EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers took part in an optional practice at Russ Barnes Arena on Monday following a team meeting searching for some answers to their penalty woes.
"The reality is, we're 26th in the National Hockey League in minor penalties and it's something we're addressing here and trying to correct," said Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger. "There's a lot of areas of improvement. We've been speaking about them on a weekly basis. One week it's the d-zone coverage, another week it's the turnovers in the neutral zone. At present, we're trying to get our shorthanded (situations) under control."
Krueger went on to talk about how even though the team has the league's sixth-ranked penalty kill at 86.9% the fact that they have been shorthanded more times -- 61 -- than any other team in the league hurts them.
"It's more important to be a disciplined team than have a good penalty killing percentage because when you take a lot of penalties you don't have a great penalty-killing percentage."
One player who contributed to the situation is Ryan Smyth, who had 18 penalty minutes on the weekend including four minor penalties.
"I don't want to take anything away from our penalty killing but it's critical that we get that under control. Ryan got hit hard in Columbus and again it's a team issue for me."
Smyth was apologetic for his actions in putting the team shorthanded, particularly on Sunday where he took three minors.
"It's not my intent to go out there and put myself before the team. Every player has their moments and times and it was selfish of me to do that," said Smyth. "Fortunately we were lucky enough to get two points out of it."
He added that he needs to correct his game moving forward.
"Stick infractions were what the last four penalties were so I've got to keep my stick on the ice and stick on puck."
Smyth, who has only a goal and an assist in 12 games this season has struggled with his new role.
"It hasn't been what I want it to be, for sure," said Smyth. "I want to chip in more offensively, no question. I'm in a different role and in a different position playing more defensive style of play. I want to help my team and that wasn't helping my team."
Krueger was quick to point out that all the players have bought in, however.
"I don't accept any lack of acceptance of roles here at the moment. Players want to be in the lineup every night. They possibly could question their ice time or their roles between games. My door is open for those discussions but I feel that the guys are all in."
Coach Krueger talked before the game on Sunday about the team needing to direct more shots on net. That did not come to fruition Sunday night.
"We had 40 shots on our net and on the other net we had 14 so there's multiple players that have been addressed in multiple situations. That's one of the pieces that didn't work yesterday but let's not blow it out of proportions here," said the coach. "It was the 12th game in 22 days, one quarter of the season -- 25% -- has passed now and we were able to win a game that in the past we didn't so let's build on that."
The Oilers rank 27th in the NHL with 26.2 shots per game and are 28th in shots against per game at 34.0. But Krueger said he wasn't worried about those numbers, in particular because of the tough schedule and the team's battle and effort.
"There was a lot of honest effort yesterday. It was a group that hit a mental barrier. I believe it was partially due to the fact that we had gone winless in five games. We had no bonus energy coming at us from anywhere after 10 difficult days and we found a way to win in that funk."
Devan Dubnyk addressed the media on Monday and brushed off his 39-save effort that could be described as thievery.
"That's how some games go. When you're coming off the back-to-back it can happen sometimes. We don't want it to be happening that way too often but games are going to go that way and it's nice to get a win when it does."
The 6'5" netminder talked about how sometimes it can be the other way around and it's the team bailing the goaltender out.
"There's a lot of times where the guys play great and maybe you're not playing your best and you end up winning 5-4 or 6-5 or something. It can work both ways. It's nice to have that feeling but we come up with a big play at the end of the game with Maggie scoring shorthanded and if that doesn't happen then we might not be talking about this today, too. So that was just as important."
PAAJARVI SCORES SHORTY
Magnus Paajarvi's shorthanded goal late in the third period on Sunday which turned out to be the winner in a 3-1 victory was his first point of the season. It gave the Swedish winger a lift.
"It was a huge goal, shorthanded, and I got a lot of emotion on that one. It was nice to get a goal because I've been playing well and it's gotten better and better every game for me," he said.
Paajarvi added that he still feels that he's an offensive player despite being thrust into a largely defensive and penalty killing role for the team this season.
"I'm still an offensive player, I think but I've been working on new things and adding to my game. It's been better and better every game. I feel more comfortable out there."
He figures that with his offensive ability it could create more shorthanded opportunities and he had discussed this with his PK partner Sam Gagner on several occasions.
"We've talked about it and if we get a chance shorthanded, let's go for it. It was an awesome pass from Gags. I don't know if he looked at me or not but it was an awesome past and I shot it."
HORDICHUK ON WAIVERS
This morning, the Oilers placed forward Darcy Hordichuk on waivers. Hordichuk has played in four games for the team this season averaging around two minutes a game. Krueger said the decision was tough.
"He's always there for his teammates. He's an excellent personality. He's extremely important in our growth and process. He's taken so many players under his wing. I run into him on the road in a cafe with Nail Yakupov under his wing, telling him 'Nail you've got to buy your coach a coffee the first time you're in there with him' and it's one of multiple stories that I think of with him."
Krueger added that other players stepping up in their roles is what made it possible to make this move.
"The decisions are being made for the best of the team and that's what we're all about right now," he said. "It's never against a player that we make roster decisions or ice-time decisions, it's for the players who are put in the roster."
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