It’s for the best.
That’s what Oilers centre Connor McDavid has reiterated after Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said that the 2015 number-one-draft-pick’s return won’t be until after the All-Star break.
“I think that’s kind of to be expected,” said McDavid.
“I mean originally they said four months [to heal]. So to come back before the All-Star break, I think would be rushing it a little bit too much…I think it just gives myself an extra couple of days, even a week, to get some extra bone healing and get ready to play.”
It’s with mixed emotions that McDavid admits that the extended weeks of healing will be good for him in the long run, but McLellan explained that this timeline makes the most sense for the rookie.
“We’ve got, maybe the strangest All-Star break in the history of the league,” said the bench boss. “We’ve got an Olympic break versus an All-Star break and that break happens in 13 days I think, or 14 days for us. We’ve determined that Connor’s not physically ready to play between now and then. And if he was on day 13 or 14, in our opinion, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to play him for one night and then give him the next 10 days off.”
The 18-year-old has been out on the ice and skating with his teammates these past few weeks, participating in drills and looking forward to his own return.
“You want to play as soon as possible but at the end of the day, you’ve got to play when it’s safe,” he said. “It’s a little bit frustrating when you feel good and you want to play, but like I keep saying, it’s for the best and it’ll just give me extra time to heal.”
It’s a quick turnaround for the Oilers as they shake off yesterday’s loss and prepare to face another visiting Florida team.
With the Panthers on an 11-game winning streak, Edmonton wants to be the ones to stop them in their tracks.
“Every time you face a team that’s on a winning streak you want to be that team to beat them and it’s definitely very exciting for us and we’re going to do whatever we can to beat them,” said Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl.
Slowly but surely, injured players have been making their way back into the line-up — with Iiro Pakarinen being the most recent return. But the absence of others, such as Oscar Klefbom, is still felt across the board.
“The team’s missed his absence,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“Without a doubt, Oscar means that much to our team. We’re talking about a guy that’s played 100 NHL games — it’s hard to believe that…He’s very capable playing a number of different situations and I guess the depressing part about Oscar is that we thought we’d have him back in week one, because of his upper body injury, which we would of. Then this strange thing happens and he’s still not skating so we keep hoping and kind of getting turned back at the door.”
In efforts to secure a win, Draisaitl said that it’s important the Oilers are consistent and maintain control with their puck possession.
“I think they really feed off of turnovers so we have to make sure we manage the puck well and stick to our game plan and I think that the rest will fall into place.”
It was rough going for the Oilers after their 2-0 lead turned around in the third period and resulted in a 3-2 loss to the Lightning on Friday.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan admits that it was a rough aftermath for the team.
“Today was a tough day for our group for a number of different reasons. One, we lost, we had a two-goal lead in the third period and everybody feels that a little bit,” said McLellan.
“But, there was [also] some sense of confusion a little bit between ‘Why did it happen?’ And a lot of us, myself included, threw the hockey gods — if you will — into the equation and that we scored three on our own net.”
Beyond figuring out the Oilers faux pas during the game, or why the fates may have been against the Edmonton team’s success, McLellan said that regardless of the result, there were decisions that were made (or not) that still needed review.
“We did some things in that game that are a little uncharacteristic of us lately, as far as sorting out the rush and giving out unnumbered rushes and that type of stuff,” he said.
“They’re situational plays that we have to make better decisions on and maybe even be more aggressive on — if we’re going, let’s go. Let’s not get caught in-between, if we’re clearing the puck let’s clear it.”
The oilers have taken to the ice for practice at Rexall Place. The forward lines remain the same, with the defencemen rotating who they're paired with through drills.
Lines are as follows:
Stay tuned for more updates, as well as video coverage from the skate.
Tampa Bay is ready to strike, prepared to skate hard in a 60-minute bout for victory.
“I think, obviously, that we’ve had some injuries but you don’t want to use it as an excuse,” said Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop.
“You have capable guys that come up and can fill spots for us, you know you can’t use it as an excuse, kind of reaching down deep and have that will to win and win every night.”
After a loss in Calgary on Tuesday, the Lightning are looking for a win over Edmonton to add to their 9-8-3 road record.
“[Edmonton’s] a really good team,” said Bishop. “They have a lot of skilled guys up front so they can be very dangerous, you’ve got to know where they are at all times — you want them to play in their own end. They’ve got so much skill so if they’re in your offensive zone most of the game you’re probably in trouble.”
The Oilers have assigned forward Jujhar Khaira to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Khaira, 21, played 12 games for Edmonton on his call-up, recording two assists and seven penalty minutes.
Khaira has seven points (3-4-7) in 16 games for the Condors this season.
- BLOG: McLellan on Oilers road performance
- BLOG: Hall on Oilers at home
- BLOG: Brossoit and Hunt name AHL All-Stars
- BLOG: Thursday updates
- THE PANEL | Presented by Sport Chek
- PRACTICE | Thursday at Rexall Place
- PRACTICE RAW | Taylor Hall
- PRACTICE RAW | Brad Hunt
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan
- CONDORS RAW | Laurent Brossoit
There’s a preconceived notion that when a team travels, they’re less likely to achieve the winning results they want.
Lack of home fans, lack of home-ice advantage and lack of a familiar environment are just a few of the reasons as to how a team can be affected when on the road. Throw in travelling in-between games played and that can really interrupt a pattern.
“We’ve got to get better as a road team,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
Though the home record is, in McLellan’s opinion, “A little above average,” it’s the road record that needs to improve.
The Oilers are currently 5-13-2 on the road this season, compared to 2-10-7 at this time last year.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a written rule or a math formula for quick fixes to generate greater team outcomes on the road, it’s more of a feeling out process.
“[At home] we get more of a opportunity to match up the way we want, I think first of all,” said McLellan. “Two, the comfort of playing in our own environment and surroundings certainly helps. We feel the fans behind us, and that can create some energy for us. We’ve played a better overall team game at home too, so that probably lends itself to having a better home record…but we’ve been poor on the road, so that’s the big swing.
It’s a different team, simple as that. New players, new coaches and a newly invigorated fan atmosphere, and now the Oilers have generated a new outcome as a result.
With a 12-7-1 home record this season, Oilers forward Taylor Hall says he feels it can be attributed to a lot of these changes.
“We just seem more comfortable, it seems like we start games a lot better,” he said.
“We don’t wait for the other team to come in here and dictate how the game’s going to go, we just kind of go and play, and it’s been a lot of fun to play here, especially it being the last year [in this building].”
Compared to this same time last year, the Oilers had a 7-13-2 record.
“I just think overall as a team we’re a better team,” said Hall. “We have better fundamentals and our identity seems to come through at home a little bit more.”
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.