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
This year at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden, the Oilers have two prospects participating.
Slepyshev, 19, scored two goals and was +3 with three shots on goal. Slepyshev, who is Russia's team captain, played on the top line with Mikhail Grigorenko and Pavel Buchnevich.
Yakimov, also 19, played centre going 50% in the dot (6-for-12). He added an assist while playing on the third line.
Marincin, 21, has posted seven points (3G, 4A) and a plus five rating in 24 games this season with the Barons. He played his first National Hockey League game on December 5th vs. Colorado, registering two penalty minutes and a plus one rating.
Horak, 22, has recorded 18 points (7G, 11A) in 31 games this season. He has appeared in 18 games for the Barons, registering 11 points (5G, 6A) since being acquired from the Abbotsford Heat.
Horak played one game with the Calgary Flames earlier this season -- October 22 against Phoenix -- and had no points in 4:04 of icetime. He's played 82 career NHL games with five goals and 13 assists for 18 points with a -2 rating.
The @EdmontonOilers have games on back-to-back nights. My guess is Horak/Marincin called up for insurance purposes. Jones now listed on IR..— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) December 26, 2013
...And possible that neither Arcobello (ribs) or Larsen (illness) ready either...we will see— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) December 26, 2013
Taylor Hall had glorious scoring chances throughout the game but did not start putting up points until late in the second period.
“The puck was following him around. It kept feeling like nothing was finishing off for him. Nothing was developing. The great thing about Taylor and a number of our guys is he stuck with it and then finally was rewarded for all the work they were doing. You don’t need just one of those guys, you’d like to have 10 or 11 that could really drive the play.”
Hall ended up getting three points on the night in all. He also had a +2 rating and four shots on goal in 19:44 of icetime.
“Taylor came out hard in the game. That’s what we needed. We needed another good start and then, more importantly, able to sustain it.”
The winger was happy with how he played and how the team played.
"Overall it was a way better game than in against St. Louis. We had a good start and seemed to carry it over into the rest of the game. That's been our kryptonite," Hall said.
|Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club
Coach Eakins spoke after the game about how he liked how the team came together in their game against the Jets, particularly late when the game got chippy.
“Right before we let them loose in there and said ‘Happy Holidays’ my message was I love winning the game, I love the goals that you scored, but my favourite moments were us sticking up for each other. I was so excited on the bench. Luke comes to Yak’s defence, we line up there and then all of our guys were in. Everybody was in there sticking up for each other. And that is a huge step for our team. It’s great to see. They’re together."
The game had a total of 103 penalty minutes, 78 to Winnipeg and 25 to the Oilers.
“The win’s great, the goals are great, the electricity in the building was great. But that moment, when Winnipeg was trying to flex their muscles, I thought that was excellent for our hockey team.”
Not a whole lot was said after the game by Dallas Eakins surrounding his comments from the morning, but he did add that it did not come up in the room prior to the contest.
“To be honest, I don’t even know if they knew about it. We didn’t talk about it before. We were preparing for the game. Some of our guys could have been aware of the hornet’s nest being shaken up a little bit but it wasn’t something that we talked about. It didn’t come up in the room and I didn’t think it was important to talk about it. Our focus was trying to win the hockey game.”
Nail Yakupov didn't play a whole lot tonight but when he did, he made it count.
The Russian winger had a goal, an assist and 12 penalty minutes in a limited 6:29 of icetime. Through the first two periods, Yakupov only played a shade over three minutes.
|Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club|
“Out of all the games Yak’s played this year, I was most proud of him tonight. I was so proud of the way he handled himself. That whole fourth line, the way they handled themselves," stated Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. Tonight was a night where I was going hard on the match-up. I wanted certain lines against certain lines and I wasn’t going to come off it. Winnipeg wasn’t hardly playing their fourth line at all, so our guys ended up suffering because of that."
Yakupov netted an assist on the crucial fourth goal, scored by Jeff Petry. The winger made a nice play to get the puck over to the pinching blueliner.
"When they went out there, they came off the bench well and Yak got an assist. Then when we got up a little bit more I tried to reward them because that whole line, they were working their butts off."
Yakupov scored the sixth goal and shortly afterwards tempers erupted on both sides.
"And then to see him make a stand at the end there. I was excited for him. The kid plays limited minutes tonight because of a match-up situation and it’s a goal, assist and almost the start of a donnybrook. I was proud of the way he handled himself and the way that he played."
For the second day in a row, Dallas Eakins made a point to talk about understanding fan frustrations as the team struggles to pick up points.
“I understand the booing. It comes when you’re not playing well and you’re not producing the results. Obviously, there’s been some losing going on for quite some time in the past so I firmly respect that," he said.
At the end of Saturday night's game, a fan threw their Oilers jersey on the ice. Eakins was asked about that this morning.
"In regards to the guy or girl throwing the sweater on the ice, that’s about as bad as it gets for me. I have great sympathy, I respect our fans but that’s a bunch of bull crap to me."
Eakins talked about the signs in the dressing room, stating that 'I am never out of the fight' and portrayed with a large Oilers jersey and crest. He said the team is not giving up.
"I think we would be severely dumped on if we totally started mailing it in and giving nothing. We’re not going to do that here."
The bench boss added he did not think that this type of behaviour was characteristic of Oilers fans.
"Whoever threw that jersey on the ice, they’re out. They’re a quitter. The people who work in the oil industry, they’re not quitters. For some fan to show us that he quit, he’s done, he threw in the towel, I think that speaks volumes about this individual. I don’t believe this city was built on people like that.
"They’re tough, they’re hard working and I highly doubt that they’re ever, ever out of the fight. Are they frustrated? Absolutely. But I don’t think they’re out of the fight."
Clarity. Today my passion for our Jersey was clearly on display. Our Jersey is sacred and the passion for it will never calm.— Dallas Eakins (@dallaseakins) December 24, 2013
My comments were intended to show that we will continue to try and emulate our citys hard working, blue collared approach.— Dallas Eakins (@dallaseakins) December 24, 2013
We will continue to fight to get better… No matter the circumstance.— Dallas Eakins (@dallaseakins) December 24, 2013
Tonight, Sam Gagner will not be wearing a face guard for the first time since returning from an injury sustained in the pre-season which saw him break his jaw.
"They told me about three months so I think I'm pretty much there. It's nice to get it off. I guess we'll see how it goes tonight. I think the biggest thing for me is I still get to dangerous areas. I've got to do that early, get it out of my head and just play."
It has been 11 weeks since Gagner returned so he is hovering right around that expected 12-week mark.
"It impedes your vision a little bit but I felt like I was getting used to it. It's nice to get it off now and just focus on playing."