After a slow start to the season, former Oilers winger Ales Hemsky is finding his groove as a member of the Dallas Stars.
The 31-year-old Czech spent his first 11 NHL seasons in Oil Country before being dealt to the Ottawa Senators at the 2014 trade deadline and signing with Dallas during the off-season.
Edmonton drafted Hemsky 13th overall in 2001 and the crafty RW went on to score 477 points in 652 games with the Oilers, plus 17 more in 24 games during the team's 2006 playoff run.
Hemsky picked up an assist in his first game with the Stars on October 9, but then endured a 14-game point drought before chipping in with four helpers in the team's last five games. He had his first multi-point game with his new team on November 20, recording a pair of assists in a 3-1 win over Arizona.
"I've been playing with (Jason) Spezza again the last four or five games… things have been going better and hopefully we can build from that," he said following Tuesday's morning skate. "I'm just trying to get better every day and help the team."
Since the Oilers had already played the Senators twice prior to last season's trade deadline, this will be Hemsky's first game against his former squad.
"It'll be probably weird, but probably better to play first here than in Edmonton," said Hemsky, who's also one point away from 500 in his NHL career. "I've been having a lot of chances, but none have gone in. Hopefully tonight I can get one."
There will be no easing his way back into NHL action for Oilers winger Luke Gazdic.
The 25-year-old will make his season debut tonight in Dallas after off-season shoulder surgery delayed the start of his 2014-15 campaign.
As a former Stars prospect, Gazdic is familiar with Dallas' marquee body-bangers Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt, and fully expects to collide with them at some point tonight in his return to action.
"I know them both well and have played with both of them," Gazdic said of his former teammates with the AHL's Texas Stars. "They're both pretty hard-nosed players who only play with one gear, so I wouldn't expect them to play with any less whether I'm in the lineup or not."
Gazdic will make his season debut on a line with rookie centre Leon Draisaitl and third-year winger Nail Yakupov. Draisaitl was on the receiving end of a hit from behind courtesy Chicago Blackhawks veteran defenceman Michal Rosival last game, and Gazdic said those incidents won't happen again without consequences as long he's on the ice.
"I can't see too many guys wanting to take an extra shot at him," said Gazdic, who had one fight (vs. Toronto's Frazer McLaren) during his five-game AHL conditioning stint earlier this season. "I'm sure I'll have his back tonight."
Oilers Vice Chairman Bob Nicholson spoke about Pat Quinn on Monday, who passed away on Sunday.
"On behalf of the Oilers, and especially myself and my wife Lorna, we'll never forget all the great summers we had together," Nicholson began. "(Pat) will always be one of my best friends. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Quinn family."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins and winger Jordan Eberle also gave their thoughts on the passing of Quinn.
“It’s a sad day with the passing of a great coach, Pat Quinn. A guy that I looked up to and has been somewhat of a mentor over the years. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” Eakins remarked.
Jordan Eberle won a Gold Medal with Quinn at the World Junior Hockey Championship and World Under-17s.
"Pat was a guy I have fond memories of," said Eberle. "I had him in the World Juniors in 2008 and the World Under-17. I remember being 17 years old and he was our coach and walking in scared to talk to him because of the presence that he was.
"The way he conducted himself he had a lot of respect for sure. It's tough to see him go. Condolences to his family and the organization here he was a big part of, too."
Viktor Fasth also provided his thoughts on goaltending coach Freddie Chabot being relieved of his duties on Monday following practice in Leduc.
"It's a tough day," said Fasth. "We have to play better and it feels like we let Freddie down. We've got to do better than we've done so far, from me and the whole team. We've got to be better.
"We lost a lot of games lately here and I don't think anybody is happy with their performance."
David Perron spoke to the media after practice on Monday in Leduc, addressing trade rumours out in the media with his name front and centre.
"I think everyone's aware of it and obviously my name popped up but it doesn't matter," he said. "I'm actually glad in a way that it's me because I know I can handle it and I'll work through it. We want to make this thing right here and Edmonton.
"I think everyone in the room is aware that when we have the kind of record, stuff can happen. It's not something we want. We want to go on this road trip and have a real good performance and turn this thing around."
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins provided his thoughts on the dismissal of goaltending coach Freddie Chabot following practice Monday in Leduc:
"It's the nature of the business. Sometimes it's not always right but sometimes it's necessary. We wish Freddie well. He's a hard-working guy. We believe he'll land on two feet and we're thankful for his service to our organization."
Eakins also spoke about Dustin Schwartz, who replaces Chabot as goaltending coach.
"It's just to the point where we've been struggling at the position and we felt that we needed to do a correction there," he said. "Right or wrong, it's the nature of the beast and not always fair but I'm taking it personally, our players are taking it personally and our goaltenders are taking it personally."
Following practice on Monday in Leduc, Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens met with the media and spoke about goaltending coach Fred Chabot getting relieved of his duties.
"It's a terrible day," Scrivens began. "Vik and I, we both feel terribly about what's happened. Neither of us will come out here and say we're pleased with our performances so far this season. As an individual, I've got to elevate my game and I thought I was working hard to do that and still feel I'm on the right path but it's unfortunate."
Scrivens felt responsible for what ended up happening to Chabot.
"I take it personally that Freddie took responsibility for the work that Vik and I had done," he continued. "Whether it's fair or not, it's something that happened. For Vik and I we've got to keep working hard and got to stop some pucks."
The Oilers goalie also has a history with new goalie coach Dustin Schwartz, dating back to his days with the Spruce Grove Saints.
"He's a great guy," said Scrivens. "Great man, great husband and father. Good character guy. Works extremely hard. I had the pleasure of working with him during the summer a couple of times. He's a real student of the game but demands a high level of execution and work ethic. I'm excited to be working with Schwartzie but obviously not thrilled for Freddie that it had to end up like this."
Oilers have relieved goaltender coach Frederic Chabot of his duties; Dustin Schwartz will replace Chabot in the role.
Schwartz is the Edmonton Oil Kings goaltending coach.
Bob Stauffer expands more on Dustin Schwartz and his training as a goaltending coach in our regular Monday Morning Inbox feature (click here).
The #Oilers have relieved goaltender coach Frederic Chabot of his duties. Dustin Schwartz will replace Chabot in the role.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 24, 2014
For those asking Dustin Schwartz has had success working with Laurent Broissot and Tristan Jarry with the Oil Kings...— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 24, 2014
...he is from the Optimum Reaction Sports goaltending tree...played 5 seasons at U of A (2000-05) and in WHL (Medcine Hat/Red Deer)— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 24, 2014
Ference - Petry
Marincin - Fayne
Aulie (Nikitin) - Schultz
Hall-RNH-Eberle. Purcell-Arcobello-Perron. Joensuu(Gazdic)-Draisaitl-Yakupov. Hendricks-Gordon-Pinizzotto. Lines in Leduc this morning.— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) November 24, 2014
Ference - Petry. Marincin - Fayne. Aulie (Nikitin) - Schultz on D today.— Tom Gazzola (@TomGazzola) November 24, 2014