In an effort to spark the team on Sunday in Chicago, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan put Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back together with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl. It worked as the Oilers peppered 31 shots in the final two periods -- including 22 in the middle frame -- after only registering five shots on goal in the first.
McLellan put the three back together for practice on Tuesday in Anaheim. He was asked about moving a centre to the wing in order to create that line while going up against a team deep down the middle like the Ducks.
“We’re in a catch-22 situation. We’re of the belief that Anton and (Letestu) can provide us with some punch down there. They’re getting every opportunity to do it and I think that’s a great thing for them at this point. For us to be successful they’re going to have to provide it,” McLellan began.
“Our team was a different team when we put Leon back with Nuge and Hallsy. And the other thing that came out of the game was I thought Ebs got going a little bit, too. He’s getting closer to getting up to speed and feeling good about his game.”
McLellan said that he felt the team is staffed up to handle what the Ducks throw at them, so long as they don't lose anymore players. Including Hendricks, the Oilers have four forwards out at the moment.
“We just don’t want to lose any players right now. We’re so busy trying to find a few extra guys that the last thing we need to do is lose players. That’s a fine balance between the coaching staff and how we set our lines up.”
With a goal against Chicago on Sunday in his second game back, Jordan Eberle is getting back in the swing of things when it comes to being a contributor in the Oilers lineup. It was the first time that Eberle has started a season on the injured list.
“I knew it was going to be tough. I didn’t think it was going to be that tough,” Eberle chuckled. “Coming in against Pittsburgh, they’re a fast team. Ideally that was not where I wanted to start. I remember that first period, my neck was sore my head was on a swivel so much. The puck was moving so quick.”
Eberle scored a power play goal early in the third period to get Edmonton on the board against the 'Hawks.
“I thought I settled into that game a little better and then last game in Chicago I started to really feel good and get confident with the puck. Obviously, putting the puck in the net helps to get some confidence. I still have room to grow but I like where it’s going.”
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan also talked about the speed of the game in reference to Eberle.
“I think it’s a combination of everything. The game is going fast right now. When you haven’t been able to start at the starting line with everybody else, that affects you a lot. Ebs has poise, he has maturity, he’s experienced but nothing makes up for that pace.
“We talk a lot about his skillset. It’s cerebral, it’s quick hands, it’s making tight little plays. When the game is going fast that’s a hard thing to do when you’re not used to it.”
Oilers lines are:
Hall - Draisaitl - Nugent-Hopkins
Pouliot - Letestu - Yakupov
Purcell - Lander - Eberle
Gazdic - Miller - Pakarinen
UPDATE: Nail Yakupov left the ice about 25 minutes into practice but returned five minutes later.
Lines: Hall-Draisaitl-RNH, Pouliot-Letestu-Yak, Purcell-Lander-Eberle, Gazdic-Miller-Pakarinen. Hendricks left ice before battle drills.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) November 10, 2015
Oilers winger Matt Hendricks will not play tonight. He is not taking warm-ups.
No sign of Hendricks in warmup. Hunch Oilers will go with 7 D, as Davidson is taking warmup.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) November 9, 2015
Line combinations for the Oilers look to be the same as last game:
Hall - Draisaitl - Eberle
Pouliot - RNH - Yakupov
Hendricks - Letestu - Purcell
Lander - Miller - Pakarinen
On defence, Mark Fayne and Brandon Davidson have switched spots.
Klefbom - Fayne
Nurse - Sekera
Reinhart - Gryba
Ference - Davidson
On the other side, Marian Hossa is expected to return to the lineup tonight for the Blackhawks after missing the team's last three games.
It was a heart-racing finish as the Oilers battled to come back from a 2-1 deficit.
With what was perceived as a potential goal by Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot, Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff refused to let the puck penetrate his net.
“I didn’t know where it was,” admitted Zatkoff.
“I heard the crowd, they were cheering and I thought maybe it had gone over, but I looked at the ref and he didn’t point…I just tried to scoot forward, I had a feeling that when they went upstairs that you weren’t going to be able to see because of the way I was positioned but I’m pretty confident it didn’t cross over.”
The Penguins may have snatched their sixth win in a row, but it wasn’t without effort Zatkoff says.
“The guys did great, we blocked a lot of shots, even [the Oilers] power play there, we didn’t give them much of anything, we had big blocks, kept them to the outside. I thought all game there we were great,” said the keeper.
“Maybe a little lull there for five minutes when they scored in the second period, but after that I thought it was a solid effort and I thought we deserved to win.”
The Penguins have arrived in Oil Country.
Coming off a win on Wednesday over the Vancouver Canucks, Pittsburgh forward Eric Fehr says his line is still ironing out any kinks that could be improved.
“It’s definitely getting better every game,” he said.
“I don’t think the timing’s quite there. We’re still trying to get some chemistry with our line, but I felt a lot better in the third period of the last game and slowly getting a better feel for things.”
Returning from an elbow surgery that required a four to six month recovery, Fehr says his teammates have helped remove any doubts he may have had when getting back onto the ice.
“You want to get that first one right away, you want to start producing, you want to be a part of the win and I felt like I’ve done that the last two games,” said Fehr.
“You know its just all about feeling comfortable. The guys have really taken me into the room here and they’ve welcomed me. So it feels better, I feel comfortable, it’s a good group of guys.”
As they gear up for tonight's game, Fehr says the Penguins have to close the Oilers down, preventing them from any space that would allow a speed advantage.
“It’s a fast team and a team that can be very dangerous if you turn the puck over, so I think that’s something that we’re really going to have to focus on today,” he said.
“And it is unfortunate that McDavid’s not playing, you always want to play against those other teams best and see one of the great young stars, but obviously there’s a lot of guys that can fill in and a new coaching staff — it’s a solid team.”
The Oilers are on the ice for morning skate at Rexall Place and these are the lines they're going with at the moment:
V PIT: Hall-Draisaitl-Eberle, Pouliot-RNH-Yak, Hendricks-Letestu-Purcell, Lander-Miller-Pak. Sekera-Nurse, Klefbom-Davidson, Reinhart-Gryba.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) November 6, 2015
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