Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins was asked following Monday's practice about Team Canada's gold medal win on Sunday.
“I did see the game. And yes, I was up early," Eakins began. "The collection of players, awesome. But the biggest thing for me was that that collection of players, which such firepower, as a group said to themselves, ‘Do you know how we’re going to win this? We’re going to win this by playing a great defensive game.’ And I don’t just mean Canada’s defence. Their forwards too, their goaltending were all saying this is how you win. Especially those last two games. Those were clinics. That’s a clinic on how to play hockey."
Eakins added that he felt that the way Canada won stresses what he's been saying all season: defence is the most direct route to winning hockey games and championships.
"It goes to show that you don’t need to have to score five and six goals every night to win. If you play the game right and have good habits, and have the mindset that if the other team doesn’t score we’ve got a pretty good chance to win. Good things are going to happen.
"That was a great job by those players, all their coaches. That was a clinic those last two games."
The Oilers are on the ice for practice in Cambridge, MA. The lines are the same as the team has used for the past several games as Matt Hendricks appears to be okay after leaving the last game with a head injury.
Same lines for Oilers:Hall-RNH-Eberle, Yakupov-Gagner-Perron, Hendricks-Gordon-Jones (Hemsky), Gazdic-Smyth-Joensuu (Arcobello)— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 31, 2014
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins tweeted prior to the team taking the ice for practice that Ben Scrivens will get the start tonight.
Scrivens back in. Hemsky and Ference are not ready vs Sharks.— Dallas Eakins (@dallaseakins) January 29, 2014
The Oilers are on the ice for practice at Rexall Place on Thursday. The second and third lines have changed:
Hall - RNH - Eberle
Smyth - Gagner - Perron
Hendricks - Gordon - Jones
Gazdic - Arcobello - Joensuu
Practice today...looks like Ryan Smyth may get a shot with Gagner and Perron.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) January 23, 2014
Matt Hendricks moves to his preferred left wing with Gordon and Jones.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) January 23, 2014
AUDIO: Dallas Eakins | Ben Scrivens | Andrew Ference | Luke Gazdic
VIDEO: Practice Story | Eakins | Scrivens | Hendricks | Ference | Gazdic
"I don’t know if Larsen’s ready yet. He was out there, but I don’t think he’s been cleared. Potter’s practiced hard, he’s played hard. We’re looking to get him back in the lineup."
“They were just going on the ice for a twirl," said Eakins. "Hemsky’s got one of those really deep bone bruises. We haven’t found any fractures or anything, but those deep bone bruises can be just as nasty sometimes.
"Yak just continues on with the protocol that I about halfway understand."
Coach Eakins talked about the process this season that has gone from the biggest issue being players out of position on the ice to now just needing some better execution.
“Early in the season, we had some guys who didn’t understand where they were supposed to be and we were teaching that. Now it’s come down to, we’ve got guys in the right spot, we just need them to finish off the execution.”
The coach said that it's not for a lack of trying in most situations.
“Every player wants to do it, they do the best they can. Sometimes it’s just not being so aggressive, overplaying the guy. Sometimes it’s not being aggressive enough. We’ve been doing a good job of installing one-on-one battles in practice, two-on-twos, three-on-threes.
"You can run whatever system you want — offensively or defensively — but the winning of the one-on-one battle is huge and the creating of a two-on-one battle is huge, when you have the puck.
"For some, it’s small adjustments and for others, it’s experience."
Eakins was asked if sometimes a player just doesn't have the make-up to have that kind of battle on a consistent basis.
"A lot of times it’s the personality test. There’s guys who, no matter what they’re doing, they’re competitive. They’re polite guys in public but you look sideways at them, they might smack you. There has to be a bit of meanness in them, too."
The Western Conference has a lot of big, mean, teams which increases the importance of having those types of players.
"This conference is nasty. The game is being played by strong men who enjoy doing hard things. Not only do we have to look at our skill set, we’ve got to look at the guy’s DNA when it comes to the level of battle that comes naturally."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins remarked that he was still undecided on which of his two goaltenders was going to get the start tomorrow (Tuesday) at home against the Vancouver Canucks.
“We’re going to play it by ear here based on our feel, their feel, who we’re playing, their last performance. We haven’t made the decision for tomorrow yet. It is audition time.”
Eakins talked about the fact that there's now 31 games left in the season and both Oilers goaltenders have their contracts expiring at the end of the season.
“It’s a great opportunity for both guys on a team that’s struggling to show what they can do by themselves. Both guys don’t have contracts for next year," the head coach began. "I’m not speaking out of turn, I’ve already said this to both of them. You guys have unbelievable opportunities, not only here with our organization but you’ll have all eyes on you when free agency starts as well. That’s the one position, if you could get real hot and do some things on your own — which you can do as a goalie — I think the opportunity may be even greater on a team that’s been struggling.”
The bench boss was asked whether the two goaltenders would be splitting the duties the rest of the way, but again he said that depends on perfomance.
“If we did it overall, I would guess that it would be fairly close to even but I’m not going to go back and forth. I hope they both have good stretches where they get hot.”
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins gave his thoughts on Saturday's Calgary/Vancouver incident, which saw Canucks head coach John Tortorella try and get into the Flames dressing room in the first intermission following a line brawl that occurred two seconds into the game.
"I’ve never seen a coach try to get in the room. I’ve seen instances where players are coming off the ice in similar vicinities trying to get at each other. It’s an emotional game. Everyone’s different, everyone carries their emotions differently. I think it’s a long day for the league. Those are the guys I feel for today, the guys that have to put down the judgement. That was some interesting TV, to put it lightly."
Eakins was asked if he would ever dress his fourth line to start a game.
“I would have done both things. It depends on where you’re at in the standings, how was your last game against them, how has your team been playing lately, how important are the points to you," the head coach began. " Because there’s two ways to go about it. You can come flying out with your most skilled guys — or maybe you come out with your second line saying ‘you’re going to do that? Maybe we’ll go up 1-0 right now and we’ll see how you like that’.
"Or you could come out swinging your guns and see what happens. You have to have a feel for your team. I don’t have a clue where Bob Hartley was with his team, I don’t have a clue where John Tortorella was with his team. I could look at the standings but until you’re right in it, on one team or the other, it’s hard for me to give an opinion. My answer is, I would do both. It all depends on where we were at with the team and what our relationship was with the other team."