Special teams were a challenge for the Oilers against the Flyers on Saturday. Philadelphia scored three goals with the man advantage on five opportunities.
"It certainly wasn't any good, that's the assessment," Eakins remarked about his penalty kill. "The way Philadelphia sets up, it's extremely hard to defend that. Their seam passes, you have to be so alert and so quick and sometimes there's nothing you can do because they have an extra guy out there. The way their setup is, it's hard to defend.
"On their second one, I think it actually hit a stick on the guy's tape and then it was backdoor quickly to Simmonds. I thought it was a bit of a broken play."
The Flyers had two power play goals in the second period and then tied the game late in the third on a two-man advantage.
"The five-on-three, listen, if you have a five-on-three (against you) in this league you're just holding your breath to get through it."
Before the Flyers got that tying goal, the Oilers managed to get a power play goal of their own to take the lead at 3-2. hey were unsuccessful on their previous four chances.
"The power play before we scored, the second half of it, I thought Taylor Hall just kind of went out and took over. That was a breath of fresh air. Then on the last power play, I switched the unit up. And the players were hesitant. I heard a comment, 'we just hit two posts, don't we want to stay on the same one?' but I was saying I don't want anymore posts. I want a goal and we were able to get one."
The unit which got the goal consisted of Hall, Eberle, Perron, Justin Schultz and Nugent-Hopkins. The prior unit was Hall, Eberle, Gagner, Petry and Perron.
"Our last power play was our best effort but boy it was a challenge early. And it wasn't even our setup. We couldn't even get to the setup. We couldn't get puck retrievals which is something we're going to have to work very hard on for the next few weeks."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins was asked about the play of Luke Gazdic so far this season.
"He's getting there for sure. I think he's already improved since we got him. He's a kid that's improved coming through the American League every year. I just think, I'm not going to say he's an excellent skater, but he skates well enough that he can get around the ice which is important," said Eakins. "He's getting better, having the confidence to make the play rather than 'I've gotta get it in deep.'"
Gazdic has a goal and an assist this season in 33 games in addition to 78 penalty minutes.
"I see Luke continuing to improve and we hope that there's no limits on him. That he never hits a wall and he can be relied on to play 10 minutes. Because in the end, that's where you want to get your fourth line into that seven to 10 minute mark. If you can get them into there it takes a little pressure off the rest of the group -- especially on the road. That's where you really want to use your fourth line."
The Oilers have two Russian prospects playing at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo Sweden. Both players were drafted this past year, Bogdan Yakimov (3rd round, 83rd overall) and Anton Slepyshev (3rd round, 88th overall).
Russia won their second game of the tournament, defeating Switzerland 7-1 on Saturday. Slepyshev had an assist while Yakimov scored a goal -- his first of the tournament.
Slepyshev has two goals and an assist so far in the tourney with a +4 rating and five shots on goal. Yakimov has a goal and an assist, is +3 with three shots.
Friday's game is a great example of why Dallas Eakins is such a big fan of Ryan Smyth. Smyth had a couple of really tough periods, by his and Eakins' own admission, but rallied to become a big reason why the team was able to hold on in what was essentially a 1-0 game.
"It's a game of mistakes and the least amount of mistakes usually wins. You've got to control your game individually and collectively find a way to do what's best for the team," Smyth said. "There's a few turnovers that I wish I could take back but in the end we got what we wanted, we got the two points and we got out of there."
Eakins talked more about the 37-year-old winger.
"He's one of those guys, he's so competitive. It's hard to keep him down a lot of times. Is he the most fleet of foot anymore? No he's not. But his experience and gamesmanship is something that all of our players should be taking note of. We were just talking last night after the game, how is it that a guy of Smytty's age and speed can end up with those chances on the net? How is it him on a lot of nights that has that chance," Eakins began. "He has a very high level of hockey sense. I think that's good for our whole group to take note of."
Despite not playing his best game, Smyth did score the only two goals for the Oilers. He was also on the ice with 12 seconds left which enabled him to net the empty netter -- a goal which also came on the power play, inching him to within one of Wayne Gretzky and two of Glenn Anderson on the franchise's all-time list.
"I thought Smytty really struggled the first two periods. It was interesting, he was just a little bit behind and had a tough couple decisions with the puck. But in the third I thought he got his feet underneath him and when we're protecting a one-goal lead I thought he was one of our key guys late."
In all, Smyth has six goals and 13 points this season. Included among that is a pair of two-goal games and a pair of three-point games.
"It's been an interesting year for him. He's a guy who started off really well, settled into his role on our team and continues to be a good player for us."
Smyth has played greater than 15 minutes in seven of the team's last eight games and included in that are a pair of games right around the 20-minute mark.
"Something that came unexpected has been his work with Yakupov and Belov. A great example is in the Anaheim game there was six minutes left on the clock and Yak got a hold of the puck a couple of times. Not decisions we loved and not anything that cost us. The whistle went and Yak sat down in front of me. I was just about to lean into him and talk to him about the play. There was a (TV) timeout and Bryz was already in front of me. It was a one-sided conversation. Bryz wasn't yeling, it was an even tone. They were going on in their native tongue.
"Bryz pointed at the clock and I thought I knew what he was saying. After he was done I tapped Yak on the shoulder and said 'he's right'
"Yak turned around and said, 'that's right, I can't turn the puck over at this time in the game. Bryz is right.'"
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said this morning to the media that Martin Marincin will be suiting up on the Oilers blueline tonight. Corey Potter (groin) is out and Philip Larsen (illness) remains out.
Horak won't play tonight but it's ironic that he joins the Oilers for the first time and it's in Calgary against the Flames. Horak was a Rangers draft choice but all 82 of his career NHL games were in Calgary's red and white.
Horak was asked how he's been settling in to Oklahoma City, where he is now the team's active leading point-getter after Linus Omark was moved on to Buffalo.
“At the beginning, it takes a little bit of time to get settled in and getting used to the different systems and everything but now I feel good," he said. "I’m happy to be here. Every time you get a chance to play in the NHL it’s a huge experience and a huge opportunity.”
Horak has 18 points in 31 games this season in the American Hockey League. In 18 games with the OKC Barons, he has 11 points (5 goals, 6 assists).
“I didn’t expect it, that’s for sure," Horak said of the trade. "Obviously, I was disappointed when I got sent down at the beginning of the season but there was a bunch of guys coming up — Sean Monahan at the time played well and he’s still in the NHL. And Joe Colborne came in.
“I was disappointed but I guess you could say I was a little happy when I got traded. Wasn’t jumping around but it’s a new start for me. Right now I see that every NHL organization has so much depth. It isn’t easy to get in the NHL. In Calgary there wasn’t much space for me. I want to help this team and when I get a chance to play, I’ll show it.”
Horak's one NHL game this year was in Phoenix in late October. He played a little over four minutes.
“That was a little disappointing. I think I played six shifts that game, so obviously you can’t do much.”
Oilers forward Ryan Jones travelled with the team to Calgary today. He won’t play tonight but skated this morning and said he is feeling fine.
“Normal. I don’t feel anything,” said Jones when asked how he felt. “To be honest, after about half an hour (after the incident) I felt pretty much normal. For a little while I was woozy I guess you could say.”
Last Saturday during morning skate, Jones collided with Andrew Ference in front of the net and was knocked out cold. He had to be helped off the ice.
“I do remember it. It was just a weird situation. It was like my body went into protection mode. It’s not like I had a huge brain-rattling accident or anything like that. I really have no explanation. Like I said, about half an hour after it was just like nothing happened. The next day, no headaches no nothing. The next day, same thing. Then I started riding the bike.”
When asked when he might play again, Jones said that was up to the coaches.
Sam Gagner played his first game without a face guard this season on Monday against the Jets and the results were very good. He had a goal in 18:11 of icetime and a 61.1% faceoff efficiency.
“I think I can see a little better, which helps. I’m more aware of what’s happening around me and that definitely helps," said Gagner of being able to go without the face guard. "I’m trying not to think about it. Last game I just wanted to go out and play hard and try to get a few bangs in early and forget about it. Once that happened I was able to play my game and it helped.”
“I felt more free, obviously. I felt back to normal. I felt like our line was playing really well last game and we’ve got another big step to take tonight.”
Coach Eakins said that he felt that Gagner came back too soon from his broken jaw in an effort to help the club.
“We talked about a perfect negative storm with our team early in the season and I think it was the same thing for Sam. You miss part of training camp — that is never, ever good for a player. I’ve never seen one player who missed any part of camp have a good start to the season,” Eakins began.
“I think suffering an injury like that is much different than taking it in the shoulder or the knee. It’s a part of your head that’s a delicate spot and that has to weigh on your mind. I think Sam probably came back too early from his injury, for the good of the team, and his play suffered early.
“Now, he’s obviously comfortable. It was his decision to take it off after conversing with our doctors. Maybe it’s a coincidence, maybe not, but I thought his last game was night and day compared to early on when he came back.”
The Oilers Now Twitter account has Devan Dubnyk starting tonight against the Calgary Flames.
Roman Horak is skating with the team, wearing number 12. Mark Arcobello and Ryan Jones are both skating despite both being on the IR.
Devan Dubnyk starts tonight for the Oilers at Flames.— OilersNow (@OilersNow) December 27, 2013
Horak wearing 12 for #Oilers.— Derek Van Diest (@SUNdvandiest) December 27, 2013