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
Hall - RNH - Draisaitl
Pouliot - McDavid - Yakupov
Korpikoski - Pakarinen - Purcell
Gazdic - Lander - Letestu
Nurse - Sekera
Klefbom - Davidson
Ference - Gryba
Extras: Reinhart, Fayne
Looks like pairings will be Nurse-Sekera, Klefbom-Davidson, Ference-Gryba. Reinhart & Fayne appear to be extras.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) October 31, 2015
Matt Hendricks skated with the entire team for the first time since a foot injury sidelined him on October 18. He's missed the last five games.
Hendricks stated to the media following Thursday's morning skate that he feels he's anywhere from three to seven days away from a return to the lineup.
Best case scenario for @MattHendy26's return from his foot/ankle injury is three to four days, but he says it could be up to a week.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 29, 2015
One day after being denied of what looked like a sure game-tying goal with 3.8 seconds left from certain camera angles, the Oilers were talking about moving on.
“We have to shake it off. If we spend too much energy and focus on that, it’s in the past right now. We have a new game tomorrow and we’ll focus on that for sure,” said defenceman Oscar Klefbom.
Coach McLellan added that he obviously wasn't happy with the call but felt it was important to compose himself.
“I may be calm on the outside and not so happy on the inside but there’s nothing we’re going to do to change it. If we’re asking our team to have composure and to park situations or plays that maybe go against us — bad calls. We have to do the same as a management team and coaching staff. We’re not happy but we can move on.”
The bench boss also played devil's advocate.
“There can be a debate. I know if I was an L.A. King I’d be saying the right call was made. It can go either way. The call’s done, it’s over, we’ve moved on. Nothing we can do to change it now.”
Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz left the game on Sunday 8:18 into the second period and did not return. The Oilers didn't have any further clarification on the extent of Schultz's injury following practice in Leduc on Monday.
“He had an evaluation this morning and we’re awaiting the results. He’s likely not playing tomorrow if he’s not on the plane so we’ll deal with it after that,” Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said, adding that as a result of not knowing the extent of the injury, the next steps haven't been decided such as whether the team might call another defenceman up.
“Pete (Chiarelli) and I just met a couple minutes ago to discuss what the next step will be. We want to find out where Justin is before any decisions are made.”
McLellan added that he has been happy with the play of Schultz so far, with the exception of one or two hiccups along the way.
“Justin’s made strides for us all throughout training camp. He had a little bit of a setback against Washington but real good strides. His game is improving defensively. He’s trying to figure out the offensive part of it but I think he’s an important piece to our potential success now and moving forward. We’d like to see him get healthy and back as quick as possible.”
With Schultz's injury coming partway through the game on Sunday, the rest of the five healthy blueliners had to step it up. Oscar Klefbom was asked about losing his defence partner.
“Obviously yesterday it was tough to lose Justin. He’s one of the best defencemen, I think, on this team. It’s tough without him but we have eight good defencemen who are ready to go every night so we’ll be fine,” said Klefbom.
The Oilers defenceman did add that he’s glad to be getting some additional power play time. In fact, his unit was on the ice when the Oilers scored the tying goal late in the third period on Sunday night against the Kings.
“It felt good to be on the ice and it was a nice goal. I felt pretty bad it wasn’t enough to go to overtime.”
McLellan touched on the team's decision at the start of camp to carry eight defencemen. It's a decision that right now is paying off with two injured.
“Eight’s not ideal but eight sometimes is important when it comes to injury, when it comes to developing young defencemen. We talked about asset management with Brandon Davidson and when you have a veteran that’s sometimes not playing like Andrew’s been in that situation, it makes it tough for him and it’s not always pleasant,” McLellan began.
“But he’s handled it rather well. He’s a professional. Those are some of the headaches with eight. Some of the positives are that we get everybody involved in reps. We save a little bit of energy on them and we get a chance to figure out what we want to do as a group.”
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."