Chicago has the last line change tonight, which means that it’s likely that star centre Jonathan Toews will be matched up against Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. If that’s the case, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins has no problem with that.
“If that’s the match-up that (Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville) is going to pursue then I think Nuge takes it on as a great challenge. He should feel really good about his last game and have lots of confidence that he played so well against the best player in the game. Hopefully that bodes well for him if that is the match-up that they’re looking for.”
Going head-to-head against Sidney Crosby, Nugent-Hopkins had two goals and an assist in 21:49 of ice time.
David Perron was asked before tonight’s game about the fact that the Oilers seem to match up better against the more skilled teams like Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh and Chicago. Perron said that while that may be the case, the team still needs to try and compete with the heavier teams like St. Louis.
“One thing that’s for sure is we’re going to have to get through the better teams if we want to make it in the playoffs. We won’t get in just beating the teams that are a little less physical. I think this team’s got a good mix of both and it’s going to be a good challenge for us to really use our speed and play through that,” Perron began.
“I was on the other side in St. Louis. You can’t really worry too much. These guys over there in St. Louis, they get hurt too and they make mistakes. I feel sometimes when you talk about teams before games you say ‘oh, they’re big’ and you think they aren’t going to (make any mistakes) but it’s false. I’ve been in that room and there’s a lot that we talked about in between periods that we could do better and the same thing here.”
After morning skate, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins made it clear that the plan was for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and his line, to shoulder the responsibility of going head-to-head with Sidney Crosby for most of the night. The 20-year-old centre held his own against possibly the best player in the world.
“I thought he was motivated by it and he was able to contend with Sidney,” Eakins said of Nugent-Hopkins’ performance. “The size differential isn’t as harsh on him, which allows him to play with him. I thought Nuge did an excellent job, as did his line and the (defensive) pairings that were out there against him.”
Nugent-Hopkins was pleased with how he and his linemates performed in the face of a challenge.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of limiting them to not too many opportunities,” the centre said. “We did that just by playing in the offensive zone and there’s times when we turned the puck over a bit too much but I thought we did a good job of not making that a huge issue tonight and we just got to come against Chicago and bring this momentum.”
Crosby finished the night with a goal and an assist, however his goal was banked in off of an Oilers player. Nugent-Hopkins scored two goals, including the overtime game winner, and added an assist, six shots and a hit in 21:49 of ice time.
Sidney Crosby didn’t know the Oilers were a team he had yet to score against in his career, coming into Friday night. But someone alerted him to that on Thursday and Crosby claimed to have extra motivation to remedy that. The Penguins centre would score Friday night in his team’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Oilers.
Edmonton Head Coach Dallas Eakins paused in the middle of his post-game availability to, jokingly, give the media a talking to.
“Can I ask you a question?,” the bench boss said. “Were you the one who told Sidney Crosby he hasn’t scored here? Because whoever that was, we try everything we can do not to motivate the other teams and I know you guys are impartial, but please don’t tell that kid that. Jesus, I knew it was coming as soon as I read it this morning. I knew he was going to score, because somebody had alerted to him and he was thinking about it all night. So, whoever did that, thank you very much.”
Sam Gagner made the switch from centre to wing this week and drew top line duty with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and the responsibility of playing against Pittsburgh’s top line for most of the night, Friday night. Gagner finished the game with 19:03 of ice time, logging an assist with two shots and two hits.
Despite a slow start, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says Gagner turned things around mid-game and grew comfortable in his new role.
“Early, I thought he was trying to find his way, get his feel and I thought as the game went on, I thought he played better and better,” said Eakins. “He made some plays tonight over on that wing with Nuge and Hallsy that were impressive. I knew he was feeling good kind of halfway through, with his body language on the bench and coming off the ice. He was making eye contact with me a lot. When players are feeling good, there’s a lot of looking at the coach and there’s no words and it’s like, ‘I’m feeling good and I know you see me, get me back out there.’ That was encouraging as well.”
Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby spoke with the Edmonton media following his team’s practice today at Rexall Place. The main subject matter revolved around Crosby being selected to Team Canada for the 2014 Winter Olympics and his thoughts on the games. However, Crosby did talk about something interesting and that was the Oilers rebuild.
The Penguins went through a period of time in which they struggled, finishing with less than 30 wins in their seasons between 2001 and 2006. Crosby was drafted first overall in 2005 and was part of the team that put it all together.
“It was fairly quick,” Crosby said. “I think we finished second-to-last my first year, then we made the playoffs my second year and then the third year, we went right to the finals. We were able to gain some experience very quickly.”
Crosby was very complimentary of Edmonton’s young talent and thinks that when everything ‘clicks’, it will be something special.
“I think the guys in Edmonton here were thrown into some pretty important roles right away at a pretty young age. I think that, that helps everybody. That’s going to fast-track the learning curve and I don’t think they’re far away at all. I think they’ve got a ton of skill and, from playing against them, they’ve always come pretty hard at us. I know they’ve got a lot of skill and speed and I think that you just have to be patient when everybody is young. But at some point, when everything starts to click they’re going to be good for a long time.”
Crosby has yet to score a goal against just four NHL teams in his career; Edmonton, Chicago, St. Louis and San Jose. Against Edmonton, Crosby has seven assists in five games, but no goals. He was surprised to hear that and joked about his motivation increasing in anticipation of tomorrow night.
“That’d be nice to get one,” he said. “Hopefully, tomorrow night. I didn’t know that so I should be motivated tomorrow then.”
Watch the full interview with Crosby below:
Oilers rookie centre Mark Arcobello has not only shown a willingness to play anywhere and with anyone he’s told to, but he has also shown the ability to produce in different spots.
With Sam Gagner placed on the wing this morning with Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the top line, Arcobello moved up to centre Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov. Though the Oilers are unsure if that’s the lineup for tomorrow, there is a comfort level with playing Arcobello towards the top of the lineup.
“He’s a safe player,” said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I can play him on the wing, play him at centre. There’s no headline news about that. He seems to be able to move to wherever, on whatever line, fourth line and you can move him up and he just plays that normal, simple game for us. Obviously, wherever Gags ends up is going to possibly effect him. Once again, I wouldn’t read a whole lot into it. All those lines might turn back into how we finished the other night.”
Arcobello is no stranger to moving up, down and around the forward depth and will be ready to roll with whoever and wherever tomorrow night.
“I’m used to it,” said Arcobello. “I’ve played up and down the lineup. Whatever opportunity I’m given, it’s not going to be a new one for me. I’m excited for another opportunity and hopefully we have some chemistry.”
“I’m excited,” he added. “You saw the lines out there. Hopefully, that’s what it is tomorrow and I’m excited.”
Following practice on Thursday, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins spoke to the media. View an archive of the live press conference which was streamed on edmontonoilers.com by clicking on the video below.
The Oilers are on the ice for another early-morning practice at Rexall Place. Lines, according to jersey colour, are:Hall-RNH-Gagner
There are seven defencemen out there as Corey Potter has returned to the ice with the team:
Jesse Joensuu and Philip Larsen are not skating.