As of tomorrow, it will have been one week since the Edmonton Oilers recalled goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from the Oklahoma City Barons.
Bryzgalov is impressed with what he's seen so far from the team dynamic, quickly meshing with his new teammates.
"It's a great team, a great group of guys," he said. "I'm happy, I'm pleased, everything's fine and everything's great."
"Guys have been getting a few laughs out of him and he's obviously showing what he's got, on the ice. It's good," said defenceman Justin Schultz.
Bryzgalov has yet to start a game for the Oilers as he is still in the process of getting prepared for the NHL game after some time off from hockey this off-season. The goalie says that everyday he's feeling better and better and will be ready when his chance arises.
"Everyday better and better," said Bryzgalov.
"I keep working. I'm awaiting my chance, preparing myself for the game. It's up to the coaches. I have no control on this… Right now, it's different. It being the NHL, it's a different level of the game. I'm waiting with a little bit of caution for my first game."
Today's lineup is the same as it has been for the past three games.
No changes to the #Oilers lineup today judging by the sweater colors. Arcobello and Jones in black.— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) November 23, 2013
Today's forward lines by jersey colours are:
Arcobello and Jones are not on a designated line, in black.
Belov- J. Schultz
Philip Larsen (injured) remains absent.
The Oilers placed their physical enforcer Steve MacIntyre on waivers this morning.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins said that the move was because MacIntyre, who has been out of the lineup due to a knee injury suffered in the team's final pre-season game against Dallas, needed to play somewhere and it wasn't going to be Edmonton at this time.
"Mac's been out for a long time and we needed to play," said Eakins. "Where we're at right now as a team, with a full lineup, there's not a place for him to play here right now. You run the risk of losing a guy like that on waivers and I'm always torn on these."
While Eakins said it wasn't necessarily a choice of one player over another, the move was also clearly made easier to make due to the play of rookie Luke Gazdic. The former Dallas Stars prospect was claimed off of waivers at the start of the season and has shown improvement on his forecheck and in the energy he brings when he steps onto the ice.
Gazdic has also served well in the role originally expected to be filled by MacIntryre. He has become the deterrent to opponent mischief that the team needs.
"I think it's important right now for our group," said Eakins. "I know there's a lot of people out there who think that has nothing to do with the game. They've never stood on the bench and see how it ignites your bench. I think it's important for all of our players to stand up for each other. It shows that you care."
Gazdic's fight card this season has filled up with big, veteran heavyweights and seasoned fighters like Chris Thorburn, Brian McGrattan, Jared Boll, Jay Rosehill and Brandon Prust.
"I think I've just been trying to play my game to the fullest since I've been here," said Gazdic. "I've been trying to keep it simple and just do everything that the coach has asked. I've been trying to be a good teammate on and off the ice. They've made some decisions to let a couple of guys go now and I can't control that. All I'm controlling is the way I play and the way I carry myself at the rink everyday. I've just been trying to be a good teammate since I've been here."
While the Oilers move to waive MacIntyre shows trust in Gazdic, the young fourth-line forward is not letting that make him feel too comfortable with his spot on the team.
"Obviously, it gives me more of a sense of comfortability. I'm never going to settle down and get too comfortable. Everyday, I am still treating it as a tryout. You never know what can happen in this game and obviously, it's a bit like a business. One day you could be here and the next day you're gone. I'm just trying to keep my head on a level playing field here and trying to bring a good attitude to the rink everyday and work."
For two games in a row, Luke Gazdic has matched up against the opponent's 'heavyweight' and dropped the gloves. In Calgary, he fought Brian McGrattan to spark his team while they were behind. Last night, he had a tilt with Jared Boll as Columbus was looking for a spark.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins says Gazdic's fighting is just one of the reasons the team really likes the forward.
"It's not so much going out and fighting the other guy's tough guy," said Eakins. "He's more of a deterrent that's listen, you're not going to push our team around. The good thing about Luke is that he can get around on his feet, be able to get in on the forecheck and get pucks out of our zone and drive the net. Those are the real important things but it's great to have a guy like that on our team that has that skill in his back pocket."
Coming off a 7-0 victory it is hard to see the Oilers making any changes to that successful lineup. The team skated with the same forward lines and defensive pairings at practice this morning and could remain in that look when they host Florida tomorrow night.
Fans might be wondering when Mark Arcobello may return to the lineup or if lines could be shuffled moving forward. But Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that he's hesitant to make changes to a winning lineup.
"When you've got a mix that can win the game, I don't know how you change it," said Eakins.
"With the other lines, I hesitate with it. If you go and you mix them up and it goes south on you, you're instantly beating yourself up with, ' why did I change that lineup?' It worked, they played well. I'm always very hesitant. I think there's other times with coaches that wouldn't hesitate at all with it. But I think it's a reward process for the guys who did play, that sacrificed that night and got the win. I think it's important to reward the group and keep it going for as long as you can."
Oilers veteran forward Ryan Smyth has enjoyed a long successful career. After being drafted sixth overall in 1994, Smyth has played 15 seasons with the Oilers (1994-2007, 2011-2014).
With a power play goal last night against Columbus, Smyth moved just two back of Wayne Gretzky and three back of Glen Anderson for the number one spot on the Oilers' all-time career power play goals list.
Smyth said when he came into the league, he had no idea he would be mentioned with players of that calibre.
"No, not at all," said Smyth. "Obviously I've played more years here than they had but they're phenomenal hockey players and it's quite an honour to be mentioned with those names."
"I knew he was up high on the list," said Smyth's teammate Sam Gagner. "I didn't know how close but he's unbelievable at it, getting in front of the net and making sure that he's big and he's tipping pucks and just winning battles and he's been great at it for a number of years. It helps our power play. Hopefully he can get a couple of more here throughout the rest of the year and keep moving up the list."
Smyth said he was told last night how close he was and is honoured by the recognition.
"I've always thought it's been an honour and a privilege to play the game itself," said Smyth. "To contribute is one thing, but when you're with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Glen Anderson and the list goes on-and-on, to be mentioned with those names is quite an honour. It's a lot of fun and… we'll see what happens."
"We all have a lot of respect for Smytty in here and the way he's approached the game," said Gagner. "Just how hard he competes. You don't have the type of career he's had, the numbers he's put up, without a huge level of commitment and compete level and the way he brings it every night. That's amazing to watch."
Smyth now has 123 power play goals with the Oilers. He needs 126 to tie Glen Anderson's club record.
The Oilers made no secret that they wanted to battle hard for their fans tonight, as the start to their home schedule has not gone very successfully. Tonight, the players in the dressing room said that the big win tonight was just as much for the fans as it was them.
"What is it minus 18 out there? And they still came to support us, which is great," said veteran forward Ryan Smyth. "We delivered for them. They've been waiting patiently and we thank them for that. It was a boost of confidence and it was nice to have them cheering right at the end with a little bit of a standing ovation. They deserve it just as much as we do."
"(The fans) deserve good hockey every night and they've been supportive of this team forever," said David Perron, who had four points in the 7-0 win.
"Hopefully we bring more performances like that for them."
When asked if a win like that would help him sleep better tonight, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins brought up the fans and how the win was good for them.
"I'm not sure you ever sleep when you're a coach," said Eakins. "You're always waking up, thinking about something. But hey, the wins have been few and far between, especially at home. It's good for us, but more importantly. it's good for our fans. They've been suffering as much as we have and it's nice to give them something to go home with tonight."
The Oilers are now 2-7-0 at home, but get another chance at a home victory on Thursday night as they host the Florida Panthers. Florida is 2-8-1 on the road this season.
After a great first period, in which the Oilers took a 3-0 lead over Columbus, the team seemed to drag early in the second period. So Head Coach Dallas Eakins called a timeout to get his team refocused and re-energized. He explained the decision after the game.
"I wasn't saying, I was yelling," said Eakins. "I was not excited about how we came out in the period. I was reminding them that they had done such hard things in the first period to get their success. When you do the hard things, the game becomes easy. When you come out in the second and you start playing an easy game, like not stopping on pucks, not winning battles, not supporting your teammates and all those things then the game becomes very hard.
"I wasn't going to let it go on any longer. They had played too well, they had shown that they were going to have great happens. I just thought, it's a timeout, I'm wasting it. Let's have a little chat right now. I thought they responded. I thought they immediately got better and refocused."
He's had an interesting start to his second season. He struggled with his offensive production and most recently made headlines with public statements regarding his lack of ice time.
However, the Oilers forward Nail Yakupov put all that behind him tonight, playing perhaps his best game of the 2013-2014 season.
"He was good," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "I thought he was pretty good in Calgary at times as well. He was good tonight. He was supporting the puck, he was skating, he was looking to the net… He's getting there. He's going to keep improving. It's just going to take a little time."
Yakupov finished the game with two points, a goal and an assist, while adding three shots on goal and a blocked shot in 16:51 of ice time. The 20 year-old also drew two big penalties in the game and was flying around the ice the entire game.
In his last five games, Yakupov has three goals and two assists. He has registered a point in three straight games.
The Oilers have emphasized the need to get off to a fast start at home. In this game, the Oilers did just that by scoring 2:37 into the game. Players in the Columbus dressing room talked about how that early goal hurt them.
"They scored one early and they just kept compounding," said Columbus forward Nick Foligno. "It doesn't seem like we had that pushback or that answer. We gave them an easy night. They really were able to skate around and do whatever they wanted. It's the wrong way to play."