Monday's practice in Leduc was a lot more mental than physical, with the team walking through a bunch of scenarios that it found itself in over the past two games. Oilers head coach Todd McLellan talked about the need for the team to refresh itself on these situations and also grab a bit of a breather during a tough portion of the schedule.
“We looked at where we were in the schedule and how many games we’ve played. We’ve had a taxing stretch and it’s not going to get any easier until the end of this week so we didn’t want to over-tax them physically. We wanted to challenge them mentally so we walked through some of the scenarios that we wanted to clean up,” he said.
“We’d given up a couple of goals the last two games — important goals off neutral zone face-offs where our responsibilities really lacked. We cleaned up some things penalty kill so we walked through that and a couple game-specific drills for what we think Minnesota might throw at us.”
McLellan added that these types of drills are nothing new to his coaching repertoire but perhaps they're required a little more often just given the players' familiarity with his strategies.
“We’d be doing it in San Jose. Now that group was seven years in some of them, they could do it in their sleep. This group is still learning to trust each other. Everybody has a good idea of what they’re supposed to be doing but as soon as one guy doesn’t quite get his job done, the trust breaks down and everybody’s trying to cover up and it leads to more mistakes.”
Defenceman Griffin Reinhart took part in a full practice for the first time since suffering his injury and moved one step closer to returning to the lineup.
“Griffin won’t be playing in Minnesota (Tuesday) but he’s getting close. You saw our practice today, it wasn’t a real active practice but he’ll get work in after,” said Coach McLellan.
Reinhart said he's hoping to return soon and hopes that the birds-eye perspective he's had for a handful of games helps him as well.
“It’s getting closer. It’s not very fun watching, but at the same time, from up top the game looks different. You can learn a lot from up there and sometimes you feel like you’re getting better from watching. But hopefully (I) get back in the lineup pretty soon.”
The former Oil Kings blueliner was most frustrated with the fact that he was just starting to establish himself in the Oilers lineup when the injury occurred.
“It’s kind of unfortunate, just starting to kick my career off and getting three games in a row. I felt like I was getting better every game and it’s kind of a setback but it shouldn’t be anything too hard to overcome.”
One positive, if there is any, is that the injury is one that Reinhart has had before so he's familiar with the recovery process.
“I’ve had this injury before but it’s not something where surgery is required or it’s a chronic injury. It’s usually about the same timeline that I’m on right now. I guess I’m used to playing with it a little bit so that’s good for me. I know how to prepare for it and settle it down.”
Griffin added that he is looking forward to getting back together with the team as he will be on the plane to Minnesota and will skate at Morning Skate at the Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday.
“It’ll be nice. It kind of sucks going in early in the morning and practicing by yourself — or with Ebs too — but not even being out with them. It’s been a bit distant from the guys so it’ll be nice getting back with them.”
Justin Schultz is not on the ice but seven other defencemen are: Brandon Davidson, Eric Gryba, Oscar Klefbom, Andrej Sekera, Andrew Ference and Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart is skating with the team at a full practice for the first time since his injury.
Forward lines are the same as last game:
The Oilers announced that they have recalled winger Andrew Miller from the AHL Bakersfield Condors. In four games, Miller has a goal and two assists for three points, including the first-ever goal in Condors history.
In the corresponding move, they placed forward Matt Hendricks (foot) on injured reserve.
The second unit had Benoit Pouliot, Mark Letestu and Nail Yakupov with Andrej Sekera and Connor McDavid on the point.
The biggest change was Mark Letestu being added, but the veteran centre said that being on the power play is not something foreign to him.
"This is one of my roles," he said. "In Pittsbugh, I played on the power play and in Columbus played on the power play on the point. That's what I did before I was an Oiler. There's no nerves going into this, this is what my job is. I play in a lot of situations and a lot of different roles and I've largely been successful as a power play player. I'm happy for the opportunity and hopefully get the guys going."
Letetsu added that his faceoff prowess will be a big help to the club, particularly in terms of keeping possession of the puck and keeping it in the offensive zone.
"I think that's one of the obvious things for me to get out there. We're going to get out there and win the draw early. Hopefully it'll allow us to get at least the first 20 seconds in the zone rather than chasing back. The face-off will definitely be a big key to me being out there."
He added that even though he's taking the draws, he'll be dropping back to the point once the unit gets set up.
"I'm probably actually going to be viewed as the other defenceman in that unit. For right now, I'll be one of the guys on the flank, probably shooting and delivering pucks and making the plays for the guys."
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan talked about where the team is at at this point in the season, with four straight regulation losses giving them a 0-4-0 record to start.
“I’m not surprised — I’m a little disappointed — but I’m not surprised," McLellan began. "The players who haven’t been here for very long, they’re wondering and they’re not sure. Players who have been here for awhile they’re going to be the big ones who are going to dictate where we go, how they react to the four losses."
From the coach staff's standpoint, the team is making progress but the players cannot afford to get down on themselves, particularly those players who have been around for the past three to five seasons.
"If they put their heads down and don’t stick their chest out it’s going to make it even tougher. If they hold their heads high and come and compete as hard as they can and give us an opportunity for success then we’ll be okay.
“We knew that we had a lot of work to do here and that hasn’t changed.”
As for positives, McLellan feels that the team has played well defensively for the most part but still need to avoid the mental breakdowns every now and then if they want to compete with heavy, veteran squads like Nashville and St. Louis.
“I think that the forwards have to be able to help the D out as well. We’ve been a fairly strong defensive team. Not perfect, but fairly strong for three or four games. Mistakes were made and mature teams capitalized on it. Do we need to get better? Absolutely. We need to be cleaner coming out, we need to be faster coming through the middle of the rink. A lot of that is on the defensive play, not just the defenceman. But that’s not the only area. We’ve got a lot of areas to improve on.”
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan spoke with the media following practice on Friday about being named head coach of the Under-23 Team North America at next fall's World Cup of Hockey.
“It’s an exciting opportunity. I had such a great experience this past spring in the Czech Republic with the National Team. It left such a good taste in my mouth to be around the players and to have a chance at success. I’m looking forward to this opportunity," said McLellan, adding he hasn't had a lot of time to think about it. "It’s so far away, I haven’t put a lot of thought into it. Obviously, all the time and energy I’ve got is being put towards what I’ve got going on here and that’s something that will continue to be our focus and needs to be our focus going forward.”
McLellan was asked if he felt it might be a disadvantage for him to be away from the team for a majority of training camp next year while being away in Toronto coaching the Under-23 squad. His answer was two-fold.
“I feel, with having a staff that’s familiar with myself — coming from San Jose is a benefit. We’ll be a year into the program," McLellan began. "We should be polished, or at least working towards advancing our game and our program so I feel good about that.”
He also added that the way the schedule works out, the opening round ends on September 22. Only the top-two groups out of four advance from each pool and NHL Training Camps are set to commence immediately after that, on September 23.
“From a selfish standpoint, you hope you miss training camp because that means the young team has played very well in that tournament. But if it doesn’t have success, I think we can be back for opening day of training camp as well," he said. "The NHL and the Player’s Association have done a good job — Hockey Canada, USA Hockey and the rest of the federations — of planning the tournament and setting it up so a lot of players and coaches can be back if they don’t have success.”
The Oilers head coach was also asked about coaching a younger team. He pointed out that it's not a lot different from what he's doing right now here in Edmonton.
“It will be, when you compare it to the World Championships, but not a lot different from what we have going on here. You’ve got Reinhart and Connor and Nuge and Leon and Darnell Nurse. Those types of young players that are involved in the organization.
“It’s a pool of players that we’re going to be growing up with over the next three or four years.”
The NHL announced today that Oilers head coach Todd McLellan will be coaching the Under-23 North American team at the World Cup next September.
The NHL's official press release had a quote from Oilers GM and Team North America GM Peter Chiarelli:
"We are excited to name our head coach and management team for our World Cup squad. They all know what it takes to win at the highest level and we're looking forward to working together for next September's competition."
Read the Entire Press Release Here >>
Gazdic-Letestu-Slepyshev (with Klinkhammer rotating in)
UPDATE: Ben Scrivens has cleared waivers and has been assigned to the AHL.
Goaltender Ben Scrivens cleared waivers and has been assigned to the AHL's Bakersfield @Condors.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 5, 2015
The Oilers have placed goaltender Ben Scrivens on waivers for the purpose of assignment.
Scrivens had a 15-26-11 record last season with a 3.16 goals-against average and .890 save percentage in 57 games played. The season before, he was 9-11-0 with a 3.01 GAA and .916 save percentage for Edmonton in 21 games.
Overall in 78 games, Scrivens has a 3.12 goals-against average and .898 save percentage with two shutouts and a 24-37-11 record.