AT THE MORNING SKATE
EDMONTON - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will not be in the lineup tonight as the Oilers face off against the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place.
The 19-year-old was hurt in Monday's loss to the Vancouver Canucks when Henrik Sedin gave him a shot in overtime.
"He's sore," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "We expect him back in the lineup on Saturday (in Detroit). We're very optimistic about that. It's day-to-day."
Krueger was short on details, but did acknowledge that the soreness is in a "similar area" to the left shoulder that caused him to 18 games last season.
"We're pleased it's a short-term thing," he said. "If he had to go tonight, he could have. But we don't want to force a player of his caliber to get into a situation where he's not 100 percent."
In other lineup news, Ryan Smyth will be moving to the middle and will centre Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk on the third line. Ryan Whitney will get back into the lineup after sitting as a healthy scratch Monday. He will be paired with Corey Potter, as Mark Fistric is still day-to-day with a back injury. No other changes are expected.
As a result of the injuries to Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger, Mark Arcobello, who was recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Tuesday, will slot in Nugent-Hopkins' place on the top line.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound centre has tallied 14 goals and 39 points in 43 games with the Barons this season. In the month of December when Nugent-Hopkins left for the 2013 World Junior Championship, Arcobello played on a line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle where he put up 17 points in 11 games.
Chemistry won't be a problem.
"He doesn't try to change his game when he plays with us," said Hall. "He's a good player and has had a lot of success in his career by distributing the puck and being a good faceoff guy. He doesn't need to change anything. When Nuge went to the World Juniors, he filled in and we had a lot of production in the month of December.
"He's worked hard in his career. He started off in the East Coast Hockey League (with the Oilers' ECHL affiliate, the Stockton Thunder) after college and worked his way up. He was a healthy scratch to start the year in OKC. To see him in the NHL, we're really happy for him. He's a good guy and it shows how good the program is in Oklahoma."
"He played really well when he was down there," added Eberle. "He was one of the elite players and this was a good opportunity to get him up. He's a smart player and a lot like Nuge. I know he's excited and probably a bit nervous."
Originally signed by the Oilers on Apr. 1, 2011, the 24-year-old says the long wait was worth it.
"It's something you dream about when you're a little kid. I'm pretty excited," Arcobello said of making his NHL debut.
Arcobello is an Ivy League graduate and holds a degree in political science from Yale University. In four seasons with the Bulldogs of the NCAA, Arcobello recorded 49 goals and 116 points in 131 games. He also played in the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic.
"It's great. Anytime someone gets an opportunity, it's exciting," said starting goalie Devan Dubnyk, who took a similar path to Arcobello by biding his time in the ECHL and AHL before getting a crack in the NHL. "He looked great out there this morning. He looks Eberle out there, actually. Couldn't really tell, they're both about the same height and they're both right (handed) shots. He's got a great shot so I'm sure he'll fit right in. This is a great opportunity for him."
"It's a special story," added Krueger, whose son Justin played against Arcobello in the NCAA with Cornell University. "I watched Mark on many, many occasions and respect the kind of player he is. He's earned it. He really earned it by becoming an elite player in the American League. I heard they were cheering in the dressing room when they heard it yesterday. (Barons Head Coach) Todd Nelson told me that the room erupted when they heard it because they really feel he deserves this.
"What's so important about Mark is his cleverness. He reads the game so well and in speaking with Todd Nelson (Tuesday), he's extremely pleased with the way he's evolving defensively and his position, the use of his stick. He needs to be able to use all of those things really well to defend against bigger players."
While the lines appear to be written in pen, Krueger is still playing with his power-play units. It's expected that Arcobello will play on the second grouping alongside Smyth and Sam Gagner.
SNAPPING THE SKID
The Oilers come into tonight's game on a three-game winless streak. Coming off Monday's emotional defeat, Dubnyk wants nothing more than to avenge that letdown against the 4-5-1 Stars.
"It was really frustrating," said the 26-year-old, who's posted a 2.56 goals-against average and .925 save percentage this season. "We wanted that game so badly, so we were pretty down about it. But in this business you have to have a short memory and that's what we have heading into tonight's game. We feel like we can beat every team in this League and we essentially gave away a point that night. That's part of the game, but we let it go last night and we're looking forward to tonight."
Dubnyk will make his 10th start of the season is expected to be going head-to-head against Kari Lehtonen at the other end. Getting pucks on net will be critical to the club's success. The Oilers were outshot 35-17 in the second and third periods Monday, leading to Vancouver's rally.
"We need to have a more mature puck management game right through 60 minutes," Krueger said. "We still haven't had a full 60-minute effort of managing the puck the way we want. We also need to make sure we do everything we can to get the W here today. That's a simple thing, but we need it for this game tonight."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
STARS (4-5-1) at OILERS (4-3-2)
Season series: This is the first of three meetings this season between two teams that will play each other twice in the next week. Dallas swept the four-game season series last season.
Big story: A team full of veteran talent, Dallas is working to find some level of consistency while Edmonton, one of the League's youngest clubs, appears to be a completely changed group. Edmonton has struggled considerably the past few years, but is 2-1-2 in its last five games.
Stars: After encountering short stretches without Jamie Benn due to a contract holdout and Jaromir Jagr due to injury, Dallas closed out January with a 1-5-1 record. So far, February is looking better as the Stars have won two of their last three games heading into Wednesday's contest in Edmonton.
Dallas split a home-and-home weekend series with the Coyotes before descending on Colorado as part of an important stretch in which the Stars play six of seven games on the road. Against the Avalanche on Monday, Benn finally had the breakout game the Stars were looking forward to when they signed the 23-year-old forward to a five-year contract on Jan. 24.
Benn earned his first goal of the season to open the scoring just 2:21 into the contest and added to his point total almost nine minutes later when he and Jagr set up Brenden Morrow to give Dallas an early 2-0 lead.
Milan Hejduk, playing in his 1,000th NHL game, halved that lead with just 1:48 remaining in the opening period. From there Colorado stormed back in the second, outshooting Dallas 11-3 in the period and getting a tying goal on the power play from PA Parenteau. But Benn wasn't done yet, scoring another goal late in the second period to give the Stars a 3-2 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Oilers: Though they've lost their last three games, the Oilers have shown a competitive streak that was mostly absent the last three seasons, during which they posted the League's worst combined record. But Edmonton showed some bite on Thursday when it pushed then-undefeated San Jose to the limit in a 3-2 shootout loss.
Following a 3-1 loss in Colorado on Saturday, Edmonton hosted Vancouver on Monday night. Against a Canucks team that won five of six matchups last season, Edmonton came out flying. Ryan Smyth's shorthanded goal in the second period gave the Oilers a surprising 2-0 lead. But it wouldn't last.
After Jannik Hansen scored his first of the season 12:41 into the second period, Kevin Bieksa's point shot beat Devan Dubnyk with 2:17 remaining in regulation. There would be more heartbreak in Edmonton, as Christopher Tanev scored his first NHL goal with 20 seconds remaining in overtime to give Vancouver the win.
"It's frustrating, obviously," said Dubnyk, who made 37 saves in the game. "They tied the game with two minutes left. No one wants to let that happen."
Who's hot: Dallas' best player lately may be goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who has won his last two starts, stopping 60 of 65 shots. … For Edmonton, Nail Yakupov has three goals and five points during his current five-game points streak. Sam Gagner leads the club with 10 points and has at least one point in every game this season.
Injury report: Dallas is missing Ray Whitney, who is out a month with a broken foot. … The Oilers' infirmary added Shawn Horcoff this week. He's out long-term with a broken knuckle, making him the latest addition to an injured list that includes Eric Belanger (foot), Andy Sutton (knee), Ryan Jones (eye), Ben Eager (concussion) and Theo Peckham (hip).
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