The Oilers hit the road tomorrow after their morning skate for two road games in as many nights. They play the Jets in Winnipeg tomorrow and then Minnesota in Saskatoon on Saturday.
The Oilers will take with them the healthy players from both Group A and Group B when they travel. It will help the younger players experience life on the road in the NHL, and allow the coaching staff a chance to mix and match players for their game-night rosters. When the Oilers return, they’ll begin to cut down their camp roster.
“If you’re in A or B group, you’re going to make the trip,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “You’re going to continue to experience life in the NHL. You’re going to fly in a plane. You’re going to see what it’s like to play in Winnipeg, in that environment. Then you’re going to go to Saskatoon and you’re going to continue and be a part of the team and be in meetings. Then when we get back from Saskatoon you’re going to see our group get smaller.”
“He’s got an amazing skill set. He’s up there with guys that are winning the Norris Trophy and getting 70 points a year. He’s got that same skill set,” said Hall.
“He’s a guy that, I think we’re all just seeing this training camp, has taken a lot more initiative on the physical front… He’s standing up for his teammates and when a guy like that does it, it kind of forces you to raise your level to compete. It’s great to see.”
Even Oilers rookie Connor McDavid has admired Schultz’s playing style that he’s conveyed thus far in training camp.
“You could for sure see that he’s a guy that’s never out of the play. Even if the odd time he gets beat, he can get back right away,” said McDavid.
Hall believes that the improvement of play in his teammates, individually and as a whole, may have something to do with the hard-work ethic that fires them up during camp — whether in practice or game mode.
“I think we have a different makeup personnel-wise and I think we’re starting to come around on the traits we want to have as a team,” said Hall.
Thursday was another day on the ice and although the Oilers are still in training camp mode, they’ve gotten off to a good start in the pre-season with three wins in three games.
Throughout camp and the first trio of pre-season games, 2015 first-overall pick Connor McDavid has been taking in his surroundings and soon he’ll get to experience life on the road in the NHL. McDavid will travel with the Oilers to Winnipeg and Saskatoon on Friday and Saturday.
“Any time you get a chance to play on the road, it’s a little bit more uncomfortable than playing at home, it’s part of the league and I’ve got to get used to that as well,” said McDavid.
While he adapts and prepares for the new experiences that await him, he’s keeping his focus trained on the tasks at hand, finding a rhythm with his teammates during practice and learning under the direction of Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.
“They’re certainly challenging— physically and mentally,” said McDavid.
“You’ve got to prepare yourself each and every day for practice. You’ve got to make sure your (focus is) into it, if you’re not you’re going to be looking pretty dumb.”
The Oilers first group is on the ice at Rexall Place for Thursday’s practice.
Teddy Purcell is still not skating with the team. He is listed as day-to-day with a minor injury.
Darnell Nurse is skating with Group A this morning, Griffin Reinhart is not.
Talbot, Scrivens and Nilsson
Griffin Reinhart is trying to make an impression on the Oilers coaching staff and he might have made a really good one in Wednesday night’s 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets. He didn’t do it by being flashy. The 21-year-old defenceman did it by making the simple, smart plays that help a team be successful.
“Very poised. Not a lot of opportunity for us to go and talk to him about ‘what about this play?’ or ‘what about that play?’ He made the right play for a lot of the night,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He doesn’t seem to me… to be getting up there and trying to hit the home run all the time. He’s happy with singles and you win that way. I thought he was good. (The Jets) are a big, heavy, strong team and they’re bigger at home yet, the players that aren’t playing. Griffin handled it well.”
Reinhart doesn’t mind getting noticed by not being noticeable. He won’t stick out on the highlight reel, but when you turn to the game tape he played a very solid game.
“That’s a compliment to me,” said Reinhart. “I’m not going to come out here like a lot of those flashy guys and a lot of the skilled guys that we have. I contribute in other ways. I think I can play a good, solid game. (Eric) Gryba has helped me out a lot. It’d be nice playing with him or whoever I’m out there with. Just keeping it simple and trying not to play in our end.”
Reinhart says he is comfortable on the ice because of his defensive partner.
“I think part of that is playing with a veteran defenceman like Gryba,” said Reinhart. “He makes it easy for me with the communication out there. That’s the kind of game I like to play and hopefully I can just keep doing that every day and getting better as well.”
Justin Schultz played a pretty complete game in the Oilers 3-2 pre-season win over the Winnipeg Jets. He was physical, moved the puck well on the power play, and even scored on the man advantage.
“I thought ‘Schultzy’ was fine,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He moved his legs well, he retrieved pucks well. He was on the ice for the one goal against but I don’t think he had much to do with it. Good on the power play. I liked his game.”
One thing Schultz has said he wanted to work on this summer was playing with an edge. He hit the gym to get stronger to help him win more puck battles. Some of that hard work showed tonight.
“I felt I rubbed a few guys out and went to the body and didn’t let them into the net,” said Schultz. “It’s something I’ve been working on. It’s only pre-season, but it’s nice to see some improvement there.”
Schultz also stood up for his defensive partner, Oscar Klefbom, who was hit hard by JC Lipon early in the game.
“It happened so fast. I thought it was a little late, obviously. The whistle blew and then he hit him. He’s my D-partner so I thought I should stick up for him,” said Schultz.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan is treating the team’s goaltending competition like a baseball manager would treat their pitchers in training camp and pre-season. He wants to give Cam Talbot, Ben Scrivens and Anders Nilsson all time in pre-season so they can get into the flow of things.
“We’ve got to give them the chance to find the rhythm, feel good in the net, their movement, their motion, get their confidence level up,” said McLellan. “Pitchers usually don’t evolve until well into training camp. We need to get each of these pitchers, or goaltenders, a chance to feel that a little bit. We’ll now go full games. Cam will start tonight and then Ben will get a game and Anders will get a game as well. We’ll go full games unless something is going wrong or injuries, but that’s what the plan is. So by the time we get through to Sunday, each of them has experienced a full game. They’ve had half games now, they’re starting to feel a little bit better in the net and then we’ll just keep working on it.”
So Talbot will start against the Jets tonight, while Scrivens and Nilsson will each play one of the games in Winnipeg on Friday and in Saskatoon (vs. Minnesota Wild) on Saturday.
The Oilers first group is on the ice for morning skate at Rexall Place. This lineup is not confirmed as the one that will play against the Jets tonight, with Head Coach Todd McLellan saying Tuesday, that the team would blend players from both groups to make their game roster.
Lineup for A appears the same as Tuesday.
GROUP A FORWARDS:
GROUP A DEFENCEMEN:
GROUP A GOALIES:
Nilsson, Scrivens and Talbot.
- IN FOCUS | Grouping Up
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd McLellan
- PRACTICE RAW | Darnell Nurse
- PRACTICE RAW | Taylor Hall
- PRACTICE RAW | Griffin Reinhart
Hockey is back in session and Griffin Reinhart is happy to be back in the swing of things.
Reinhart, who played the Oilers split-squad pre-season game in Calgary, felt the excitement in the air from both the fans and the players themselves.
“Everybody’s excited to get back into hockey season again,” he said.
“They’ve waited all summer, it’s finally here and the emotions are high, everybody’s excited, there are a lot of guys trying to make teams and make impressions out there so I think it was expected.”
It was a slow start, with more penalties than points on the board, but the Oilers turned the play around after falling behind 1-0 and pulled through to a 3-1 victory.
“It was pretty fun. I mean, it’s what’s expected,” said Reinhart.
“A lot of physical play out there, everybody’s first game of the year for them, except for some of the younger guys I guess, but it was a fun to get your legs back under you and go from there.”
With two pre-season games out of the way for the Oilers, Reinhart felt good about his performance, but knows that there is always room to grow and improve as a player and as a team.
“For the guys that were here last year, and guys that are going to be on this team, I think this gives them a good head start to work together,” he said.
“But I know, because I’m here right now, I’ve still got a lot to prove and I know there’s a bunch of guys chasing me, so if I’m not playing my best hockey then I wouldn’t be here.”