Todd Nelson was asked after practice about the team's continued improvement on the ice. After winning just seven of their first 36 games, the club is 7-7-2 in their last 16.
“It’s getting better. Every day we go out to practice we stress tempo, execution and compete," Nelson began. "Today’s practice was a good day for us. We had all those elements and the guys worked hard. All we can do is just keep working at it.
“Every day we go out there’s been signs of improvement.”
“It’s day-to-day with both guys," said Nelson. "Benoit is probably going to recover a bit quicker than Taylor. They’re both on the trip and I think the first step is get them out for practice and see how they feel.”
Defenceman Martin Marincin was recalled on Thursday and joined the team today in Toronto. Oilers interim head coach wasn't tipping his hand in terms of what his lineup might look like on Saturday but he did say it was likely Marincin will play.
“It’s a strong possibility," he said. "We brought him up here for a reason. We haven’t made a decision on the lineup yet. I wanted to see how he was in practice — I thought he was fine. It gives us options on this trip.”
Forward line combinations are:
Martin Marincin is on the ice but defence pairings are not yet apparent.
Six games in a ten day stretch for the Oil. Practice at Leafs facility today. Hall & Pouliot not on the ice. pic.twitter.com/U3hWabzQ2v— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) February 6, 2015
- PRACTICE | Friday in Leduc
- PRACTICE RAW | Keith Aulie
- PRACTICE RAW | Matt Hendricks
- PRACTICE RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
- PRACTICE RAW | Todd Nelson
“We’ll just put him in the slot where Niki (Nikitin) was. He played with Fayne before so that’s what we’re doing,” said Oilers coach Todd Nelson, adding that Aulie can't change the way he's plays despite his last game being one where he received a game misconduct and subsequent suspension.
“He has to play that style. That’s what got him here to the National Hockey League and that’s what’s going to keep him here,” Nelson continued. “He plays an aggressive style. He has to keep things simple out there and just play a good defensive game. In the last game he played, he was playing very well and he’s been working extremely hard in practice. I think his puck skills have definitely improved in the last month or so.”
Aulie said he's excited to get back into the lineup.
"I've been working hard every day to stay ready," he stated. "As a player you want to play but you can only control what you can control. Come to the rink every day with a hard-working attitude and just be ready for your opportunity."
The Oilers return to Calgary for the first time since December 31. Oilers head coach Todd Nelson talked about the team's growth since then.
“We’ve grown since that time as a team. Every day we’re trying to make ourselves better and I think we’re improving in certain aspects. We talked about going hard to the net, shooting the puck more, competing harder. We’re seeing improvements with that. We’re striving to have our team do it for 60 minutes consistently. That’s our goal.”
The Oilers have picked up points in three of its last four games.
“Everyone’s excited to play Saturday night in Calgary. It’s always a fun time. We’re ready to try to keep things going. We’re on a bit of a run here, collected a few points over the last four or five games. It’s a good test for our hockey team.”
Matt Hendricks talked about how the team's better practice habits have helped contribute to their upswing.
“I think our practice habits have improved dramatically in terms of the work ethic. The attitude at practice every day is much improved. I think we’re seeing some results on the ice,” Hendricks began. “We wanted to be a team that outworked (other teams) and it just hasn’t worked out. Nelly’s put us in a position for practice where if you don’t do it you’ll be left behind.”
Forward lines are the same as last game:
The AHL made a major announcement today at 1:30 p.m. MST and it was streamed live on edmontonoilers.com.
WATCH: Draisaitl Interview | READ: Gene Principe blogs on Draisaitl
Oilers prospect Leon Draisaitl makes his return to Rexall Place tonight when his new team, the Kelowna Rockets, takes on the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Prior to the game, Draisiatl met with the local media to talk about his time with the Rockets.
“It is an adjustment, of course," Draisaitl said about going back to Major Junior. "It’s a total different game in my opinion. You have more time, more room and obviously don’t really feel the pace as it is in the NHL. It’s definitely a slight adjustment.”
After six points in his first five games with the Rockets, Draisaitl has put up six more in his last three and has a +4 rating in those three games. Overall, Draisaitl has four goals and 12 points in eight games with an even plus/minus.
“It’s never easy to just join a brand new team and try to fit in. But all the guys, the staff, the coaches, they made it really easy on me and I’m thankful for that,” he said. “So far it’s been a lot of fun.”
The Rockets sit in first place in the entire league with 37 wins and 77 points in 48 games.
“We have three, almost four, lines that can all be scoring and be reliable out there. That’s really important for a long playoff run,” Draisaitl stated, noting that he's been happy to be honing his skills in the WHL at the moment.
“It’s definitely not a bad move. For me personally, it was (for) the best. I can work on my skill, develop as a player and work on all the little things,” he continued. “I’m definitely happy that it worked out that way.”
Draisaitl still keeps in touch with Oilers management, players and coaches.
“I’ve talked to the management, I’ve talked to the coaches and all that stuff. We have a plan on what I’ll be working on, what my expectations are and what I’m trying to follow,” he said, adding what those items of his game are that he is expected to be working on.
“The complete game, face-offs, the little things. My skating, my total skill. It’s just something I want to improve and get better at.”