EDMONTON - Fresh off what Head Coach Ralph Krueger described as a "complete meltdown" in their home opener one night earlier, the Oilers got back to work with a mid-afternoon practice with the goal of moving on and shifting their focus to Thursday's game against the Stanley Cup Champions.
Opting not to skate earlier in the day at Millennium Place so players could attend city council meetings, the Oilers practiced at the Russ Barnes Arena. As Hall of Fame writer Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal made mention of, the 47-year-old rink -- then known as the Santa Rosa Arena -- was the second home to Oilers greats Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky back in the glory days.
There were no changes to the lines or D pairings (Mark Fistric and Theo Peckham continue to practice as extras), although Krueger said post-practice that he and the coaches will "assess and possibly make some changes" prior to puck drop Thursday night vs. Los Angeles.
Ben Eager will not be included. The 29-year-old's swollen right eye isn't the only consequence stemming from his middleweight tilt with Canucks winger Zack Kassian. Eager's condition is much worse than originally thought, which is unfortunate news considering his history.
"Ben Eager has been diagnosed with a concussion," Krueger said. "It's a blow. But we hope that it's the short-term version. We can only hope this heals quickly, but we need to be patient with concussions. You've got to give it a week, at least, and there's no timetable beyond that. For Ben, it's not an easy process."
CAN I GET A MULLIGAN?
"It's unexplainable," said Ladislav Smid, still shaking his head in disbelief a day later.
Eight-and-a-half minutes in Tuesday night, the Oilers trailed the Sharks 2-1. By the end of the period, it was an all-out nightmare. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture combined to record 11 points in the opening 20, putting the Oilers down 6-1.
"We began the day by trying to understand what happened and what the processes were," Krueger said. "You could see how over-exuberant we were, somehow. I have to defend the team in that there was no arrogance in the room between the Vancouver game and [Tuesday night]. They didn't lose it as far as that's concerned. They were working hard, there was good preparation and somehow with the early goal against, we wanted it too bad. That drove us out of position.
"We want to get the precision and execution back. We'll take what we accomplished in today's practice and carry it into tomorrow's morning skate."
(When Krueger addressed the media at Tuesday's morning skate, he said they would be optional this season. Following a 6-3 loss on home ice? Thursday's couldn't be more mandatory.)
"Guys like Thornton and Marleau prey on that," Smid added. "We forgot what was going on behind us. We forgot how to play defence. That's what happened and it can't happen again. It was a disaster."
Devan Dubnyk was in for all six Sharks goals (on 17 shots). He played the entire first period before being replaced by Yann Danis to start the second. It's still very early in the season, but Dubnyk's 1-1-0 record is highlighted by a .826 save percentage and 5.65 goals-against average. He knows he needs to be better.
"Ralph gave me a pretty good opportunity to stay in there and I appreciate that," Dubnyk said. "I'm not a guy that likes to leave the net. I always like to have an opportunity stick in there and sort it out. Certainly I was trying to do that, but it wasn't working. It was a tough period. I would have loved to have been in there to stick it out (in Periods 2 and 3), but that's part of the game.
"We needed to make a change at that point."
Since Tuesday's loss, Krueger and Dubnyk have had the opportunity to discuss the game. While neither would divulge what was said, one thing's for certain: Krueger's belief in his starting netminder isn't shaken in the slightest.
"We really exposed him to some of the best shooters in the National Hockey League, in the slot and with one-timers coming around his head," he said. "There's no panic with Devan there. He would have liked to have had the second one back, but he's in a good space. We feel good about him bouncing back as he has in the past. I'm sure he's going to give us a great game against LA."
"[Krueger is] great that way," Dubnyk added. "He's built such a great relationship with all of us. He's an easy guy to talk to. He sincerely wants us all to personally do well, along with the team. He'll hold you accountable when you need to be held accountable, too.
"It's a chance to get back at it tomorrow. I'm not going to change my approach. I'm going to continue to do the things that will make me ready to play."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
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