For two games in a row, Luke Gazdic has matched up against the opponent's 'heavyweight' and dropped the gloves. In Calgary, he fought Brian McGrattan to spark his team while they were behind. Last night, he had a tilt with Jared Boll as Columbus was looking for a spark.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins says Gazdic's fighting is just one of the reasons the team really likes the forward.
"It's not so much going out and fighting the other guy's tough guy," said Eakins. "He's more of a deterrent that's listen, you're not going to push our team around. The good thing about Luke is that he can get around on his feet, be able to get in on the forecheck and get pucks out of our zone and drive the net. Those are the real important things but it's great to have a guy like that on our team that has that skill in his back pocket."
Coming off a 7-0 victory it is hard to see the Oilers making any changes to that successful lineup. The team skated with the same forward lines and defensive pairings at practice this morning and could remain in that look when they host Florida tomorrow night.
Fans might be wondering when Mark Arcobello may return to the lineup or if lines could be shuffled moving forward. But Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that he's hesitant to make changes to a winning lineup.
"When you've got a mix that can win the game, I don't know how you change it," said Eakins.
"With the other lines, I hesitate with it. If you go and you mix them up and it goes south on you, you're instantly beating yourself up with, ' why did I change that lineup?' It worked, they played well. I'm always very hesitant. I think there's other times with coaches that wouldn't hesitate at all with it. But I think it's a reward process for the guys who did play, that sacrificed that night and got the win. I think it's important to reward the group and keep it going for as long as you can."
Oilers veteran forward Ryan Smyth has enjoyed a long successful career. After being drafted sixth overall in 1994, Smyth has played 15 seasons with the Oilers (1994-2007, 2011-2014).
With a power play goal last night against Columbus, Smyth moved just two back of Wayne Gretzky and three back of Glen Anderson for the number one spot on the Oilers' all-time career power play goals list.
Smyth said when he came into the league, he had no idea he would be mentioned with players of that calibre.
"No, not at all," said Smyth. "Obviously I've played more years here than they had but they're phenomenal hockey players and it's quite an honour to be mentioned with those names."
"I knew he was up high on the list," said Smyth's teammate Sam Gagner. "I didn't know how close but he's unbelievable at it, getting in front of the net and making sure that he's big and he's tipping pucks and just winning battles and he's been great at it for a number of years. It helps our power play. Hopefully he can get a couple of more here throughout the rest of the year and keep moving up the list."
Smyth said he was told last night how close he was and is honoured by the recognition.
"I've always thought it's been an honour and a privilege to play the game itself," said Smyth. "To contribute is one thing, but when you're with the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Glen Anderson and the list goes on-and-on, to be mentioned with those names is quite an honour. It's a lot of fun and… we'll see what happens."
"We all have a lot of respect for Smytty in here and the way he's approached the game," said Gagner. "Just how hard he competes. You don't have the type of career he's had, the numbers he's put up, without a huge level of commitment and compete level and the way he brings it every night. That's amazing to watch."
Smyth now has 123 power play goals with the Oilers. He needs 126 to tie Glen Anderson's club record.
The Oilers are on the ice for practice and there are no changes to the lines from the past several days:
Ference - Petry
Belov - J.Schultz
N.Schultz - Potter
Philip Larsen is not skating once again.
Doesn't appear to be any changes to the #Oilers lineup from last night— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) November 20, 2013
The Oilers made no secret that they wanted to battle hard for their fans tonight, as the start to their home schedule has not gone very successfully. Tonight, the players in the dressing room said that the big win tonight was just as much for the fans as it was them.
"What is it minus 18 out there? And they still came to support us, which is great," said veteran forward Ryan Smyth. "We delivered for them. They've been waiting patiently and we thank them for that. It was a boost of confidence and it was nice to have them cheering right at the end with a little bit of a standing ovation. They deserve it just as much as we do."
"(The fans) deserve good hockey every night and they've been supportive of this team forever," said David Perron, who had four points in the 7-0 win.
"Hopefully we bring more performances like that for them."
When asked if a win like that would help him sleep better tonight, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins brought up the fans and how the win was good for them.
"I'm not sure you ever sleep when you're a coach," said Eakins. "You're always waking up, thinking about something. But hey, the wins have been few and far between, especially at home. It's good for us, but more importantly. it's good for our fans. They've been suffering as much as we have and it's nice to give them something to go home with tonight."
The Oilers are now 2-7-0 at home, but get another chance at a home victory on Thursday night as they host the Florida Panthers. Florida is 2-8-1 on the road this season.
After a great first period, in which the Oilers took a 3-0 lead over Columbus, the team seemed to drag early in the second period. So Head Coach Dallas Eakins called a timeout to get his team refocused and re-energized. He explained the decision after the game.
"I wasn't saying, I was yelling," said Eakins. "I was not excited about how we came out in the period. I was reminding them that they had done such hard things in the first period to get their success. When you do the hard things, the game becomes easy. When you come out in the second and you start playing an easy game, like not stopping on pucks, not winning battles, not supporting your teammates and all those things then the game becomes very hard.
"I wasn't going to let it go on any longer. They had played too well, they had shown that they were going to have great happens. I just thought, it's a timeout, I'm wasting it. Let's have a little chat right now. I thought they responded. I thought they immediately got better and refocused."
He's had an interesting start to his second season. He struggled with his offensive production and most recently made headlines with public statements regarding his lack of ice time.
However, the Oilers forward Nail Yakupov put all that behind him tonight, playing perhaps his best game of the 2013-2014 season.
"He was good," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "I thought he was pretty good in Calgary at times as well. He was good tonight. He was supporting the puck, he was skating, he was looking to the net… He's getting there. He's going to keep improving. It's just going to take a little time."
Yakupov finished the game with two points, a goal and an assist, while adding three shots on goal and a blocked shot in 16:51 of ice time. The 20 year-old also drew two big penalties in the game and was flying around the ice the entire game.
In his last five games, Yakupov has three goals and two assists. He has registered a point in three straight games.
The Oilers have emphasized the need to get off to a fast start at home. In this game, the Oilers did just that by scoring 2:37 into the game. Players in the Columbus dressing room talked about how that early goal hurt them.
"They scored one early and they just kept compounding," said Columbus forward Nick Foligno. "It doesn't seem like we had that pushback or that answer. We gave them an easy night. They really were able to skate around and do whatever they wanted. It's the wrong way to play."
As the Oilers host the Columbus Blue Jackets here are the forward lines from morning skate:
Belov- J. Schultz
Justin Schultz (groin) is skating and may play tonight.
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in net.