When the Edmonton Oilers traded for Matt Hendricks in January, they expected a physical piece to come help their team. They may not have expected the tough forward to come in and take the locker room under his wing.
As we’ve written before, Hendricks has provided a physical presence on the ice while providing leadership and accountability off the ice.
“He’s a great teammate,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “He’s everything you want in your dressing room. He’s not afraid to speak the truth to your face and even if you don’t like the truth, you’re going to dinner with him that night. He’s just a standup guy, he’s a great human being and a great mentor. I think that’s so important to have mentors that not only can play and make a difference on the ice, but to bring your group along and it’s what we need right now in where we’re at with our development.”
Oilers winger Jordan Eberle tweaked his knee if Tuesday’s game against Nashville. The injury forced the forward to sit out last night’s game against Buffalo.
Despite the injury, Eberle tried to push through it and get back in time to play the Sabres but rest turned out to be the best path.
“Our team’s been playing really well, we’ve been winning lots, it’s great to be a part of that, it’s fun,” Eberle said of why he tried hard to get back in time for Buffalo. “Nashville was a great game for myself and (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins). I felt good about myself and when you start feeling good about yourself, you want to keep playing and help the team win. I was really trying to get back for the last game and I tried in the morning and I just wasn’t ready. I think it was the best case. I felt really good today on the ice and I think the biggest thing is, with testing it out today, we’ll see how it is tonight and tomorrow morning and make a decision.”
Eberle skated the entire practice today and says he feels great but gave no official timetable on his return.
I’m not sure, I felt great today. I really felt strong. I tried to get my lungs underneath me and my legs and really tried to push it at the end there with some battles. It felt good today, we’ll see how it is tonight and tomorrow morning and we’ll make a decision.”
Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that out of all the banged up players on the roster, Eberle looks like he may be closest to his return.
“Again, we had to walk the fine line of killing guys on the ice today and a lot of guys needing some time to heal,” Eakins said. “It’s good news that he’s stayed throughout practice today. But we’ll just have to see how that reacts but I think he would be first back in the door right now out of the group and I’m hopeful that our half a dozen guys that are hurting are still able to go tomorrow.”
As long as there is fighting in hockey, retribution is always a worry. Players answer the bell in response to their actions on the ice at times and for a player like Luke Gazdic, that usually means having to drop the gloves.
The last time the Oilers and the Calgary Flames squared off, Gazdic knocked out Kevin Westgarth in a centre ice tilt. Gazdic doesn’t know if that fight will bring a response from the Flames, but he’s ready if they come knocking.
“I don’t know,” Gazdic said. “I think the only guy who knows that is probably one of the guys sitting across the room at Rexall. I’m always ready for it as it is. If I have to answer the bell, so be it. It’s what I’m here to do, so to say and I’m here for my teammates any time.”
Gazdic was happy to see that Westgarth has recovered and has since played in four games for the Flames.
“Obviously, you don’t like to see guys be out for too long with something like that. That’s the breaks of fighting. It’s anytime you can go down. I was actually not surprised but I was taken by how fast he came back. It’s good for him, it’s good he’s back on the ice.”
Edmonton Oilers forward Anton Lander has had a remarkable and potentially unexpected season in the American Hockey League with Oklahoma City. Named OKC’s captain, Lander has 48 points (18-30-48) in 43 games with the Barons this season.
That point production hasn’t translated to the NHL yet, mostly because Lander has been placed in a different role during his time in the NHL. With injuries to the Oilers lineup, Lander has been given more opportunities to play more minutes with more skilled players and he’s shown more confidence as a result.
“I think he looks like a different player because he’s playing with different players,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “When he’s been up before, he’s usually played that fourth-line role and we wanted to see how he could handle playing with maybe a different group of guys. I think he’s played fine. He certainly looks like he has more confidence than he had earlier in the season.”
The Oilers are hoping the former 40th overall pick in 2009 continues to develop moving forward. Lander turns 23 in April.
The Oilers took the ice at Russ Barnes Arena for practice on Friday morning.
Jordan Eberle was in attendance and skated throughout the entire practice. Eberle, who tweaked his knee, could be back in the lineup as soon as Saturday.
Eakins says it's "good news" Eberle (knee) has participated in the full skate today. #14 most likely of injured guys to return tomorrow.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 21, 2014
Anton Belov has been cleared to play.
Belov also cleared to play, #Oilers have 8 d-men at their disposal.— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 21, 2014
Ryan Smyth had several good looks on the power play, close to the net, in the Oilers game against the Sabres. Smyth is one power play tally away from breaking the franchise’s all-time record for power play goals in a career. He tied Glenn Anderson with his 126th against the New York Islanders on March 6.
It is clear that Smyth’s teammates are trying to get him number 127.
“I think that they would admit that they do,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “I thought he had a couple of glorious chances there to put that puck in the net. I’m not going to stand here and lie and say that doesn’t matter to us, it does. It’s something that we all want for Ryan but we’re not formulating that power play around them. But I see them sometimes where I see the pass is up top and they see Ryan’s stick and they’re going to go for it. You’ve got to breathe on that. That’s something special, that’s them supporting their teammate and trying to get something for him personally.”
Tyler Pitlick had a chance to skate for a little bit on a line with Anton Lander and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, with Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov out with injuries. The 22-year-old forward played just 10:05, adding a shot and three hits to his stat sheet.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins says he felt that Pitlick was a little tentative with the puck in his first game since being recalled on Wednesday. The coach also commented on whether or not he felt they’d continue with Pitlick in that role or move him around.
“I thought he was a little tentative, which is natural for a guy getting called up,” Eakins said. “We’ll have to see if that’s part of his role, playing there. But I thought he tried extremely hard, he was attentive on the bench, I thought he was trying to finish his checks but I just felt him a little tentative with the puck but that’s a natural thing for a guy like that.”
Pitlick’s game is at its strongest when he ‘hits everything that moves’ and shoots the puck.
Tyler Pitlick has earned praise in Oklahoma City for his maturity and consistent development. The former second-round pick (31st overall in 2010), appears ready for NHL duty. He had his first NHL call up earlier this season and played well, but saw his time in Edmonton cut short with a knee injury in his third game.
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke today about exactly what Pitlick needs to do in order to stay in the NHL this second time around.
“I had a quick conversation with him and the word from Oklahoma City is that he’s been playing a real solid game and we want him to do that here. I thought he showed pretty well the last time he was here and he got hurt and I just encouraged him to pick up where he left off. He had a good start the last time here and sometimes that gets derailed by an injury. But he’s just got to go up and down his wing and finish his checks, be responsible with the puck. He can shoot the puck, that’s for sure, we’re looking for that and be very responsible defensively. Pitlick is one of those guys, he’s going to have to do everything. This isn’t about him coming in and scoring or him just playing defence, he’s got to wear all the hats if he’s going to stay here.”
Pitlick is in the final year of his entry level contract and would be a RFA at the end of this season.
After tweaking his knee, there were reports that Jordan Eberle may have had an MRI or had one scheduled. However, Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said Thursday that those weren’t true and Eberle, one of their roster’s stars may not be out very long.
“We don’t feel there’s a need for one now,” Eakins said. “Not saying it’s never, but the misinformation in the twitter world is always quite amazing. But he tweaked his knee, there’s no MRI scheduled and we’re hopeful he won’t be out very long.”
Eberle has 53 points (23-30-53) in 69 games this season. He will miss tonight's game against Buffalo.