Oilers veteran forward Ryan Smyth has enjoyed a long successful career. After being drafted sixth overall in 1994, Smyth has played 15 seasons with the Oilers (1994-2007, 2011-2014).
With a power play goal last night against Columbus, Smyth moved just two back of Wayne Gretzky and three back of Glen Anderson for the number one spot on the Oilers' all-time career power play goals list.
Smyth said when he came into the league, he had no idea he would be mentioned with players of that calibre.
"No, not at all," said Smyth. "Obviously I've played more years here than they had but they're phenomenal hockey players and it's quite an honour to be mentioned with those names."
"I knew he was up high on the list," said Smyth's teammate Sam Gagner. "I didn't know how close but he's unbelievable at it, getting in front of the net and making sure that he's big and he's tipping pucks and just winning battles and he's been great at it for a number of years. It helps our power play. Hopefully he can get a couple of more here throughout the rest of the year and keep moving up the list."
Smyth said he was told last night how close he was and is honoured by the recognition.
"I've always thought it's been an honour and a privilege to play the game itself," said Smyth. "To contribute is one thing, but when you're with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Glen Anderson and the list goes on-and-on, to be mentioned with those names is quite an honour. It's a lot of fun and… we'll see what happens."
"We all have a lot of respect for Smytty in here and the way he's approached the game," said Gagner. "Just how hard he competes. You don't have the type of career he's had, the numbers he's put up, without a huge level of commitment and compete level and the way he brings it every night. That's amazing to watch."
Smyth now has 123 power play goals with the Oilers. He needs 126 to tie Glen Anderson's club record.
The Oilers are on the ice for practice and there are no changes to the lines from the past several days:
Ference - Petry
Belov - J.Schultz
N.Schultz - Potter
Philip Larsen is not skating once again.
Doesn't appear to be any changes to the #Oilers lineup from last night— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) November 20, 2013
The Oilers made no secret that they wanted to battle hard for their fans tonight, as the start to their home schedule has not gone very successfully. Tonight, the players in the dressing room said that the big win tonight was just as much for the fans as it was them.
"What is it minus 18 out there? And they still came to support us, which is great," said veteran forward Ryan Smyth. "We delivered for them. They've been waiting patiently and we thank them for that. It was a boost of confidence and it was nice to have them cheering right at the end with a little bit of a standing ovation. They deserve it just as much as we do."
"(The fans) deserve good hockey every night and they've been supportive of this team forever," said David Perron, who had four points in the 7-0 win.
"Hopefully we bring more performances like that for them."
When asked if a win like that would help him sleep better tonight, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins brought up the fans and how the win was good for them.
"I'm not sure you ever sleep when you're a coach," said Eakins. "You're always waking up, thinking about something. But hey, the wins have been few and far between, especially at home. It's good for us, but more importantly. it's good for our fans. They've been suffering as much as we have and it's nice to give them something to go home with tonight."
The Oilers are now 2-7-0 at home, but get another chance at a home victory on Thursday night as they host the Florida Panthers. Florida is 2-8-1 on the road this season.
After a great first period, in which the Oilers took a 3-0 lead over Columbus, the team seemed to drag early in the second period. So Head Coach Dallas Eakins called a timeout to get his team refocused and re-energized. He explained the decision after the game.
"I wasn't saying, I was yelling," said Eakins. "I was not excited about how we came out in the period. I was reminding them that they had done such hard things in the first period to get their success. When you do the hard things, the game becomes easy. When you come out in the second and you start playing an easy game, like not stopping on pucks, not winning battles, not supporting your teammates and all those things then the game becomes very hard.
"I wasn't going to let it go on any longer. They had played too well, they had shown that they were going to have great happens. I just thought, it's a timeout, I'm wasting it. Let's have a little chat right now. I thought they responded. I thought they immediately got better and refocused."
He's had an interesting start to his second season. He struggled with his offensive production and most recently made headlines with public statements regarding his lack of ice time.
However, the Oilers forward Nail Yakupov put all that behind him tonight, playing perhaps his best game of the 2013-2014 season.
"He was good," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "I thought he was pretty good in Calgary at times as well. He was good tonight. He was supporting the puck, he was skating, he was looking to the net… He's getting there. He's going to keep improving. It's just going to take a little time."
Yakupov finished the game with two points, a goal and an assist, while adding three shots on goal and a blocked shot in 16:51 of ice time. The 20 year-old also drew two big penalties in the game and was flying around the ice the entire game.
In his last five games, Yakupov has three goals and two assists. He has registered a point in three straight games.
The Oilers have emphasized the need to get off to a fast start at home. In this game, the Oilers did just that by scoring 2:37 into the game. Players in the Columbus dressing room talked about how that early goal hurt them.
"They scored one early and they just kept compounding," said Columbus forward Nick Foligno. "It doesn't seem like we had that pushback or that answer. We gave them an easy night. They really were able to skate around and do whatever they wanted. It's the wrong way to play."
As the Oilers host the Columbus Blue Jackets here are the forward lines from morning skate:
Belov- J. Schultz
Justin Schultz (groin) is skating and may play tonight.
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in net.
Oilers goaltender Jason LaBarbera has cleared waivers.
He will most likely be assigned to the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL.
On Friday, the Oilers assigned forward Mark Arcobello to Oklahoma City and recalled defenceman Oscar Klefbom. Given Arcobello's production this season, the news was surprising but necessary given the injury situation with defenceman Justin Schultz and with another blueliner banged up.
Arcobello didn't take the assignment the wrong way, understanding the need to make the move.
"I understand it," said Arcobello. "It was a roster move. It was a necessity. I am eager to get back in the lineup and hopefully it's sooner rather than later."
This morning, Arcobello didn't skate on a definitive line as the team ran the forwards in the same combinations as their game in Calgary, in which he didn't play.
The forward doesn't know if that will carry into tomorrow's game against Columbus, or if he will get his chance to return to the lineup.
"I'm not sure exactly what's going to happen for tomorrow, but I'll show up to the rink ready to play tomorrow."
Head Coach Dallas Eakins commented on Arcobello, reaffirming that he has a place on this team. However, when it comes to cracking the lineup, now that the Oilers forward group is healthy again, it is difficult for a player like Arcobello to claim a spot.
"Arco is a part of this team," said Eakins. "He knows that. He could very well be in the lineup tomorrow. We got arguing about forechecks and stuff this morning with the coaches, so when it came to the lines I just threw out how we had them last game and just left it at that.
"That's going to be Arco's battle, it's going to be a number of our guys' battle, it's going to be Will Acton's battle. Those guys that you were not sure if they were going to make the team in training camp, because it is very hard to knock guys out of the lineup who are and who have been established NHL players. They are going to have to fail greatly to take their spots."
Despite the uncertainty of Arcobello's place, one thing is certain; he belongs in the NHL and with the Oilers. Last week, Eakins told the media that he spoke with his forward and told him to get a more permanent housing situation in Edmonton.
The 25-year-old takes comfort in that reassurance but will continue to earn his place.
"It's a little bit more settling," said Arcobello. "But at the same time, I'm trying to really establish myself here as best I can. It's obviously still a work in progress, and I have to get back in the lineup first and then go from there. I'm constantly working on parts of my game that will help me establish a spot. It's a little bit of the same attitude, but it's comforting know I can get a place here and stick around for a little bit."
Arcobello has 12 points (2-10-12) in 20 games for the Oilers.