The Oilers are not ready to commit on when Darnell Nurse will make his NHL debut, or if/when Klefbom will enter the lineup as well.
“We’ll wait as long as we have to,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “It’s extremely easy to say, ‘put this guy in.’ I think it’s extremely hard to say, ‘take this guy out.’ It’s something that I don’t take lightly. I like to think about it and I’m not there yet with an answer for you.”
The Oilers take on Los Angeles tomorrow.
“The three guys not practicing today are all with multiple bang-ups,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “We’ll just assess them day-by-day, but for the three of them it was one of those things where you come in that fit from the summer and we’re not so worried about them being on the ice, we need them to play. So we thought they would benefit from another day of some rest and rehab inside.”
The Oilers top-line centre Nugent-Hopkins got into a fight on Saturday in Vancouver, but it wasn’t the only thing that left him banged up.
“He took a big hit there right before the fight and took a few whacks as well during the game. He’s kind of bruised up all over,” Eakins said.
The status of those players is day-to-day. Eakins said they have discussed calling up a player if one of the forwards couldn’t go tomorrow against Los Angeles, but a decision was not made as of practice.
The line combinations are as follows:
Lines all scrambled at practice in LA. Klefbom on wing with Hall & Arco. 67-29-10. 57-27-6. 20-41-23. This according to jersey combos.— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) October 13, 2014
Not much you can deduce from today's line combos in El Segundo, but reasonable to think Nurse makes NHL debut (paired w/Schultz) vs Kings.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) October 13, 2014
The Oilers fourth line drew some attention for their play in the home opener on Thursday night. At the beginning of the game, they were the line generating the most time in the offensive zone. As the game continued, the Oilers began to attack in waves with the rest of their forward lines.
Despite the loss, the play of the fourth line was one of several bright spots for the Oilers. Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu showed they have the ability to be a difference-making, energy-creating trio.
I asked Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins what he thinks their impact could be on tonight’s game in Vancouver, considering that they played “pretty well” against Calgary. My assessment of their play was a little too conservative for the head coach.
“You’re hard (on them),” Eakins said. “Pretty well? I thought they were excellent. I like that though, that’s good that you’re hard on them. I thought they played a big, heavy game. I thought that Jesse continued where he left off in training camp. Boyd and Hendy gave us really good games, they turned the tide a couple of times for us in the game with big shifts. They were able to get zone time and then they were able to do some heavy lifting in our zone on those face-offs. Again, it has to be every night for those guys. The one thing I was really encouraged with last game is, with our depth up front, it may have been the first game I’ve coached where all four lines were in the double digits and that bodes well for us over the course of the season.”
The Oilers outplayed the Flames for parts of the game, but lost 5-2. Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke with the team after the loss, not wanting them to slip into the mindset that past demons were creeping back in.
“It was just to breathe,” Eakins said of his messaging. “This is going to take some time, I don’t know how much time but I am worried about our team’s mindset. I don’t want last year and all the years before that have gone on, to turn this into a giant snowball rolling. Here it goes again. If we had played a terrible game, I would have told the team that and that would have been the end of it. I thought we played a good game, they feel that we played a good game. They understand that we made mistakes that cost us the game and we’ve got to rectify those. I didn’t want them in there with their heads down, feeling terrible about the night. There was a ton of good and there’s some learning to be done as well.”
Eakins and the players in the locker room were adamant that there were many positives to take from the game.
“I’m not going to walk out here and say we played crappy, because we didn’t,” Eakins said. “We made mistakes, we lost the game and that’s totally unacceptable. It’s all about the points. There’s going to be nights where we play like crap and we get the points and I’m going to be very upset with the game but happy to take the points.”
The Oilers elected to sit first-round picks Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom for the season opener. Head Coach Dallas Eakins was asked after the game when the two youngsters will get an opportunity to play. He wasn’t quite ready to make a decision, but says he doesn’t want any player sitting out for long.
“We’ll have to discuss it,” Eakins said. “You really don’t want anybody sitting very long. It doesn’t matter what their age is, but certainly at that stage in their development you don’t want them missing a lot of games.”
Nail Yakupov will skate on a line with Benoit Pouliot and rookie first-round pick Leon Draisaitl. His role tonight will be to help Draisaitl along in his first NHL game, as the two of them developed a friendship over the summer.
Yakupov will also be expected to shoot the puck as much as possible, according to Head Coach Dallas Eakins.
“I talked to Nail this morning and he’s got to help Leon tonight,” Eakins said. “He’s got to help him through this. We’re looking to have him show some leadership there. Him and Leon have a great relationship so we’re looking for that. Nail has expanded his game. He understands where he’s supposed to be on the ice defensively now, he’s much better at it, I think he’s going to get the puck a lot more with Leon being able to distribute it. Leon is going to be constantly looking to that side because he’s a left-handed shot and Nail is on the right side. We want Nail to attack the net. Nail is always going to pay his best when he’s scoring, when he’s getting his points and when he’s getting his chances. That’s what he wants to do. We want energy, we want responsibility and we want him to be getting his chances. I certainly don’t want that player passing up any shots. He does not need to be nice to Pouliot and Leon. When he has the puck in a shooting area, put it at the net.”
Yakupov is eager to skate with his new linemates, particularly Draisaitil who is a playmaker and could benefit the scoring winger.
“He moves the puck quick,” Yakupov said of Draisaitl. “He doesn’t like to keep the puck all the time with him. He likes to see open players and open wingers. It’s my job to get open in the offensive zone and just make some shots. I think that’s really important… He’s just an unbelievable playmaker. He moves the puck really well and we’ll see what happens. I think we’re going to play really well.”
Defenceman Brad Hunt enters tonight’s lineup against the Calgary Flames, ahead of the first-round youngsters Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom. Head Coach Dallas Eakins says the reasoning was that the Oilers need Hunt’s power play ability.
“His ability to move the puck and we need help on our power play,” Eakins said. “When you get down to certain decisions, it sometimes gets down to specialty players. He hasn’t hurt us defensively at all, he’s very smart, he’s not the biggest guy but he understands angles, he’s got a great stick. Again, he doesn’t defend a lot because he moves the puck so well. It goes back to why would you ever want to defend? Let’s have the puck, let’s make the plays so we’re not chasing it around. He certainly brings what we need on our power play. We need more of a ‘shot mentality’, we’ve given the guys the numbers on it, what our goals are every two minutes of a power play, and he brings that. He’s not looking to pass the puck first when he gets it at the point. His first thought is, ‘can I get it to that net?’ That’s why he’s here.”
Hunt will be paired with Justin Schultz against the Flames.
“He’s an excellent hockey player and he’s got a very bright future in this league so it’s an honour to be able to play with him. It’s going to be fun,” Hunt said.
Schultz has played with a lot of different partners in his young career. He hopes to one day find his long-term defensive partner, but for now he’s ready to see what they can do.
“It’s difficult to find that chemistry with a partner,” Schultz said. “With some guys, it happens right away. Obviously, I haven’t found that yet. I like playing with all the guys I’ve played with, it’s not a matter of that. Me and Hunt are together tonight, we’re both good offensively and hopefully we’ll have a good game out there.”
The 1983-84 Oilers hoisted the first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history. But did they know they would go on to win three more in the next four years?
“I don’t think anyone can tell you you’ll continually win,” Ex-Oilers Head Coach Glen Sather said at Wednesday’s press conference. “There’s so much to go into the team, the spirit inside the team and how it functions, whether you’ve got the right trainers, the right doctors, the right owners, injuries, there’s 1,000 things that happen during the season. You can have the greatest talent in the world and, for some reason if something goes wrong, there’s no guarantee in hockey.
“This is a tough league in a tough sport and you can see by the look of all the guys here, how tough they are after going through what they’ve gone through. It takes a lot of hard work.”