37-year-old Ryan Smyth seems to have found the fountain of youth this season. He is not only able to keep up with the speed of play on the ice, but has been a solid forward for the Oilers this season. It is all thanks to his preparation on and off the ice, which has allowed him to continue to perform.
“Over the course of the year, he’s been solid,” said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I think when you get up in the late stages of your career, you really start to focus in on everything that’s going to make your body churn. What you put in it, how you’re going to train and all of those things. He made a real big commitment to that this summer.
“He’s helped us on the penalty kill. I’ve tried to utilize him where he’s best on our power play. He’s one of those guys that is willing to go stand right in front of the net and take a beating. He’s been a solid guy and a guy that the rest of our group needs to look at how he carries himself in the community and how he carries himself with our fans. He’s a pro and we need a lot of our guys to emulate that.”
Smyth has six goals and eight assists in 34 games this season. He has already bettered his totals from last season, as he finished the 2012-2013 campaign with two goals and 11 assists in 47 games.
Slepyshev, Russia's captain, had four shots on goal and a minus-one rating. Yakimov was an alternate captain and had an even rating with one shot.
The Oilers announced that they have assigned centre Anton Lander to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
Both Oilers prospects at the World Junior Hockey Championship are currently playing for Russia -- Anton Slepyshev and Bogdan Yakimov. On Saturday morning, the Russians lost to Sweden 2-1 and will now play the loser of Canada vs. Finland for the Bronze Medal.
Neither player had any points in the game. In terms of plus/minus they both had an even rating. Slepyshev had three shots on goal and Yakimov had two.
Slepyshev is tied for the team lead in points with seven. He has two goals and five assists and is +7 with 16 shots on goal.
Yakimov has a goal and an assist, is +2 with nine shots on goal.
As per the lines the Oilers used during pre-game warmups in Anaheim, Ales Hemsky moves up to the second line.
Hall-RNH-Perron, Yak-Gagner-Hemsky, Smyth-Gordon-Jones, Gazdic-Arcobello-Joensuu. Ference-J. Schultz, N. Schultz-Hunt, Marincin-Petry.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) January 4, 2014
Tonight will mark the NHL debut of defenceman Brad Hunt. Hunt has been leading the way in Oklahoma City among blueliners with 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in 27 games. He also has a +1 rating and 14 penalty minutes.
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins talked about the recall, stating that he expects to play Hunt with a veteran defender.
“We are planning on giving Huntsy some experience to play with. We’re going to try that. We’re still kicking it around, but we may put him with Nick Schultz to start,” Eakins remarked.
“It’s an exciting time for Huntsy. I thought he had an excellent camp. I think it was the game in Vancouver he played and I thought he was excellent. I’m sure he’s excited to get his feet wet.”
Hunt echoed his coaches comments, stating that he was very excited to play his first career NHL game tonight.
“It’s an awesome, awesome feeling,” he said. “It’s my first time and you don’t really know what to expect when you get that call. It was really neat and I’m really excited.”
Hunt was asked if he felt like he would get that chance to come up to Edmonton, being an older prospect at age 25.
“I’m a firm believer in that you control the things that you can control. I just try to work as hard as I can and don’t really read too much into that kind of stuff. I guess it’s good to see all those guys down there, too, start to mature a little bit.”
Hunt has a history with Oilers GM Craig MacTavish. When Hunt broke into the AHL after completing his senior year at Bemidji State University in 2012, he signed a tryout contract with the Chicago Wolves. MacTavish was head coach of that team.
“After my season was over I got an opportunity to go there and Craig was the coach. I got to know him and he got to know me,” Hunt began. “We had a pretty good relationship down there and I played really well. That really helped me to get that AHL contract with the Wolves the next season.”
Hunt had a goal and five points in 14 games with Chicago and added a goal and four more points in five playoff games.
“It was a really good opportunity for me. He really gave me the opportunity to show that I was able to play in the American League. I’m so ecstatic right now to be here, I can’t find any words.”
The Oilers announced this morning that they have recalled defenceman Brad Hunt from the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL.
Hunt, 25, has never played a game in the NHL. This season he leads all Barons defencemen with 15 points (3 goals, 12 assists) in 29 games. Hunt has a +1 rating and 14 PIM.
Philip Larsen, who has been out with an illness, was placed on the IR.
Phillip Larsen moved to IR to make room for Hunt call-up. Hunt has 3-12-15 in 27 GP in OKC and is +1— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 3, 2014
Spoke to Brad Hunt he sounds very excited. Doesn't know if he is playing tonight. Has been playing right side all season.— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 3, 2014
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins sat his top line — David Perron, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — for a good chunk of the third period. The trio had a tough game, with all three finishing -3 on the night.
“They weren’t doing anything. That line, along with a couple of other forwards — Ebs plays on that line every once in awhile — we’re not a deep enough team to have the luxury of them having an off night. They can’t ever have an off night.”
Eakins did say that he liked the way the trio handled the adversity while they were being sat.
“They weren’t very good early and it got to a point where it was time for them to sit and watch. I will say this, I did like the way they handled it. They were still upbeat on the bench, they were encouraging their teammates. They weren’t sitting there sulking. That was encouraging to me but they can’t play like that. We need them every night for us to be in the game.”
The top line was out there for the opening draw in the third period.
“I talked to the line in between periods and told them what my concerns were, I expressed how important they are to our team success. And it was time to get them back out there.”
It was a familiar refrain, but Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins spoke after the game about how the team needs to get better at protecting the puck and not turning it over.
“The game was fine. We were playing fine until that second goal. It was laid on a platter, a gift, a simple play on the wall. Can’t happen. And now you’re down two against San Jose and now it’s big problems.”
The first San Jose goal was on a tough rebound but the second one came after Nail Yakupov turned the puck over near the Oilers blue line. Patrick Marleau took advantage and wired a shot past Dubnyk to complete the set of two goals in 49 seconds.
Eakins said he hoped that the team would be able to refocus quickly for their final game of the trip against the Ducks.
“You hope that we can turn the page quickly but losing like that, when you’re in the game. It’s 1-0 and then you gift them the second, third and fourth — and the second one hurt because it was so late in the first period. That’s the only thing you can do. You’ve got to take your lesson, take your lumps and get ready for the next game.”
San Jose is a team that the Oilers aspire to be some day. Eakins talked about that after the game.
“This is exactly where we want to get to, the type of game that they play. I’m sure our guys will rebound off that — the guys who had off nights,” said Eakins. “The one thing that’s consistent, when you look at these good teams, the teams that are at the top of their conference, it’s the simple things. They always have a great F-3 in the offensive zone. Not just for defence, but for offence. They never turn over pucks. If you’re going to beat them you’ve got to come the whole length of the ice. They defend first. It’s always defend first, that’s how they play and it’s the only way you can win. We have to step away from this whole idea that we’re skilled, we’re skilled, we’re skilled. We need to defend first and that’s it. We will never, ever have any success until we start with that mindset. And it’s something that we have to accept and embrace.”
Oilers captain Andrew Ference agreed with his head coach.
“They’re a very tough team. If you’re going to come in here and have any chance of success, you have to not make the game any harder on yourself than it already is,” Ference began. “When you’re playing against the top teams they create a lot of chances just because they are who they are. If you have any hope to come in here and make a game of it, you have to limit your mistakes.”
Eakins says that there are times when he sees from his team what he saw from the Sharks tonight.
“Believe me, we’ve seen flashes of it where we’ve come out and defended well. And we get rewarded when we do it. But the nights like tonight where we gift a couple goals and then we’re not able to defend it, we’re in big trouble.”