Oilers management, coaches, trainers and players are showing their Edmonton Eskimos pride in advance of their game against Saskatchewan tomorrow. Nearly every Oiler is wearing an Eskimos hat, although there are just a few questionable Roughriders fans.
Eskimos appreciation day at Oilers practice. Todd Nelson, I'm assuming, will be fined for this. pic.twitter.com/TV2BDiEock— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) September 25, 2014
The Oilers are on the ice in Leduc and the first group is as follows:
The stat sheet doesn’t record “energy level” but by watching Oilers winger Nail Yakupov, it was clear that he was trying to make things happen on the ice. Head Coach Dallas Eakins was pleased with the things Yakupov brought to the game tonight.
“I thought that line was one pass away from making something happen,” Eakins said. “Pucks were bobbling on him, there were some that went into his feet but I thought he was skating, I thought he was trying. He was energetic on the bench so I thought he had a good game.”
The Oilers top line started as Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle centred by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But as the game wore on, Head Coach Dallas Eakins tinkered with the lineup, and third-line winger Curtis Hamilton got bumped to the top with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins.
Hamilton, a second-round pick in 2010, showed he’s a hard worker and played well in his promotion. After battling adversity with knee injuries, Hamilton deserved the opportunity.
“He needs it,” Eakins said. “You cheer for kids like that because he’s been hurt a lot, he comes in, he’s worked hard over the summer and that’s another one where it’s like, ‘alright, let’s throw him up there with two very good NHL players and see how he responds.’”
“When we shook (the lineup), I felt like everybody started to respond a little bit and I’m sure that’s exciting for Curtis to be able to play with those two guys.”
Tyler Pitlick got his taste of the NHL last season. The 2010 second-round pick played 10 games for the Oilers, scoring one goal.
It was a conversation he had with his American Hockey League coach in Oklahoma City that made him realize what it took to make it to the NHL.
“I’ve always kind of hand a little bit of physicality in my game, I’ve always kind of played that way,” Pitlick said. “But I think with Todd Nelson down in OKC, he told me that if I wanted to make the NHL I was going to have to hit guys and skate hard up and down my wing and just play a simple game.”
A simple game is what earned Pitlick his first NHL call-up. Now he’s hoping to stick and he’s willing to take on any role asked of him.
“Whatever it takes,” he said.
“I’ll play five minutes a night, hitting guys every shift if that’s what it takes.”
Travis Ewanyk will suit up on the Oilers fourth line in their pre-season game against the Jets in Winnipeg tonight. It’s an opportunity for the 2011 third-round pick to prove he’s a better player coming off of his first professional season, with the Oklahoma City Barons in the American Hockey League.
“I feel it went really well,” Ewanyk said of last season. “It’s obviously a bit of an adjustment coming out of junior where you’re one of the bigger, stronger guys. Then you go into pro and you realize the size and the skill that guys have. But I gained a lot of confidence. (Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson) threw me into a lot of different situations throughout the year. Just this year, coming into my games, I feel so much more confident than I was last year and I know I can play at this level.”
Ewanyk finished the 2013-14 season with 12 points (7-5-12) in 68 games for the Barons, and recorded 100 penalty minutes. He was selected 74th overall in 2011.
Competitive Thread was in town to put the Oilers through a RHIET test at training camp on Tuesday morning. The nerves started to sink in after practice.
“When practice was over I was so nervous,” Nail Yakupov said. “I don’t know why, it just always happens with me. You just start to think about it. But you’ve just got to do it like Dallas says, just put your head down and skate as hard as you can.”
RHIET stands for Repeated High Intensity Endurance Test. The players skate the length of the ice down and back a number of times with limited rest between sets. It becomes a daunting task after the first couple of sets.
“The first two sets are actually not that bad,” Leon Draisaitl said. “It’s just up the ice and back so it’s not that bad. But numbers three, four, five and six are when you really start to feel it in your legs and start to feel the burn. It gets pretty tough from three on.”
Yakupov added, “You’ve just got to skate as hard as you can you have to push yourself, that’s the thing. It’s easy but at the same time it is really really hard but it’s just three minutes. You just think that it’s just three minutes and then it’s over. We push hard and I think the first two was easier then the third and the fourth were really important and really tough so you’ve got to push and then the last two, you’ve just got to make it down.”
Oilers winger Nail Yakupov knows what it’s like coming to North America from Russia and not comprehending the language or understanding the new and different world. So when Bogdan Yakimov came over to Canada from Russia, Yakupov was there for him.
“Obviously, I’ve been with ‘Big Bo’ for two months here,” Yakupov said. “I’ve probably seen him five times each week the whole time and he asks me questions about the league, about the training, about life and about everything… I try to help him because he’s my exact copy of when I got here in my first year in Canada when I played for Sarnia. It was the same thing with no English, a different world and the same way with how I used my teammate Alex Galchenyuk.”
Yakimov was taken 83rd overall in 2013. This is really his first experience in Canada and it’s been nice to have Yakupov around to help him adjust. Yakupov is just 20-years-old, but he’s taken on a kind of veteran leadership with players like Yakimov, 19, and fellow Russian Vladimir Tkachev, 18.
“I think it’s good for him and I’m glad we have some Russians and guys like ’95, ’95 guys. I’m trying to help them. I’m trying to be a little (bit of a) dad you know. It’s good, especially with Bogdan because we lived in the same city (in Russia). We’ve known each other for a while. I will be 100% available for him with any questions via phone, text, conversation or anything and everything.”
The Oilers fly to Winnipeg tomorrow for an exhibition game against the Jets. The lineup skating in Leduc this morning, which will play against Winnipeg, is as follows: