Larsen in Jones’ place.