#Oilers Fasth (neck) is on the ice this morning.— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) March 29, 2014
Optional skate for #Oilers this morning. Only the three goalies, Belov, Klefbom, Fraser, Yakupov, Gazdic & Larsen on the ice.— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) March 29, 2014
Oilers 20-year-old rookie defenceman Oscar Klefbom had a good day. He moved up the depth chart to be paired with Justin Schultz, the Oilers beat the Anaheim Ducks and he scored his first National Hockey League goal.
It was a lot for the rookie to process and he says that he can’t really remember the goal when it happened.
“It’s a lot of emotions right now,” Klefbom said. “I don’t remember the goal even, it’s just like a blackout. It will take a little bit of time to sink in of course but it was very fun to do it tonight when we won a game like this too. It feels amazing.”
Klefbom played 16:40 tonight and finished the game with two shots on goal.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins had nothing but good things to say about his goaltender tonight as Ben Scrivens made 48 saves on 51 shots, leading his team to a 4-3 overtime win.
What made Scrivens’ performance even better for Eakins was how, even though he allowed a goal just 35 seconds into the game, the goalie battled through ice that seemed off and posted a great performance.
“The ice tonight seemed to be off a little bit, at least from my vantage point,” Eakins said. “The way both of the teams were moving the puck, that puck was bouncing all over the place tonight for some reason and I thought that was part of it back there for Ben. I’ve just seen Ben do it so many times. I’ve got a great history with this young man and that’ s Ben. If it’s not great right off the bat, he finds a way to battle through it and settle in. Again, I loved his leadership with our bench on the timeouts, always talking. Massive reason why we’re able to grab those points.”
Rookie defenceman Oscar Klefbom scored his first National Hockey League goal tonight and he continues to get better and show more confidence on the ice, just nine games in to his NHL career.
“I think that’s exactly what it is,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “You hit it right on the head perfectly. He’s settling in to his own skin and he’s getting to know the guys. Once you play against those big players, again tonight he’s out there against the two big boys so now the next game, it’s oh hey who do they have? Well, I already played against Getzlaf and Perry. It turns into a little bit of a numbing effect for him. I like how he settled in. He’s learning lots in the short amount of games we have left.”
Klefbom and Schultz will step on to the ice as a young defensive pairing but that will not stop them from seeing action against the prolific offensive players such as the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
It’s a tough task for Klefbom, 20, who’s played just eight NHL games thus far.
“I think in little bits and pieces,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “I don’t want to shield him right away from it all. I think we’ve protected (Klefbom’s) minutes fairly well, at least at home. On the road, you’re at the mercy of the other coach and the change. But tonight, those two will see that line a little bit or we’re going to go after them with (Andrew) Ference and (Jeff) Petry. If that’s not working out, then we won’t hesitate to move to the other ones. It’s almost like he’s slowly moving up the food chain right now. He’s going from the third and the fourth line guys and now he’s going to see, for sure, second line guys with some real speed on (the Anaheim Ducks) second line. But he will get some shifts out there and I think it’s important. I don’t want to turn this into he’s playing against guys like that the whole game but I certainly want him to feel it a little bit and experience it.”
Eakins was asked if this pairing might be a premonition of the future for the Oilers. With Klefbom being the high-profile prospect that he is and Schultz being the talented player he is, it would seem they’re destined to play near each other on the depth chart. Also, with Schultz being the offensive playmaker he is and Klefbom able to play a more stay-at-home role, it could be something that works for the Oilers in the future.
“Maybe,” Eakins said. “With the way Justin plays, I think it’s important to have a guy with him that’s safety first but can move the puck and be part of the offence as well. But the one thing I already shared with Oscar this morning was, your partner is going to join the play and you have to be aware of where he’s at at all times and your job is to make plays, gap up but your job is also to make sure that you’re not joining when he’s already gone.”
Oilers centre Sam Gagner has missed two days of practice in a row. The absence has been due to maintenance days as Gagner heals up a sore ankle. It is not expected to prevent him from playing against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night.
“Remember he hurt his ankle there, that twisted ankle has been flaring up on him,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s been sucking it up and playing so we’re just trying to give him as much time away from the games to heal. I’m sure he’ll just suck it up again tomorrow and play.”
Gagner says he’s ready to go.
“Just taking care of some things,” he said. “I should be good to go tomorrow.”
When Oscar Klefbom first took to the ice for the Oilers, the 20-year-old defenceman was a bit star struck with some of the players he was facing in battle. The pressure to perform against the NHL’s stars may have been a daunting task early, but the former 19th overall pick in 2011 says after a few games, he’s confident he can keep up.
“The players are so smart up here,” Klefbom said. “It’s a big difference from the American Hockey League to play against guys down there and then you play against players like Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Shea Weber and stuff so it’s a big adjustment. But I found it, the first couple of games I was scared because, like I said, you play against so good players so you’re almost afraid of yourself that you’re not going to be enough. But after a couple of games, you feel more confident on the ice and you have to believe in yourself and have yourself play pretty good too so you can keep up with those players.”
Klefbom has now played eight games for Edmonton and, almost as quickly as they came, the nerves are gone.
“The first couple of games is always nerves and stuff. In the first four or five games, I just tried to play simple and play good defence and just take one step at a time and after a couple of games you feel more confident. Right now, it feels like I can do something good with the puck and can follow up in some rushes as well.”
It’s been quite the journey for one of the Oilers top defensive prospects. On his path to the NHL, Klefbom has struggled with injury issues and took time to adjust to the North American game this season. But in Oklahoma City, he was playing his best hockey after Christmas and after earning his first NHL duty, he continues to show signs of growth and comfortability at this level.
“It’s been a lot of emotions of course. This is what you work hard for everyday as a hockey player so I’m very glad to be here.”
No Fasth or Sam Gagner at practice today. Line combos otherwise remain intact. 11 forwards, 8 defencemen.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) March 27, 2014