The Oilers were without Nail Yakupov today at practice and Head Coach Dallas Eakins discussed his forward's absence during his media availability.
"He's got a banged up ankle or foot or something," said Eakins. "It was tender enough where he couldn't skate. We'll re-access it for tomorrow."
On the flip-side of things, the Oilers got back one of their injured players today. Defenceman Philip Larsen made his return to practice, his first skate with the team since suffering a back injury. Larsen has missed the last three games.
"It's a little weird to be on the ice again," said Larsen. "But I had a lot of fun. It was a nice feeling to get out there with the boys again and skate."
Whether or not he is close to game action is up to the coaching and medical staffs as they continue to evaluate Larsen's progress. But there is a chance he will travel with the team when they head to Nashville tomorrow morning.
"If he looks like he's getting close, and the assessment of him… they're probably looking at him right now," said Eakins. "For sure. He was playing extremely well. We miss him back there and it would be great to have another guy that can move the puck like that."
Mark Arcobello and Ryan Jones may return to the lineup very soon, after not playing in a game since November 13. Head Coach Dallas Eakins will look to plug them in somewhere and very soon, possibly on the Oilers upcoming road trip.
"I've got to talk to our other coaches about it but I do want to get Arcobello back in," said Eakins. "I do want to get Ryan Jones back in. This may turn into, depending how we're playing, a rotation process until we can get our lineup totally set.
"We've got guys on the cusp of, a lot of them have played well enough to be in the lineup. The problem is, we've got extra guys and those extra guys have played well enough to be in the lineup. That's something that we'll have to sort through but my vote is to get those guys back in and somebody coming out will have to take it on the chin even though they've probably played okay as well."
Arcobello has 12 points in 20 games this season for the Oilers while Jones has three points in 12 games.
Forward lines by jersey colour:
Gazdic-Acton-Jones (Arcobello as the extra forward)
Nail Yakupov is absent, while Larsen (back) is participating.
Coach Eakins mentioned that he would like to get Arcobello and Jones back in the lineup soon, perhaps against Nashville. He also said Bryzgalov will start against the Predators on Thursday.
Eakins said Yakupov hurt his foot in the game Monday and was unable to practice today.
"That's a veteran guy," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "He comes in with a little swagger… He was good. The only one they got by him was tipped."
Bryzgalov's entry into the game was met by a loud ovation from the Edmonton crowd.
"It's very nice from them," Bryzgalov said. "I didn't even know that… there was a standing ovation. I was so focused on the game and a little bit nervous too. That's why I maybe not paid attention to that moment that was outside the game."
The goalie is scheduled to make his first start as an Oiler against either Nashville on Thursday or Columbus on Friday night.
Ilya Bryzgalov is expected to make his debut for the Oilers this coming week when the team has a back-to-back on the road in Nashville and then Columbus.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins confirmed today that he'd like for Bryzgalov to start either in Nashville against the Predators or against the Stars.
"I'd like him to play one of the two games," he said.
Bryzgalov has played two games this season for the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City, with a 1-1-0 record and a 3.03 goals against average and .888 save percentage.
The Oilers have enjoyed improvement in their special teams play when it comes to both power play and penalty kill.
Their PK play is ranked 14th in the NHL, while their PK on home ice is tied for ninth at 85.7%.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins says while the team has gotten better, there's still some work to be done.
"I think we have a better understanding of what we're looking for," said Eakins. "We've been way more aggressive down-ice. We've got our guys going on that again. I think that's where Dubnyk has made some big saves for us on our penalty kill, which is extremely important. Once again, even though the penalty kill has been excellent, we've struggled getting the puck out of our zone when we've had a chance.
"When the puck is on our stick and now it's going down the ice, we seem to find a way the guy can knock it down with his stick or it hits a leg or we fan on it. We've got to get those pucks down. That's where you're usually tired and now it stays in and now you're in trouble with a group of four who are tired. Even though we've had success, there's still some details that need to be worked out so we can be even more efficient with it."
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins has taken on a more scruffy look with his facial hair recently. When asked about his beard a few games back, Eakins said it would be gone the next day. However, the coach has kept the facial hair due to the team's recent success.
Not normally superstitious, Eakins says it was a request from players and coaches in the dressing room that he'd keep the beard going while the team was successful.
"We had some requests to keep it so that's my commitment to the team," said Eakins. "I'll keep this. Actually, my wife quite likes it which is interesting. Maybe she's going blind but we'll keep it, keep it rolling and have a little fun in the dressing room… For a guy who used to make fun of everyone's superstitions, I'm starting to get there myself."
The Oilers are on a three-game win streak, hoping to extend that streak tonight.
THIRD STAR – DEVAN DUBNYK, G, EDMONTON OILERS
Dubnyk backstopped the Oilers (7-15-2, 16 points) to a pair of wins, posting a 2-0-0 record with a 0.50 goals-against average, .974 save percentage and one shutout in helping the team extend its season-long winning streak to three games. He made 14 saves for his first shutout of the season and the seventh of his career in a 7-0 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets Nov. 19. Dubnyk then posted 24 stops in a 4-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers Nov. 21. The 27-year-old native of Regina, Sask., has appeared in 18 games this season, compiling a 6-10-1 record with a 3.17 goals-against average and .896 save percentage.
SECOND STAR – MAX PACIORETTY, LW, MONTREAL CANADIENS
Pacioretty led all players with five goals, including two-game winners, in three games to help the Canadiens (13-9-2, 28 points) pick up a trio of victories. He opened the week by recording a natural hat trick, his second career three-goal game and first since Feb. 9, 2012, in a 6-2 triumph over the Minnesota Wild Nov. 19. After being held off the scoresheet in a 3-2 win over the Washington Capitals Nov. 22, Pacioretty twice found the back of the net, including the game-winning goal, in a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Nov. 23. The New Canaan, Conn., native has totaled 7-2—9 in 15 games this season, tying for second on the Canadiens in goals and game-winners (2).
FIRST STAR – EVGENI MALKIN, C, PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Malkin led all skaters with seven assists and eight points as the Penguins (15-9-0, 30 points) won three of four games to re-claim first place in the Metropolitan Division. He posted a pair of assists in each of his first two games of the week: a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks Nov. 18 and a 4-0 triumph over the Washington Capitals Nov. 20. Malkin then snapped a 15-game goal drought, recording 1-1—2 in a 4-3 win over the New York Islanders Nov. 22. He closed the week by collecting two assists, his fourth consecutive multi-point game, in a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens Nov. 23. The 27-year-old native of Magnitogorsk, Russia, has recorded at least one point in 10 of his past 11 games (1-15—16) and is tied for first in the NHL with 22 assists while also placing seventh in the League with 26 points in 24 contests.
When the Saskatchewan Roughriders host the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for the 101st CFL Grey Cup today at 4 p.m., there will be at least one Edmonton Oiler watching with a vested interest in the outcome.
Regina, SASK native Jordan Eberle is a big Roughriders fan and is excited to root for the home team in the championship game.
"I'm pretty excited," said Eberle. "The 'Riders are playing in their home city. It's going to be good. I've gotten a lot of pictures and tweets from buddies that are back home right now. There's a pretty good mood around the city… I don't think anyone is working. It's going to be good."
As the game will be played in Regina, things could get ugly for Eberle's hometown should the 'Riders lose to Hamilton.
"There might be a riot I think. But I think they've got a pretty good chance. They played pretty well in the Conference Finals, so I am looking forward to it."
Edmonton veteran forward Ryan Smyth takes a different approach to today's game and who he wants to see hoist the Grey Cup.
"Neither of them," said Smyth. "But my wife is from Moose Jaw, so she's from Saskatchewan, so I'll probably go with them. I think they're going to dominate."
Smyth is an Edmonton Eskimos fan.
Big, physical forward Jesse Joensuu has been relegated to fourth-line duties since returning from his back injury. It is a challenge for the 26 year-old Finnish born player to play a more limited amount of minutes on limited shifts.
"I feel good," said Joensuu. "We're playing, sometimes, small minutes so it's tough to get into the game but at the same time, you get paid to do this and everybody wants to play in the NHL. You need to work on being ready whenever you're called on to go to the ice."
The forward says it can be more difficult to find a groove when his time on the ice is limited.
"Every hockey player will tell you when they play more, it's easier to play and they play better. There's a lot of guys who are ahead of me in the lineup and I obviously knew that. That's no shock to me and they're playing good. Our line, we have to bring energy and play as good as we can with those minutes and that's obviously the only way you can play more in the future."
Joensuu has not recorded a point since opening night against Winnipeg on October 1. He has also seen less than eight minutes of ice time in four of his last five games, excluding over 12 minutes against Columbus on November 19.
Against Columbus, Joensuu had a decent game, chipping in a team-high five hits while adding a blocked shot as well in 12:14 on the ice.
He understands that comes with the territory of skating on the fourth line and knows that if he wants more ice time, he'll have to earn it.
"This is the only thing I have to work on in my life. This is my work and the only thing I have to focus on. If I have done a poor job, I just have to find a way to do it better. I can't really complain."