The Oilers find themselves in last place in the Western Conference and with Hockey Canada's roster announcement set for tomorrow, there is some speculation that the team's performance hasn't helped Taylor Hall's case to make Canada's Olympic Team.
"We certainly haven't helped him, that's for sure," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "This morning was probably the first morning that I was watching a show where they had all the names and they were talking about who would be and who couldn't be and when I see some of the names, yeah that guy is a good player but he's playing with these players and their team is doing this well. That's the one thing that pains me a little bit is if somehow Taylor finds himself off of it, I'm not sure we've helped him very much where he's helped our team a great deal.
"When you look at the Canadian team and what they have to select from, holy crap, there's some great players there."
Hall weighed in this morning about the team's performance possibly being a factor in his making the team or not. However, he says that he is more focused on the Oilers than Hockey Canada.
"It's probably not a positive that we are in the standings where we are, but I think my focus really, for the most part, has been on what we're doing here not Team Canada," said Hall. "Like I've said before, I'd love to represent my country. It's such an honour, especially at the Olympic level. But, my focus is here. I think I've played well and I think I've improved steadily as the season's gone on and I think we'll see how much I've improved tomorrow."
Hall has certainly made his case to be considered for the Olympic team. In 38 games this season, Hall has 16 goals and 25 assists. His 41 points are tied for 15th in the NHL in that category. He is third in scoring amongst all left wingers behind Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz and Chicago's Patrick Sharp.
"Well, I definitely think he's earned to be in the mix," said Eakins. "From the teams that we've played, on the left side, each and every night he's, if not the best guy on the left side, he's right there with the other skaters. How he can't be a strong consideration, I don't understand that. We're hopeful with fingers crossed, those kinds of things, that… we've talked a lot about his play this year. He's obviously a threat every time he steps on the ice. I think he is over a point-per-game, I think, by a couple. Not too many guys can say that. His defensive game has gotten better. So, all that bodes well for him…"
Hall says he has been given no indication by those in charge of making the decisions on where he stands for roster consideration.
"Nothing negative or positive," said Hall. "I've been kind of in the dark this whole time, so we'll see tomorrow."
Hockey Canada will unveil their 2014 Olympic team tomorrow morning at the Toronto Maple Leaf's practice facility.
The Edmonton Oilers decided to try something different this morning. Following their 5-3 win over Tampa Bay last night, Head Coach Dallas Eakins told the media that the team would practice at 8 a.m. today, which they did.
"It's a little early," said Taylor Hall. "For a guy like myself, I haven't put on the shin pads that early since minor hockey, but it was a good practice. I think everyone was upbeat and it's going to be nice getting home pretty early today."
The team appeared to have some jump this morning, despite the earlier start to practice. They went for about 50 minutes today. Eakins weighed in on practice and what made his decision to change times.
"Man, I thought they were good," said the coach. "Boy, they were sharp and we were moving the puck and had some jump in our step. I actually quite liked it from a practice standpoint and a work ethic standpoint. The whole thought process is a bunch of different things. I'm an early riser. I pull out of my driveway very early and I see my neighbours and people along the road and as you're going, you're thinking and finding inspiration.
"It's like… I wonder if that guy likes his job? It's six-o-clock and he's heading out, or that lady, and you hope that they do like it. Then you find yourself, I'm going to work. I'm not sure I'm going to work. I absolutely love coming to the rink every day and then you think about the players and what a privilege it is to play in the league. With us coming off of Christmas and New Years, the great people in this city and fans are all getting back to work. This is kind of the week which, if you've had your holidays, you're back into the grind and I just thought that this would be a good week for us to… Holidays are over, let's move practice up. Let's be like everybody else in this city and get up and go to work early.
"I say go to work early, but these guys play. We play a game for a living and I get to coach for a living. I just thought we'd change it up for the week and have a few early practices to be more like the fans and the people of this city who get up and go at it and grind it out every day."
No Corey Potter (groin) or Philip Larsen (illness)
The team is upbeat despite an early start to practice and the team is participating in some full-ice one-on-one drills and power play work.
As first tweeted by Bob Stauffer, the Oilers Power Play units look like this:
4-93-14-57-19 and 83-89-94-59-64
Oilers working on PP. 2 units: 4-93-14-57-19, 83-89-94-59-64— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) January 6, 2014
The Oilers are hoping that 21-year-old defenceman Martin Marincin is the real deal. They took him in the second round, 46th overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
After playing the past four seasons in Oklahoma City with Barons, Marincin earned his first call up to the NHL earlier this season. This is his second stint with the Oilers, and he has shown improvement since his initial time in Edmonton.
“He’s more assertive,” said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “I think when you get that first one you’re nervous, you don’t dare want to make a mistake and I think you play hesitant a lot of times. When we sent him back, Craig (MacTavish) and I sat with him and gave him a very clear outline of what we needed him to be better at and most of it comes from being assertive and playing like he does in the American League.
“He’s come back and he’s done that for the most part. He’s got a lot of growing to do, he’s got a lot to learn about the game, but the thing he gives us back there is size. He’s not a heavy guy yet. He still looks like boy but his range with that stick, he can get us out of trouble with that long, long range.”
At 6-foot-4 and 188 pounds, the Oilers are hoping Marincin can develop into a big defenceman that they need on their blue line.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says he has a plan for rotating his two goaltenders. Ilya Bryzgalov has started six of the last eight games for the team, but that doesn’t mean he has overtaken Devan Dubnyk as the team’s number one netminder.
“No,” Eakins said when asked if Bryzgalov was the number one based on his recent stretch of starts. “It just means he’s played six of the last eight. Both of our goalies are more than capable of being the number one guy. (Dubnyk) has already had a lot of starts. We’re just trying to get Bryz up to speed. I think he’s earned his starts and it’s important to get a guy like him some workload now. His body is ready for it and we’ll see how he reacts.”
Bryzgalov made 24 saves in tonight’s 5-3 win over Tampa Bay. Dubnyk has 10 of the Oilers wins this season in 30 games while Bryzgalov has three in his 12 games.
Oilers winger Jordan Eberle returns to the lineup after sitting out one game with a knee injury, following a run in with Logan Couture in San Jose.
“It was awkward,” said Eberle of his collision with Couture. “I just tried to step up and hit him and just felt my knee tweak a bit. I think the adrenaline of the game kept going. I felt all right to play then the next day, it hit me. Like most injuries, it was really, really sore. It’s tough to sit out, but you kind of get a (different) perspective from up top and I’m happy to be back.”
In 43 games this season, Eberle has 12 goals and 21 assists for 33 points, which is tied for second on the team.
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.