The Oilers have recalled forward Zack Kassian from the American Hockey League's Bakersfield Condors.
Kassian was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in a trade on December 28. The forward has played in 198 NHL games since being taken 13th overall in 2009. He has played for the Buffalo Sabres and Vancouver Canucks.
Down in Bakersfield, Kassian has one goal on nine shots and six penalty minutes in four games.
The level of physicality in Sunday’s game against the Florida Panthers may have surprised some. The number of hits, fights, and tough physical play was high. Head Coach Todd McLellan was pleased with how the Oilers answered after the opening frame.
“It wasn’t very hard in the first period, and then we finally decided we were going to at least engage a little bit. Then the game became hard, which was good for us to play in,” said McLellan.
Eric Gryba landed two big hits on Corban Knight, the first of which resulted in a fight with Nick Bjugstad. Matt Hendricks levelled Aaron Ekblad behind the net, which didn’t draw a penalty, but drew anger from the Panthers. Hendricks fought Logan Shaw after that, his second scrap of the game after an earlier bout with Alex Petrovic.
“I thought that’s as good a response to physicality I’ve seen from our team this year and probably in my seven years in San Jose when we played Edmonton,” said McLellan.
Taylor Hall was checked hard at centre by Erik Gudbranson. While that hit didn’t spark certain fireworks, McLellan approved of the response.
“I thought it was excellent,” said the coach. “I thought we went and played physical after that. I thought it was great. If you think we’re going to jump off the bench and run after him and jump him, it’s not happening. That’s not the way the game is played anymore. After that, I thought we were physical.”
All in all, the Oilers managed to limit the Panthers shots on net and keep up physically with a team that is hot right now. Unfortunately, the Oilers dropped the 2-1 decision.
“I thought we were aggressive. We kept the team that has 12 wins (in a row) now, I think we gave up 14 shots at the end of the night. Lost the game, not happy about it. We attempted 68 at their net. I thought we answered the physical bell.”
The Oilers seemed to be coming back. They outshot the Panthers 14-2 in the second period, after falling behind 2-1 in the first.
They were hitting and playing physical and logging zone time. Unfortunately, that fizzled away toward the end of the game as Florida sat back in protection mode.
“I thought we were attacking until about seven minutes or six minutes left in the game,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They went to a real good, solid, five guys back, stack up the red line. We had trouble coming through it. There was a sense of frustration that seeped into our game. They’ve won 12 because they have the ability to do that. They do a good job of it.”
The Oilers and Panthers tied for seven shots a piece in the third. Florida blocked 23 shots for the game.
Hunt, 27, is currently up with the Oilers after beginning the season with the Bakersfield Condors. The blueliner has 23 points (6-17-23) in 26 AHL games this season, which is good for second on the Oilers farm team in scoring.
Hunt is now a three-time AHL All-Star, having been selected in the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons. He was named to the AHL First All-Star Team in 2014-15.
Brossoit, 22, earns the first AHL All-Star honours of his career. The goalie has played 18 games for the Condors this season, posting a 2.52 GAA and .928 save percentage. He is 10-5-3 with three shutouts. The Oilers goalie prospect ranks fifth in the AHL in save percentage and is tied for fourth in shutouts.
The Oilers have taken the ice for practice on Thursday at Rexall Place.
Matt Hendricks, who missed yesterday’s practice (non-injury related), is back today.
Stay tuned for more updates, as well as video coverage from the skate.
There is no doubt Taylor Hall is deserving of being selected to attend the 2016 All-Star Weekend at the end of the month in Nashville.
“I’m excited,” said Hall. “It’s an honour. It’s something I’m very proud of. It’s just going to be really fun to be included in a group of guys like that. It’s been a pretty good first half with some help from some really good linemates and some coaching that I’ve had this season. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Hall leads the Oilers in points (41), goals (16) and assists (25) halfway through the season. His linemate, Leon Draisaitl, has seen just how effective Hall can be when he is at the top of his game.
“He’s one of the best wingers in the world right now and there’s no one who deserves it more than him,” Draisailt said of Hall’s selection.
The lone Oilers prospect participating in the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship is 2014 fourth-round pick William Lagesson. The defenceman plays for Sweden, and we will have updates on his performance as the tournament unfolds.
USA 8, SWEDEN 3
It was a bitter-sweet ending to William Lagesson’s World Junior Championship run. The Oilers defensive prospect scored to pull Sweden to within one of the U.S. in the first period of the bronze medal game. However, the U.S. rallied and scored six unanswered goals before eventually downing Sweden 8-3.
Lagesson drove the net and buried a rebound at 17:39 of the first, to cut the Americans’ lead to 2-1.
Sweden tied the game less than a minute later with a goal from Carl Grundstrom.
Unfortunately for the Swedes, that would be the end of their celebrations for the game. The United States potted six straight to take an 8-2 lead.
Axel Holmstrom scored Sweden’s lone response and the Americans coasted to a bronze medal finish to the tournament.
Lagesson was among the +/- leaders for the tournament. He went +7 in seven games. He finished this year’s tournament with two goals and an assist, as well as four penalty minutes and eight shots on goal.
The Oilers improved to 9-3 on the season in games that have gone beyond regulation, with their 1-0 overtime win over Carolina on Monday.
Edmonton seems to have a knack for 3-on-3 overtime, and they have the skill to score in the shootout as well. Head Coach Todd McLellan touched specifically on their overtime successes after the game against Carolina.
“We do have some skill,” said McLellan. “We have some guys with the ability, when they’re given space, to really hold onto the puck. They’re creative. Once you take a couple players off the ice, I don’t think size and strength is nearly as important as finesse and sense and spatial awareness and hand skills, and some of our players that have that talent really shine in those situations.”
Andrej Sekera scored Monday’s game-winning goal. The defenceman has either scored or assisted on the goal in four of the Oilers six overtime wins this season.
The Oilers signed Andrej Sekera to a multi-year contract in free agency this off-season and the defenceman is showing why he can be an integral part of the club’s blueline.
“He is really starting to perform the way we thought he would,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “Takes a little while to adjust to two things. One, from going from East to West, a new team. Sometimes when a free agent joins a new club he’s joining a mature coaching staff and a mature team and he just slides in. He had to learn, like the rest of us, how to act around each other and how to behave and how we’re going to play. It takes a little while, but he’s been very good.”
Sekera, 29, is also becoming a veteran leader for the Oilers young, back-end group.
“A real important one,” said McLellan. “Providing leadership and stability there. He’s a very competitive guy. He wears his heart on his sleeve so it’s good for players to see that, but he can also calm things down and make smart plays. He shows it both ways. It’s nice to have that in a leader.”
Benoit Pouliot missed eight games due to injury in early December. Now with him back in the lineup, it’s time to get him going. There have been signs that he’s getting closer to where the Oilers want him to be. He had three goals in two games on December 27 and 29.
Against Arizona on Saturday, Pouliot had five shots on goal and chipped in two points. However, it wasn’t all smiles for Pouliot in that game. A pair of penalties in the first period had Todd McLellan considering scaling back Pouliot’s ice time.
In the end, he sided with continuing to push the big winger out there in hopes he’d turn the afternoon around for himself, which he inevitably did.
“I’m trying to get Benny going,” said McLellan. “I think Benny is a tremendous player. I think he’s really important to our team. I talked to him yesterday and some of the things we talked about, he used tonight. Other than the penalties, I thought he was dangerous. He stripped pucks, he got in on the forecheck, he won body-position battles, he was really engaged, which was good to see. He was engaged on the bench. It was a catch-22. Do I strangle him and take that away or do I try and keep promoting his play and try to get him back in? I went the other way and maybe, hopefully, it was the right thing.”
Pouliot has 17 points (8-9-17) in 31 games this season.