Edmonton Oilers tough guy Luke Gazdic is the unofficial MVP of the team’s skills competition.
Gazdic earned the top spot in the ‘hardest shot’ competition with his try clocking in at over 100 mph. He also contributed in on the 3-on-1 challenge and dangled in the shootout.
“I think the biggest surprise was seeing Gazzy hit over 100 in the hardest shot, that was pretty cool,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
“I think he was top three stars out there, for sure.”
Gazdic’s team, the ‘Blue Team’ won the competition 26-17 and Gazdic likes that he’s considered an individual winner, but also being a part of the winning team.
“That’s pretty cool I guess,” Gazdic laughed. “Our team dominated and to be a part of that winning team was enough for me.”
“The Professor, (Ben Scrivens) over there told me I’ve got to get some speed going in because the amount of speed you have before your spot affects it or something. I just kind of went in and I put all my effort in it. I wasn’t holding back and it was pretty cool. I saw it flash up 100 and I was surprised to say the least.”
Ryan Jones recorded his 100th career NHL point tonight, but the celebration was short-lived as the Oilers would inevitably lose to Phoenix despite a late rally.
Jones talked in the locker room after the game about the need for more accountability from the players and less blame being placed on the coaches.
“It’s unacceptable,” Jones said. “As a player, you see the things that are said or written and it’s a pass the blame game. These guys that are in the back room, our coaches, our management, they don’t play the game. They send the guys out and we play the same system as basically every other team in the NHL and it’s the players that lose and yet, they take the blame. It’s about time the guys in this locker room took a little bit of accountability on themselves and stop letting other people take the blame. When we do that, we’ll win hockey games and we’ll give nobody an excuse or nobody, somebody to blame.”
One of the Oilers newest acquisitions, Matt Hendricks is already paying dividends on the ice with his veteran leadership. Hendricks was a part of an Oilers fourth line tonight that not only brought energy to the team, but chipped in offensively as well. It is his vocal leadership however, that has gained attention.
“He’s a leader,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “That’s for sure. Sometimes what happens is a guy like that comes in and he takes a leadership role and he talks a lot and he works hard and maybe after a few games, if things haven’t gone that well, they sometimes get quiet. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen with Matt. I’ve asked him to… We need his kind of leadership and grit to rub off on our group and I think he’s providing that. He was excellent in the game for me and he was good on the bench. He’s another voice preaching the right things and I thought our group responded to him.”
Hendricks scored his first goal as an Edmonton Oiler tonight.
In advance of tonight’s game against Phoenix, the Oilers have shuffled up their lineup.
Ales Hemsky (foot) is still out with injury.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins also says that Nick Schultz will be scratched tonight, but stressed that the move to sit him and Gazdic is strictly to get other players playtime and not performance based.
Oilers winger Ryan Jones became a first-time father on January 6, early in the morning, following the team’s win against Tampa Bay, the previous night.
“I was telling (my wife) that she did not have to wait until the game was over, but I’d appreciate it if it did,” Jones said back on January 7. “She was super strong and as soon as the game ended the other night, the trainers came in and they’re like, ‘You’ve got to get going.’ I fired out of here, got to the hospital and I guess five hours later, he came out.”
Jones and his wife Jaimie welcomed Lincoln Thomas into the world, weighing 7 pounds and 4 ounces. Since then, life has changed for the Oiler.
“I think just the responsibility,” Jones said of the challenges of fatherhood. “You don’t want your wife obviously doing all of the work. It’s important that you try to do as much as you can but, at the same time, whenever he cries he’s not looking for me. It’s been fun. To be honest with you, there’s no downsides to being a father. That’s for sure.”
Being a hockey player and a new father can be tough. In that line of work, you’re either on the road or going to practice or prepping for a game. Spending a lot of time at home can be difficult. For example, Jones went on a long road trip from January 12-18, just six days after the birth of Lincoln.
Jones says he’s lucky that his wife has been so supportive.
“I think more often than not, I feel bad because (Jaimie) is doing so much of the work and I’m either at the rink or I’m on the road or something and she’s been awesome about it. She’s a great mother and I knew she was going to be. It’d be nice to be around, that’s for sure, if for no other reason than to just get to hold him and look at him.”
The Oilers says that his first, ‘I’m a father’ moment came with his first diaper duty.
“Probably his first diaper,” Jones laughed. “She changed about five and then my turn came up and I was like, ‘Oh boy. I’m going to have to get used to this I guess.’ But, it’s fun. Everybody said that when it’s your kid, you never notice the cries or the diapers or anything. It’s true. When it’s other people’s kids crying, it kind of rings in your brain but when it’s your own kid it just means he wants something.”
After becoming a father, Jones has received accolades from Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins for his continued improvement from training camp and the start of the season and has also been commended for his recent willingness to fight when the moment calls for it.
It has been an interesting month for the new dad.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins has talked this week about continuing to move the team forward when it comes to system play and his defensive system. He is looking towards continuity in the system and installing more aggression after the Olympic break.
Eakins clarified what more aggression means when it comes to his system.
“To put it simply. it’s pressure on the puck everywhere,” said Eakins. “Everytime there’s a puck movement, there would be somebody from us going to it. There’s a lot of systems where teams will just commit one guy to the puck. The one guy’s actually checking two players and the other ones are falling back. We’ve had that approach for a while to teach where we’re supposed to be. The next step will be… That’s the aggression part of it. Aggression’s maybe not the right word, that sounds a little drastic. It’s just more, to put it simply, pressure on the puck, in all areas.”
The Oilers have lost five straight games since their 4-3 overtime victory at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins on January 10. With that kind of slide and with the team sitting at 14th in the Western Conference with 36 points, 52 games into the season, the team is dealing with the frustration of not seeing wins despite their hard work.
Jordan Eberle talked today about that frustration, dealing with it and focusing more on the positives of their play. Eberle pointed to their one-goal defeat at the hands of Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday as a sign that the team can play better.
“I think if you get used to losing and it becomes acceptable, that’s where things have really gone wrong,” Eberle said. “I think maybe in the past years, it has got to that point. As a young guy, you obviously see (the owner) send out a letter about being patient and we’re moving forward but you do get really frustrated. I can tell you first hand that myself and Taylor, we live together. There’s sometimes where you go home and you just want to punch the wall or do whatever.
“You’re that frustrated that things aren’t going as fast as they should be but I think that’s where it comes back to looking at the positives. Last game, we played a pretty good game, came against a hot goaltender, played really well and (Vancouver is) one of the better teams in the league. We have the capability. We’ve shown we can play well. It’s just the matter of bringing it every game and I think the best part about hockey is we have another opportunity to do that tomorrow. It’s not like football where you have to wait a week.”
Eberle has been one of those positives to focus on. The Oilers forward has scored a goal in each of his last three games. He currently has 17 goals and 23 assists.
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
Ales Hemsky skated in full gear with the team this morning at practice. He left the game in Dallas on January 14, and flew back to Edmonton for further evaluation after he took a shot off his ankle.
Since then, Hemsky has skated three times and looks to tomorrow’s practice as an indicator of where he’s at in his recovery.
“This is my third skate,” Hemsky said. “The first time, I skated by myself and this is the second time I’ve skated with the team. It’s getting better. It’s still sore, but I knew it would be sore for a while. But, on the other hand, it’s not broken, it’s not cracked. It just depends on how much pain you can take in the skate.”
Hemsky says the main discomfort comes from walking around out of his skates.
“It’s actually better in the skate than walking. Just like, the tight turns and I didn’t try many battles yet like in the corners. I guess we have another practice tomorrow and I’ll just go from there.”
No timeline has been set for Hemsky, however he could be ready to go as soon as the Oilers next game against Phoenix.
“I could play maybe on Friday, but I still don’t know. I’ll go tomorrow for practice and then I’ll see what will happen.”
Hemsky is happy that the injury should not affect the forward’s participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He is set to represent the Czech Republic.
“Of course I was worried,” he said about the possibility that the injury was more serious. “I just don’t want to be injured. I’ve had many problems before and like I said, I’ve felt pretty good all year, I haven’t had any problems. It was kind of a little blow for me. In the end, it’s nothing I can do and just, I’m happy it’s not broken so I can just get better and get back as soon as possible.”
Hemsky has 24 points (7-17-24) in 48 games this season.