Klefbom and Schultz will step on to the ice as a young defensive pairing but that will not stop them from seeing action against the prolific offensive players such as the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
It’s a tough task for Klefbom, 20, who’s played just eight NHL games thus far.
“I think in little bits and pieces,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “I don’t want to shield him right away from it all. I think we’ve protected (Klefbom’s) minutes fairly well, at least at home. On the road, you’re at the mercy of the other coach and the change. But tonight, those two will see that line a little bit or we’re going to go after them with (Andrew) Ference and (Jeff) Petry. If that’s not working out, then we won’t hesitate to move to the other ones. It’s almost like he’s slowly moving up the food chain right now. He’s going from the third and the fourth line guys and now he’s going to see, for sure, second line guys with some real speed on (the Anaheim Ducks) second line. But he will get some shifts out there and I think it’s important. I don’t want to turn this into he’s playing against guys like that the whole game but I certainly want him to feel it a little bit and experience it.”
Eakins was asked if this pairing might be a premonition of the future for the Oilers. With Klefbom being the high-profile prospect that he is and Schultz being the talented player he is, it would seem they’re destined to play near each other on the depth chart. Also, with Schultz being the offensive playmaker he is and Klefbom able to play a more stay-at-home role, it could be something that works for the Oilers in the future.
“Maybe,” Eakins said. “With the way Justin plays, I think it’s important to have a guy with him that’s safety first but can move the puck and be part of the offence as well. But the one thing I already shared with Oscar this morning was, your partner is going to join the play and you have to be aware of where he’s at at all times and your job is to make plays, gap up but your job is also to make sure that you’re not joining when he’s already gone.”
Oilers centre Sam Gagner has missed two days of practice in a row. The absence has been due to maintenance days as Gagner heals up a sore ankle. It is not expected to prevent him from playing against the Anaheim Ducks tomorrow night.
“Remember he hurt his ankle there, that twisted ankle has been flaring up on him,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s been sucking it up and playing so we’re just trying to give him as much time away from the games to heal. I’m sure he’ll just suck it up again tomorrow and play.”
Gagner says he’s ready to go.
“Just taking care of some things,” he said. “I should be good to go tomorrow.”
When Oscar Klefbom first took to the ice for the Oilers, the 20-year-old defenceman was a bit star struck with some of the players he was facing in battle. The pressure to perform against the NHL’s stars may have been a daunting task early, but the former 19th overall pick in 2011 says after a few games, he’s confident he can keep up.
“The players are so smart up here,” Klefbom said. “It’s a big difference from the American Hockey League to play against guys down there and then you play against players like Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Shea Weber and stuff so it’s a big adjustment. But I found it, the first couple of games I was scared because, like I said, you play against so good players so you’re almost afraid of yourself that you’re not going to be enough. But after a couple of games, you feel more confident on the ice and you have to believe in yourself and have yourself play pretty good too so you can keep up with those players.”
Klefbom has now played eight games for Edmonton and, almost as quickly as they came, the nerves are gone.
“The first couple of games is always nerves and stuff. In the first four or five games, I just tried to play simple and play good defence and just take one step at a time and after a couple of games you feel more confident. Right now, it feels like I can do something good with the puck and can follow up in some rushes as well.”
It’s been quite the journey for one of the Oilers top defensive prospects. On his path to the NHL, Klefbom has struggled with injury issues and took time to adjust to the North American game this season. But in Oklahoma City, he was playing his best hockey after Christmas and after earning his first NHL duty, he continues to show signs of growth and comfortability at this level.
“It’s been a lot of emotions of course. This is what you work hard for everyday as a hockey player so I’m very glad to be here.”
No Fasth or Sam Gagner at practice today. Line combos otherwise remain intact. 11 forwards, 8 defencemen.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) March 27, 2014
The goalie prospect comes to North America from Finland.
Tuohimaa has played in 19 games for HPK Liiga, posting a 3.12 GAA and .894 save percentage. He also has a 2.52 GAA and .925 save percentage in five games for Sport Mestis.
He was the 182nd overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft and signed a two-year entry level contract with the club in 2013.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke with the media after practice on Wednesday and provided his update on a few of the injuries to his players.
“We’re treating it as day-to-day right now,” Eakins said. “Everything seems to be going smoothly so he’s day-to-day. Who else do we got? (Yakupov) is end of the week, probably skating. Belov is good to go.”
Eakins calls Fasth’s injury a sprained neck with a headache.
“Sprained neck, headache so now you get into well which one is it, and until we know which one it is we’ll just stick with ‘we’re not sure’.”
With Fasth out, the Oilers recalled rookie goalie Laurent Brossoit from the Oklahoma City Barons. The Oilers are optimistic his services won’t be needed but depending on Fasth’s progression, Brossoit’s first action would most likely not be until the Oilers play a back-to-back series of games.
“Depending on Viktor, I’d probably just keep running with Ben,” Eakins said. “I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into it because I expect Viktor to be coming back into it. But the answer to your question is, I would probably run Ben until we got to the back-to-back then give the kid a shot.”
The Oilers next back-to-back is April 1-2, in San Jose and Anaheim.
Former Oiler Steve Staios will serve as the Hockey Canada management staff’s director of player development for the upcoming IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Staios will ‘assist the management group and coaching staff on ice, in addition to working on player development, evaluation and recruitment' according to Hockey Canada’s website.
Staios played with the Oilers from 2001-2010. He played in over 570 games with Edmonton.
The Edmonton Oilers are back on the ice for practice this morning with a few non-participants.
Sam Gagner and Ryan Jones not on the ice this morning at Rexall Place— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) March 26, 2014