Head Coach Dallas Eakins did some tinkering with the forward lines before tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a 6-5 overtime loss, the line of Ryan Smyth, Mark Arcobello and Jordan Eberle was a big bright spot for the Oilers.
"I thought they were excellent," said Eakins. "I thought they were moving. Smyth had great life in his legs tonight. Arcobello and Eberle were really controlling the puck well, they had some great net drives. The one goal that they hit Smyth on the back door was excellent. That was a real good line for us."
That line combined for three goals with Smyth finishing with two goals, Eberle with one and Arcobello finishing the game with three assists.
"I felt good," said Arcobello. "I was comfortable, I was making plays and confident with the puck. I think it was one of those games where things were going well for me. I felt pretty confident."
Although it was just the first time this line competed with one another, signs were that it was a good fit.
"We found some chemistry tonight and hopefully, if this is the way coach wants it, we'll produce," said Smyth.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins has been frank when speaking of forward Nail Yakupov's struggles early in the season.
Four games into his third season with the Oilers, the 20-year-old has registered 0 points and has is -3. Eakins decided to sit the young forward tonight for the game against Toronto.
"I think Yakupov will tell you the same thing," said Eakins. "He hasn't been up to speed. He's been out of sorts. The kid has such a great passion for the game. I've got a lot of time for Yakupov, he's going to be an excellent, excellent player in this league. But rather than let this keep going on and the struggle become deeper and deeper, I thought it was time to hit the reset button and get him out of the lineup and let him watch a game. I've always found it's a great way to get a new perspective on the game when you're struggling… That kid has such a passion and work ethic that he'll rebound quickly."
In an article in the National Post, writer Michael Traikos spoke with several Toronto Maple Leafs players who had been impacted by the Edmonton Oilers rookie head coach. Traikos says in all, 12 current Leafs players were coached and influenced by Dallas Eakins with the Marlies in the AHL.
"He really cared about the guys,” said defenceman Carl Gunnarsson. “I remember when [was] I called up, I got called into his office and he said, ‘Gunnar, get out of here. I don’t want to see you again.’ It’s funny, but that was his job to get guys out of the AHL.”
Nazem Kadri added:
“He was pretty instrumental in my development and my career. Obviously, I’m thankful for that. I just wish him the best of luck. Just not tonight."
It bodes well for the Oilers organization that their new bench boss leaves such an impact on the careers of young players. Especially considering the young talent on the Oilers roster in need of a little push.
Here is Nazem Kadri pre-game in Toronto:
The Oilers announced on Friday morning that they have sent Denis Grebeshkov to the Oklahoma City Barons on a conditioning assignment, also they assigned Brandon Davidson to OKC and recalled D Philip Larsen.
In two games with the Barons, Larsen has a goal and an assist for two points to tie for the team lead in each category.
The Oilers left the ice after their 4-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens feeling like they lost out on a good opportunity to earn the win.
They just didn't capitalize when they needed to.
"Sometimes it happens like that and it's just a matter of fighting through and the little things that make a difference in hockey games," said Oilers forward Ryan Smyth. "Whether it's a little chance you had or hit the post or whatever, you make your breaks in this game and unfortunately we didn't tonight."
The game also came down to breaks that didn't go their way.
"Instead of going off a post and not going in you'd like to see it go in and see what happens," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "Their first power play goes right between (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins') legs. We were in good position and it just happens to get through there."
Eakins told the media in his post game presser that tonight was probably the most solid game the team has played to date but things didn't work out the way they wanted.
"It's one of those things. You hate losing, it's disappointing, it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth but the same part of me says okay, we played better. We got better. That's an important thing as well but surrendering two points is not a fun thing."
The Oilers have several walking wounded but could get those players back soon, just not tonight against Montreal.
"(Denis Grebeshkov) is going to meet with the doctor tonight," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "We're hopeful that he gets cleared.
"(Corey) Potter was just getting out some extra work. I haven't gotten the 48 hour heads up that he's going to be joining us. (Jesse) Joensuu will travel with us on the road. He should be back to practice soon."
Sam Gagner also skated with the team but is still a ways off.
The Oklahoma City Barons, the Oilers American Hockey League affiliate, will make two appearances on Sportsnet 360 in Canada and NHL Network in the United States.
The Barons will appear on the network on Sunday February 23, at 2 p.m. MST when they play in Toronto against the Marlies.
They will make their second appearance on television on Sunday April 13, at Abbotsford. That game is also a 2 p.m. start time.
“It’s great exposure for our hockey club, players, as well as our staff,” Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson said in a press release. “Anytime you can be on national television is tremendous. It’s going to be great exposure for our team, and I’m pretty sure they will be fired up for those games.”
VIDEO: Post-Practice Video | Dallas Eakins | Ryan Smyth | Devan Dubnyk | Boyd Gordon
AUDIO: Dallas Eakins | Ryan Smyth | Devan Dubnyk| Boyd Gordon
After Jason LaBarbera replaced goaltender Devan Dubnyk as the starter on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils, Head Coach Dallas Eakins told the media that the team would be going back to Dubnyk in net for tomorrow night against Montreal.
Dubnyk has had a rough start to his season. In two starts and 92 minutes of play, he has a 6.52 goals against average, an 0-2 record and a .831 save percentage. However, the Oilers bench boss is confident that the net minder can bounce back tomorrow night.
"He takes it personally, which is a good thing, but it can also be your nemesis," said Eakins. You have to let it go and be free. Even though your goal is to have 82 great nights during the season, it's probably not going to happen and you've got to understand that. He's had a couple of goals that he'd like back. He's made some huge saves too along there.
"The goalie makes saves, well he's supposed to do that. He lets in a goal, well that's the highlight. That's what everybody points their finger at. I think he just needs to settle down, understand the process. He's excited to go back in the net tomorrow which is a good thing. He's not shying away from it and we'll see how he is."
Dubnyk is ready for another opportunity to prove himself.
"I know what I've got to do to go play, I've done it lots before," said Dubnyk. "I'm just excited to get out there and do it again tomorrow."
Oilers forward Nail Yakupov hasn't played the minutes one would normally expect in a former first overall pick. Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that's because the 20-year-old is still trying to find himself out on the ice.
"He's climbing a mountain right now," said Eakins. "He'll go up one peak and he can see the other peak but he's got to go down the valley first. He's having his ups and downs."
The ups and downs for Yakupov are to be expected in a young, skilled forward.
"I think he's shown flashes of some excellence and he's had a couple of dark periods as well. For me that's not uncommon for a player of his age. I find that the more experienced the player, the more level evenly they play every night. The more inexperienced the player, the more ups and downs you have from game-to-game and from shift-to-shift. We've got a lot of work to do with Yak but he's got so much upside. I've said it before, when he grabs that puck everybody leans forward in their seat."
Some NHL coaches prefer to always place one or more assistants up top in the press box area to watch the game and report to them. Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins is of a different opinion on the subject, preferring to keep his Assistant Coaches Keith Acton, Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger nearby on the bench during games as much as possible.
"I think it's important," said Eakins. "As many eyes as you can have. What we're doing, any game that (Director of Coaching Development) Billy Moores is available to attend, we've got him on a headset upstairs. That allows Kelly to be on the bench the whole game, which I like. On games when Billy is not here, if we're on the road or something, then Kelly will go up for just the first period.
"I've never got any mind-blowing information from the guy upstairs. You get little tidbits from it. I don't think it's important to have somebody up there the whole game or designate it. On the road we'll have Kelly go up for the first period. It's a lot of different things, it's an extra set of eyes. Kelly is kind of the rover a little bit. He's watching the defence, he's watching the forwards, he's in my ear about stuff that's coming from downstairs.
"Keith is firmly watching the forwards, Steve is changing the defence and watching the defence. For me, it's an extra guy on the bench to talk to the players. There's 18 skaters and you've only got three coaches back there and I've got a lot going on in my head. I think it's advantageous to have another guy to talk to the guys individually and to remind me of things."
"He handed me the list. Looked like he was right."
Both players scored in the shootout, propelling the team to its 5-4 win."