Two hours before puck drop, Dallas Eakins spoke to the media about what lineup changes that could be expected tonight.
Sam Gagner is out as the ankle injury which he suffered in Minnesota has continued to linger.
"Gags was hurt (Thursday in St. Louis) but sucking it up. We need to build that into our culture here. But it's not good for him to play tonight," said Eakins.
In his place, Anton Lander will get what is really his first opportunity with the Oilers to play in an offensive role. He will play on what has been the team's top and best line of late, with Taylor Hall and David Perron.
"We'll see what he can do in this situation here," Eakins continued. "The Gagner line was really finding some swagger and mojo. Hall and Perron were playing well together."
The head coach was asked if he considered the possibility of reuniting the line of Hall-RNH and Eberle.
"RNH, Eberle and Yak need to find their swagger. We can't send Hall in to rescue everyone," he answered.
Centre Anton Lander remains with the team on emergency recall, meaning that Sam Gagner is questionable to play tonight. Lander spoke with Oilers play-by-play man Jack Michaels this morning about playing the waiting game as he tries to find an opportunity to get in the lineup.
“It’s nothing I can control. It’s up to the coach and organization. I can just do my best and do whatever they say I’m going to do,” said Lander.
Lander has found an offensive touch this season in Oklahoma City, with 18 goals and 48 points in 43 games to lead the team.
“I think I’ve played with more confidence and played with great players too. That’s helped a lot. I’m also playing in different situations, power play and PK,” he began. “I think it was more after I got sent down from training camp. I had a meeting with Dallas and Mac and what they wanted me to work on, why I got sent down. And that’s something I’ve thought about and tried to bring energy to games and work on in practice.”
Lander also talked about trying to translate that success he has found in Oklahoma City to the big club, should he get a chance to play.
“I think you’ve got to go out and have fun, play your own game and play the system but use your linemates. Move the puck quick. Everyone is skilled on this team so whoever you play with, give them the puck and they’re going to create something good with it.”
“Maybe it’s a different opportunity. I’m really excited if that will be the case tonight.”
No potential lineup changes were confirmed this morning as Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins will not be addressing the media until later today -- 3:30 p.m. MDT is the expected time.
It is, however, likely that Viktor Fasth gets the start in goal tonight given the coach's general policy regarding playing the same goaltender on back-to-back nights.
Also of note, Anton Lander remains with the team which means that he is a possibility to get into the lineup. If he plays, it can only be for the player he was emergency recalled for, which is Sam Gagner.
The National Collegiate Hockey Conference announced the 2013-14 NCHC All-Conference team today and two Edmonton Oilers prospects made the list.
Simpson has played 34 games this season, recording 21 points (7-14-21) and a plus/minus of 18. He was the 92nd overall pick by the Oilers, in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
LaLeggia, a fifth-round pick (123rd overall) in 2012, has 21 points (10-11-21) in 31 games with Denver this season.
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins tweeted before the morning skate that Ben Scrivens will get the start in goal tonight. He also expects the same skaters as Tuesday's win in Minnesota which would mean that Sam Gagner will be ready to play.
Same skaters expected. Scrivens in the pipes.— Dallas Eakins (@dallaseakins) March 13, 2014
However, Milwaukee has three games in hand on Oklahoma City. Which means the Barons are also trying to catch the Rockford IceHogs, who sit at 7th with 68 points, two ahead of OKC. The Barons have a game in hand on Rockford.
Milwaukee and Rockford play each other on Friday night, meaning the Oilers affiliate can gain some ground on one of them with a win or two this weekend. However, Milwaukee plays tonight as well, meaning they can continue to push the pace in the playoff race.
OKC hosts the Grand Rapids Griffins (affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings) for two games this weekend. The Griffins are 2nd in the Western Conference with 79 points this season.
Oklahoma City is on fire right now. They are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 and are on a 6-0-0-1 streak. The Barons are 13-2-0-2 in their last 17 games overall and undefeated at home (8-0-0-1) in that stretch.
What had once been seen as a surety that the Oilers development team would go without the playoffs this season, has now been thrown into positive doubt. For young players like Anton Lander, Tyler Pitlick, Curtis Hamilton, Oscar Klefbom (should he return to OKC), Roman Horak, Travis Ewanyk, David Musil and more, making the playoffs could be an invaluable step in their development process.
The Barons have 15 games left on their schedule, including the two this weekend.
Current AHL Western Conference Standings as of Wednesday March 12, at 3:30 p.m. MDT:
|1. TEXAS STARS||60||80|
|2. GRAND RAPIDS||60||79|
|5. ABBOTSFORD HEAT||61||73|
|8. MILWAUKEE ADMIRALS||58||66|
|9. OKLAHOMA CITY BARONS||61||66|
The Oilers have recalled centre Anton Lander from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
From the team's press release:
OILERS RECALL LANDER
The Edmonton Oilers have recalled centre Anton Lander from the American Hockey League’s Oklahoma City Barons on an emergency recall basis.
Lander, 22, has appeared in 43 games with the Barons this season, posting 48 points (18G, 30A), 28 penalty minutes and a plus five rating.
The Sundsvall, Sweden native has played 12 games for the Oilers this season.
The 6’0”, 194-pound centre leads the Barons in points and has accumulated six points (1G, 5A) in five games in March, including a three point (1G, 2A) night on March 11th against San Antonio.
After practice on Wednesday, Dallas Eakins was asked about the decision to make Taylor Hall the fourth shooter in Tuesday’s shootout win.
“Sometimes it’s how the guy’s playing. We thought he was really going, he was trying to create, we thought he was feeling pretty good about himself and we’ve got our three shooters that we like there (Eberle, Perron, Gagner),” Eakins began.
“And then it turns into a competition. Kelly Buchberger just said ‘go with Hallsy.’ He had a good feeling about Hallsy and as the shootout was going on, you start talking yourself out of things sometimes. We had just worked on the shootout the day before and I started looking to a couple of other guys and then Kelly talked me back into it and I’m glad that I did. Hallsy was able to go in and do his thing.”
It was Hall’s first shootout attempt of the season. The team has struck very tightly to their shootout lineup this year with only five shooters participating: Eberle, Perron, Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner.
“I think that’s good for players. Eyes are on them and it’s one of the parts of the games where there’s two players totally exposed and everybody’s watching. There’s some pressure that comes with that and it’s important for Taylor to feel that pressure.”
In a bit of a lineup twist, Philip Larsen was playing forward at practice today as Sam Gagner missed practice. Gagner went down with an injury late in the third period during the game on Wednesday against Minnesota but returned to play in overtime and take a shot in the shootout.
“He tweaked his ankle last night,” said Eakins. “The encouraging thing is that he returned to the game but we didn’t feel it was necessary for him to skate. We’d rather let him rest it and let it heal. So we just put Larsen up front because we only have the one extra player.”
Eakins was asked whether the team might end up emergency recalling a player as a result of Gagner’s injury.
“We’ll check in with Sam a little bit later today and see how he’s doing but we may have to recall somebody again but that’s not a big deal, it’s easy to do.”