EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers skated at the Leduc Rec Centre on Friday prior to departing for Calgary where they will take on the Flames Saturday night on CBC.
All the talk after practice was still about the excitement of the finish in Thursday night's game which saw Nail Yakupov tie the game up with four seconds left on the heels of a disallowed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins goal seconds earlier. The goal set up the overtime winner by Sam Gagner and was marked by a jubilant celebration that was the talk of the entire NHL today.
"I found that it was very spontaneous. That it was real. There was nothing staged about it," said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger. "If you were in the building, you would understand that celebration. It came as a byproduct of what had transpired with the goal being disallowed, the way the building was cooking and bubbling. For us to get that goal, I thought the celebration was in line with the situation."
As for any comments about potential future celebrations, Krueger brushed them off.
"If he does that 25 times this year, we'll be fine with that," The coach chuckled.
Yakupov said the reaction he got afterwards was overwhelming.
"My parents texted me, my friends, people from my hometown, my teammates from the national team, everybody," said Yakupov, adding that former Sarnia Sting teammate and current Montreal Canadien Alex Galchenyuk also reached out.
"I was scoring with four seconds left and I was excited. Why not? I'm not doing anything bad for LA or something, I was just excited for me and my team. We tied the game and we got a point so that's why I was happy. I think good for us and good for the fans. I don't think it's really bad."
The Oilers practice was very light and ended with a shootout competition. In the competition, Darcy Hordichuk outlasted Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to win and he marked his victory with a mock Yakupov celebration (Watch the video on the Oilers app!).
"It's good, why not? He can do it a little in the practice. Just have fun, it's a good thing", said Yakupov about the Hordichuk celebration.
Hordichuk said that he and his Oilers teammates had no problem with the celebration.
"Every time he scores it's like his first goal. You can't take that away from him. When you're at this level and you work so hard -- and we were on such a high where we had a goal taken away from us and then with (four) seconds left he ends up scoring, there's so many different emotions," Hordichuk began.
"The fans sure loved it but I'm not sure he could get away with it in some other team's barn," he said, laughing.
Hordichuk said that the topic of celebrations with Yakupov have come up, even before last night, but the Russian rookie is usually mum on the subject.
"Every time I drive to the rink I ask him about his celebrations and he won't tell me because he says it's bad luck but I think he thought this one through."
Hordichuk commented also on the team's pure entertainment value as last night's game truly thrilled the fans at Rexall Place.
"It's such a fun team to watch, the Oilers, because they're so young and have so much talent. One thing Ralph's trying to come across to all of us is it's nice to make that fancy move but at the end of the day it's getting pucks deep and not turning them over and creating chances. I think we've done a better job this year of not trying to be too fancy but at the same time we're not holding (back) the kids and telling them not to make mistakes out there."
Krueger talked about the team being ready to play in situations like that which occurred in last night's game.
"We spoke about adversity last week as a team when we were together trying to look at our season. We went through the processes, how we would react in a tough situation. You could feel the group and the leadership in the team at that moment parking it. We had a minute to go and going for the win -- continuing to go for it like we were for that whole third period. These are processes that you try to get in the players' heads ahead of time and hopefully they function like they did and I thought the team did a good job in that situation."
While he was happy with the result last night, he still wants to see a more consistent effort from the team and much less of what was seen Tuesday against the Sharks.
"Finding consistency will be key here for a successful season. We definitely are able to prepare ourselves better for Calgary in retrospect, looking at how we dealt with the Vancouver win. We're a stronger team today already. We can feel it in the practice. There's much more of an edge than there was following the Vancouver game. These are learning times. We all spoke about that after San Jose, what an opportunity that is for us really early to get smacked real hard. It's much better sometimes than losing 3-2 with a minute to go if you use the smack.
"We've had an attentive group for the last few days and I'm sure we're going to come much stronger in the Calgary game."
THE GOALIE SHUFFLE
The Oilers claimed goaltender Niko Hovinen from the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday. Coach Krueger talked about the acquisition.
"He was excellent in Europe the last few years. He's got a lot of size, 6'7" and 24 years old. He seemed to have a bit of an adjustment problem with Philadelphia's minor league team. We believe -- our scouts believe -- there's an upside on him and it's a depth move for sure for our American League team but anything is possible," said Krueger, pointing out the potential that's there. "This kid has shown a good side. He's been part of the national team lineup in Finland and had a really good Karjala Cup last year -- that's where the Czechs, Russians, Finns and Swedes play together. He was outstanding, MVP in that tournament. Let's see how he develops but there is big potential in this kid."
Because Hovinen was claimed on unconditional waivers, the Oilers are able to send him directly to Oklahoma City and they will do just that. The depth will help the team as Tyler Bunz will move back to the ECHL's Stockton Thunder.
In a twist of irony, Goaltender Yann Danis had a bit of a scare as he took a puck off his mask and was cut above his left eye.
"He seems to be fine. He didn't show any concussion signs," said Krueger. "It was one of those explosions where when the mask came off it just split open on him. He's got five stitches there."
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