Martin Marincin has been getting progressively better in his current stint with the Oilers. The 21-year-old defenceman has played eight games on his recent call-up with a +3 rating.
“The kid’s shown a great amount of growth early. Usually when you get a call-up like that, a lot of times what happens is they give you a couple of good games and then everything settles down for them and they become not so effective. And you usually see them heading to the minors for some more seasoning,” Eakins began.
“But Marty’s gone the other way so far. He’s gotten better each night, he’s more comfortable, he’s not on the ice for a lot of chances against, which is encouraging.”
He played a career high 22:44 against Chicago on Sunday and was +2.
“He’s getting a taste of going out against some top players and he’s been able to handle them with his size and especially that good stick of his. We’re hopeful he continues the path of improvement every day.”
The Oilers have completed 48 games, which is the equivalent of what they had all of last year's lockout-shortened campaign. With 35 points, they are 10 points behind what last year's club had. Coach Eakins gave his thoughts on the year so far.
“Back in the summer, when this opportunity arose, one of the main decisions was the group of young players and an opportunity for them to grow with me and for me to grow with them.
“Probably the main thing for me was the organization and the people running it. That was probably the biggest deciding factor for me.
“I knew there was going to be some pain involved here but I didn’t think we’d have this many struggles. I think the main struggle of the season goes back to what I like to call the perfect storm early on. We are growing. I think I’m getting better as a coach. I think the core of our players are getting better. And I’m very hopeful that in a short amount of time we’ll look back on this first 48 games or this first season and understand that that adversity has prepped us for better days ahead.”
MONDAY VIDEOS: Dallas Eakins | Jesse Joensuu | Boyd Gordon | Devan Dubnyk | Audio
Jesse Joensuu met up with the team in Dallas after missing the past couple of games due to the flu. The practice on Monday was Joensuu's first with the team since coming down with the flu last Wednesday.
“It was a seasonal flu or something. I was sick for a couple of days. It started Wednesday when we had a game against St. Louis. Just the normal flu, I guess,” Joensuu remarked.
The Finnish winger added that he probably needed a few skates under his belt before he would feel ready to return to game action.
“This was the first skate and you could definitely feel like I had been off the ice for a couple of days,” he continued. “When you don’t skate for a couple days it feels like — a lot of the guys could probably tell you — it feels like you haven’t skated for half a year. It just takes one or two days.”
Coach Eakins added his thoughts on Joensuu, and also on Corey Potter who has been recovering from a groin injury and also skated on Monday.
“Jesse’s had the flu. Today’s been the first day he practiced so I’ll be hesitant to insert him. Potter’s been out for quite awhile. We think he still needs a little bit of work so we’ll basically stick with the same lineup.”
Boyd Gordon scored the craziest goal you'll ever see on Sunday in Chicago. After dumping the puck down the ice, he went to the bench and watched as the Blackhawks pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker while on the power play and then proceeded to have Patrick Kane fire it the length of the ice and into his own open net.
"I still don't really know anything about it," said Gordon. "I was sitting on the bench for a minute and then the puck went in. I didn't even heard it announced and someone told me that they gave me credit for it."
Because Gordon was on the bench, he did not get a "plus" for the goal even though he did score it. The last time an NHL player scored a goal but didn't get a "plus" was on November 14, 2003 in a game between the Washington Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. Vincent Lecavalier dumped the puck in and went for a change. Sergei Gonchar retrieved the puck and tried to clear it out but instead banked it off the skate of his goaltender Olaf Kolzig and in.
The goal scored by Patrick Kane in his own net on Sunday (credited to Boyd Gordon) was a pretty crazy goal, but not the craziest that Devan Dubnyk has seen. He talks about a goal that he let in late in the third period when he was playing for the AHL's Springfield Falcons that cost him a shutout:
"I got scored on from the other end of the ice in Springfield once," said Dubnyk. "We were on a four-on-three power play. They dropped the puck and I was looking at the bench. The pulled the faceoff back and the guy one-timed it right off the face-off. I looked back and by the time I looked back the puck was way up in the air in the stands and I didn't know where it was.
"I was just standing in the middle of my net and it went into the upper half of the net right by my shoulder. I never saw it go in. That was to break my shutout with like seven minutes left in the game.
"It hurt a bit but it didn't cost me. That was probably the weirdest that I've been on the ice for."
Several weeks ago, Coach Eakins remarked that he had every start mapped out between that point and the Olympic break but did admit that he strayed from the plan by going with Dubnyk in Chicago on Sunday. Eakins said that going back to Bryzgalov puts them back on schedule.
“Bryz will play tomorrow. We’ll keep that schedule in place but continue to monitor it. There’s good and bad in having a schedule. It’s good because we have the plan and the guys know they’re playing. The thing I don’t like about the schedule is sometimes it’s better to just have the straight-on competition.
In the interview, Eakins seemed to emphasize that he will certainly lean towards going with the hot hand at this point moving forward.
"If you play well and you’re winning, you’re going. I’m thinking that’s the best way to go back to. If they play well and you can win then we’ll keep you running. We’ll head back to Bryz tomorrow and see where it goes from there."
“We think both guys will play tomorrow. Just a maintenance day on a couple of bangs that they got. Gagner blocked that shot late and so his foot was pretty sore. Taylor should be fine for tomorrow,” Eakins remarked.
The head coach was asked if he was going to make any changes to the top line, which has been Hall on left, Nugent-Hopkins down the middle and Gagner at right for the past two games. He said he would not.
“I’m going to go right back to that same line. I thought they were developing a little bit of chemistry.”
Eakins did some line shuffling Sunday in Chicago but that was more because Gagner was playing so well and less because he thought the top line wasn't clicking.
“I thought Sam was making some plays and I thought he looked more comfortable. I actually took him off that line during the game a little bit last night because I was trying to jump start some other guys. I thought Sam was playing fairly well.”
The lines are the same as were used in Sunday night's game in Chicago:
Jesse Joensuu is skating with the team for the first time since early last week. We will speak with him after practice to find out his status. We will also find out the status of Hall and Gagner, who are not on the ice.
Lines at practice today: 64-26-14. 57-27-83. 20-94-28. 93-6. Not skating: Hall and Gagner.— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) January 13, 2014
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.