There were a lot of teaching moments on the ice today for the Oilers. Head Coach Todd McLellan directed an intense practice at Rexall Place and ended things with a unique drill.
Half the players positioned themselves against the boards with space in between. The other half lined up behind them. When the whistle blew, the players would battle for the puck until they heard the whistle again. They’d rotate partners and engage in another battle at the whistle. This rotated through as the players worked on positioning and battling, through fatigue.
“It’s a form of a body position, competitive-type drill that forces you to be athletic and strong when you get fatigued,” said McLellan. “It tests your mental capacity to stick with it. You can line your team up and skate them back and forth forever without pucks and most of them are in well enough condition to handle that. That battle drill is the game, in my opinion. It happens along the boards, you move to your next job. It happens (again) along the boards, you move to your next job. They did a good job of it.”
McLellan can’t remember when he first utilized the drill, but admits he likely first saw it as a player.
“It was a staple of ours in some of the other places that I’ve coached when our games got away from us and we weren’t nose over the puck. It will become a staple of ours when we need it,” said McLellan.
Captain Andrew Ference thinks the essential lessons taught in the drill pay dividends on the ice in games.
“The smaller details of your body positioning and where you’re battling from end up making a huge difference in your team,” said Ference. “Obviously, we have a long way to go from our last couple years. Bringing down goals against, being a harder team to play against and those are the lessons for sure.”
Taylor Hall said last night’s 5-2 loss to Vancouver was the first time this pre-season that things didn’t go according to plan for the Oilers. Head Coach Todd McLellan said he wouldn’t give any of his position groups a passing grade for the night. Today’s practice was the team’s first chance to work towards their bounce back.
“We’re trying to define standards and what’s acceptable and unacceptable,” said McLellan. “We have played some good hockey in the exhibition season. We followed it up last night with a game that was, in my opinion, unacceptable in a lot of different areas and that can happen. We’re a team that’s going to learn a lot of lessons as we go. It’s how we respond to them, how we approach the next day, how we as a staff try and structure the day so we can get better. I didn’t think we were at a level we needed to be in a lot of the confined areas of the game and we worked on that today. Yesterday, I was disappointed in the group and today I was proud of the group and it can happen that way. We can have some days where it’s not that good, but we better respond the next day. Hopefully, we got our footing underneath us again and we’re ready to play the proper way in Vancouver tomorrow.”
Is it possible to teach that kind of rebound in the pre-season, or does it take time to develop? Well, bad games are going to happen. McLellan says no matter who you are you have bad games. It’s about knowing what you can live with and what needs to be addressed. That may take time to cultivate, but today was a start.
“I think defining the standards is what we’re trying to do. What’s acceptable and what isn’t? We’re going to have bad games,” said McLellan. “I know Chicago has won three Stanley Cups in the last six years and they’ve had bad games too. It’s what you do as a team after to get better and how you accept that. We spent good time on video today, pointing out situations, not necessarily systems but just situations, execution situations. Then we parlayed that into time on the ice. When they left (practice) they were tired.”
The Oilers may have something in 2013 third-round pick Anton Slepyshev. This is the winger’s first season in North America after playing in the KHL, and he has done nothing but impress so far in training camp and pre-season.
He has played so well that he is now getting time on a line with skilled players, Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall. With Jordan Eberle out 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury, Slepyshev has stepped up to help fill the void.
Head Coach Todd McLellan agreed with the media that he continues to warrant discussion for the opening night roster.
“When I look at his game, and we watched the video again, the video doesn’t lie,” said McLellan. “He did a lot of the things we worked on today in the game (on Thursday night). He’s a young player, but he’s played pro hockey before. You can see it. He’s been around pro players before. It doesn’t matter what league you’re in, you’re just around older players, more mature players and he carries himself well.”
McLellan said earlier in camp that Slepyshev was “opening our eyes” to what he can do. The 21-year-old can fill spots up and down the lineup, with the ability to play a faster, skilled game or a slower, heavier game. McLellan says the winger has the ability to change the dynamic of a line, depending on who he is replacing.
The Oilers have taken to the ice at Rexall Place for their Friday morning skate.
Gazdic and Klinkhammer are rotating in.
There are eight defencemen on the ice. Oscar Klefbom (who is a little banged up per Head Coach Todd McLellan) is not among them.
- PRACTICE | Wednesday at Royal Glenora
- INJURY UPDATE | Jordan Eberle
- PRACTICE RAW | Taylor Hall
- PRACTICE RAW | Andrew Ference
- PRACTICE RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan
- PRACTICE RAW | Leon Draisaitl
With Jordan Eberle sidelined for 4-6 weeks due to a shoulder injury, it is time for players to step up to fill the void. Second-year forward Leon Draisaitl is one of those expected to get more opportunities in Eberle’s absence.
“First of all, obviously, it’s very sad,” said Draisaitl. “Every time you lose a player of that calibre, it hurts your team. Guys are going to have to step up and fill his role. He’s one of our leaders, he’s a tremendous player and we’re all going to have to step up and make sure that we cover for him.”
“Now it’s my job and other guys’ jobs to step in and prove that I can play or we all are ready to play. That’s what I’m here for. Like I said before camp, I’m here to make the team and I’m trying to improve every night,” said Draisaitl.
Draisaitl is positioned on the right wing, a spot his head coach likes him in and one the player feels comfortable in, despite being a natural centre.
“I really like using my backhand a lot,” said Draisaitl. “I always think it gives me a little more options and I think I can handle my backhand pretty well. I like using it.”
The 2014 third-overall pick continues to push forward in his bid to be a full-time NHL player this season. Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan says he won’t get a job by default because of Eberle’s injury. Draisaitl has earned more opportunities in his coach’s eyes. Thursday and Saturday against Vancouver are good tests for the young forward.
“I think Leon was in good position to keep pushing even before Jordan’s injury,” said McLellan. “That’s not going to get handed off just because of the injury. He’s had a good camp. He’s shown the ability to play in different positions. Now when we play against this Vancouver team, which I think will be closer to an NHL calibre full-time team, we’ll get a better indication of how he handles that.”
Jordan Eberle is out 4-6 weeks due to a shoulder injury he suffered in the first period of last night’s game against the Arizona Coyotes. The hit and collision didn’t seem like anything too violent or anything you’d associate with a long-term injury, but Eberle said right away he was in pain and discomfort.
The Oilers forward skated off to the bench, then exited the game for good.
“It wasn’t anything big,” Eberle said of the play. “It was just kind of a small hit. I was trying to keep the play alive by reaching in for the puck and kind of just folded my shoulder over. Just got hit right away, knew something was wrong and got back to the bench.”
Nobody wants to be injured, that’s for certain. However, Eberle says there’s a benefit to getting an injury out of the way this early on.
“Pretty frustrated. You train pretty hard in the off-season to get where you are and you get a setback like this and it definitely sucks,” he said. “There’s definitely a bright side to it. It’s obviously better to do something like this now than maybe later in the season when, hopefully, we’re battling for a playoff spot or in the mix.”
Eberle says he hopes to get on the stationary bike soon to stay in shape before being allowed to return to the ice in a few weeks.
The Oilers are at the Royal Glenora Club for their Wednesday practice.
Korpikoski-Lander-Yakupov (Slepyshev rotating in)
Hendricks-Letestu-Klinkhammer (Gazdic rotating in)
Mark Fayne not participating at practice. Likely just a maintenance day. #Oilers— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) September 30, 2015
The Oilers training camp roster now includes 28 players (3 goalies, 10 defencemen and 15 forwards).
The Oilers have announced that winger Jordan Eberle will be out 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury.
Eberle left last night's game against Arizona, in the first period, following a collision against the wall behind the Coyotes net. He did not return.
Hear more from Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan following today's practice, on edmontonoilers.com.