Coming off of back-to-back games and it being New Year's Day, the Oilers held practice in Denver. Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson said that while it probably wasn't a popular decision in the dressing room, it was necessary to get the team back on the ice.
“I’m sure there was a few groans when we called practice today but it wasn’t a tough day. We went out there and snapped the puck around. We got through five or six drills. We wanted to keep the tempo and pace up. We only went for half an hour. It wasn’t tough from that aspect. We got some good work in,” Nelson began, adding that he feels that the team needs to continue to get on the ice and improve.
“As a coach, I feel like I don’t want to have the guys lose what they’re gaining. I think we have a pretty good handle on rest versus work. It wasn’t a tough day and now they have the rest of the day to get rested up for a game tomorrow.”
Benoit Pouliot agreed with the coach, saying particularly with the altitude in Denver it was good to get on the ice.
“Coming to Colorado, It’s always a little tougher coming to practice and play. The altitude doesn’t really help but it was good. It was a good 20 to 30 minutes and we’ll be ready tomorrow.”
It is believed that Pitlick suffered the injury on a hit from Calgary's Lance Bouma. The amount of time Pitlick will be out has not yet been determined.
Pitlick has been placed on injured reserve.
After missing 18 games with a broken foot, it appears that Benoit Pouliot is ready to get back into the lineup for the Oilers Friday against the Colorado Avalanche.
“He is very close," said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson. "At the start of practice, he was cleared for practice. I talked to him after and he says he feels really good. We’re going to see how the skate goes tomorrow morning and base our decision there. He feels that his game conditioning is where it should be at so it’s just a matter of going through practice tomorrow.”
Pouliot added that he thinks he's ready to go but ultimately it's up to Coach Nelson and the training staff.
“I feel great,” said Pouliot. “I think if I get the chance to go tomorrow, I’m ready for sure to go. It’s going to be the coach’s decision.”
The winger was asked about his recovery routine as he attempted to stay in game shape throughout the six-week period.
“It’s a lot of work. It’s always in the gym, every day, every morning with Chad, our trainer. There’s a lot of bike, a lot of weights and treatment,” he said. “I’m right on my timeline. It was six weeks and I think I’m right there.”
The Oilers are on the ice for practice at the Pepsi Center in Colorado. It is an optional practice and Tyler Pitlick and Taylor Hall are not skating.
Pouliot - RNH - Eberle
Purcell - Roy - Yakupov
Perron - Draisaitl - Fraser
Hendricks - Gordon - Pinizzotto/Gazdic
Optional practice in Denver today. No Hall, Pitlick. Pouliot close. Aulie skating, waiting to hear from league. pic.twitter.com/XvHBBaTB6j— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) January 1, 2015
Oilers forward Derek Roy talked about his injury scare on Tuesday against the Kings.
In his debut with the Oilers, Roy assisted on a Matt Hendricks goal on his second shift of the game and on his third shift, a skate stepped on his ankle, cutting him open.
"I knew something was up but I wanted to keep playing. (The trainer) said no, I have to come off," said Roy. "I didn't know it was bleeding."
After missing the rest of the first period, Roy was out there to start the second. He was cut for four stitches.
"It's tender and sore," he said, but indicated he doesn't expect it to be an issue tonight against the Flames.
Since Craig MacTavish and Todd Nelson took over the Oilers bench, Justin Schultz has recorded four points in his last five games. The offensive side of his game appears to be coming around and that’s what MacTavish says is most noticeable.
“My assessment of Justin is he’s doing what he does well much better now than he has,” the Oilers general manager said. “There are still deficiencies in his game. There are plenty of examples of that. But I’m pleased with the way he’s jumping up to open ice and his contributions offensively. There was a period this year where he was ineffective offensively and ineffective defensively and that’s a bad combination, but he’s playing with much more urgency in his game offensively, which is the strength of his game.”
Schultz has played 35 games this season, recording 15 points (3-12-15) and four penalty minutes.
Tonight will be Todd Nelson’s first game as interim coach without Craig MacTavish on the bench. The Oilers GM says it was the right time to step back and let Nelson take the reins.
“I just feel like the transition is the right time now,” MacTavish said. “Coaching is not a place for two captains and I think Todd has directed the team and changed the lines the last couple of games. I offer to support him as best I can but it’s time for him and I’m comfortable now that he’s got a familiarization with the personnel and I think it’s time for him to put his mark on what he can do with this hockey club.”
Nelson said the transition period helped him feel more comfortable with the personnel but he’s ready to take the next step.
Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish stepped in front of the media on Tuesday to recap yesterday’s moves, which included claiming Matt Fraser off waivers from Boston. MacTavish hinted that the club has had interest in the winger for quite some time, and their familiarity with his production in the minors sealed the decision to snag him.
“Our guys have had a lot of interest in Matt over the years,” MacTavish said. “He’s had some success against Todd that’s been well-documented over the last 16 hours or so. I remember when I was coaching in the American Hockey League and he was playing in Texas, he had success against us too. He gives us an element that we don’t have in abundance and that’s a shot. We’ll see if he can get some traction here.”
The Oilers are on the ice for Tuesday's morning skate. The line combinations are as follows:
The defensive pairings:
Leon Draisaitl, who missed yesterday's practice due to illness, is on the ice.