AT THE MORNING SKATE
EDMONTON - Ryan Smyth will not play tonight as the Oilers go head-to-head with the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place.
There will be no other changes to the lineup.
Smyth, a longtime heart and soul Oiler and 18-year NHL veteran, respectfully declined to comment after the morning skate.
"There's no room for feelings in a season like this," said Head Coach Ralph Krueger, who admitted that it was a difficult decision to sit the 36-year-old. "You really have to look at the season when it comes to a decision like this. We've played 12 games in 22 days. We're improving as an organization and as a team. We're going to be comfortable taking players in and out of the lineup to bring freshness in, to bring other impulses in.
"It's about what's best for the team right now. We're making sure that we have a lineup that we feel, with the players we have, is the one that gives us the best chance to win."
In 12 games this season, Smyth has collected a goal and an assist, along with a -3 rating. Over the weekend in Detroit and Columbus, Smyth picked up 18 minutes in penalties -- minors for hooking (x2), slashing (x2) and a 10-minute misconduct when he argued a questionable call on Nail Yakupov.
"It's not an easy process," Krueger said. "The circumstances have changed. We had an honest, open conversation with everything on the table. I don't expect players to be happy with certain decisions. I want to tell them and I want to hear what they want to say. He was honest with me and I was honest with him.
"Now we'll move forward. It's about the reaction. We're expecting a very gritty and very aggressive reaction."
It's a bad week to be a Ryan in the Oilers organization (I better watch out). For the third time this season, Ryan Whitney will be out of the lineup, too. The 29-year-old has recorded three assists and a -6 rating in 10 games this season.
"There's a big picture going on here in a 48-game schedule where, depending on the opposition and depending who we have up front, it will change the way we decide to go on the back end. It's a combination of 18 players plus the goaltender being put together that we feel is the best combination of factors."
FINDING THE NET
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins still hasn't scored this season, but has been getting closer each game. As Krueger outlined at his pre-game press conference, Nugent-Hopkins' line had seven scoring chances (and only three against) in Sunday's win over the Blue Jackets.
RNH was also on the ice in the last minute when the Jackets were pushing for the equalizer. He defended well and helped seal the outcome by dishing to Sam Gagner for an empty net tally.
"We're staying calm with him and we want him to stay calm," Krueger said. "We believe that the goals are going to come over time. His ignition is on the power-play. He's been a little bit more complicated that he needs to be there and is trying too hard to force things.
"He had some unbelievable chances in the last few games and at least he's getting those."
Even though it went a combined 1-for-12 this past weekend, Nugent-Hopkins says he's not too worried about the PP's lack of production of late.
"We've got to make sure that we're moving the puck quick," he said. "When you move the puck quick on the power-play, it gets the penalty killers scrambling a little bit. We're not too worried about it. We're proud of the fact that we have one of the best power-plays in the League, so we need to maintain that. If we do, we're going to win a lot of games.
"But in order to do that, we have to shoot the puck."
The Oilers were outshot 40-14 on Sunday.
"That's huge for us," Nugent-Hopkins said. "We absolutely need to be shooting the puck and putting it on net every chance we get. The more we do that, the more rebounds and second chances we'll be getting."
FISTRIC'S FORMER TEAM
Oilers defenceman Mark Fistric will be getting a chance to suit up against his former team tonight. The 26-year-old spent six seasons with the Stars organization before he was traded to the Oilers during training camp.
"I could see it coming," he said, looking back at the trade that sent a third-round draft choice to the Stars. "There were a lot of young guys coming up that hadn't had much of an opportunity yet but were ready to step in. It was nice to get traded home and into a situation where I'd be comfortable. (Stars GM Joe) Nieuwendyk traded me home where I already have a house.
"It's going to be exciting. I spent my whole career in Dallas and know everyone really well, but I have a new family now and I'm ready for tonight."
Devan Dubnyk will make his 12th start of the season tonight looking to improve on his 5-3-3 record, 2.45 goals-against average and .928 save percentage. At the other end, expect Kari Lehtonen to get the nod between the pipes for Dallas.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
STARS (6-5-1) at OILERS (5-4-3)
Last 10: Dallas 5-4-1, Edmonton 4-3-3
Season series: This is the second of three meetings. The Stars edged out the Oilers 3-2 on overtime in their first match up this season last Wednesday. Jaromir Jagr notched the game-winning goal at the 1:46 mark of the extra session.
Big story: The Oilers and Stars are neck-and-neck in the Western Conference standings at ninth and 10th place, respectively. Both teams are twelve games into the shortened season, making the two points up for grabs in Tuesday’s contest all the more important.
Stars: The Stars are looking to extend their current streak to four straight wins as they open their three-game Western Canadian trip in Edmonton.
Dallas finally got its power play in order after scoring just once in 16 opportunities prior to Friday’s 3-1 win against Anaheim. The Stars notched two power-play goals in the first period of that contest, with Trevor Daley and Jamie Benn each cashing in.
"Just keep working on it, watching some video, working on it in practice," Benn said of the power-play unit's success. "I think it just comes down to shooting pucks and keeping it simple and I think we did that tonight."
Oilers: If netminder Devan Dubnyk performs half as well as he did in Sunday’s 3-1 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets, then the Oilers likely to have little to worry about against the Stars.
Dubnyk stopped 39 shots in that contest while his teammates rifled off just 14 shots of their own.
“It was a fun game to play and obviously a little more work than usual, but that’s my job -- to stop everything that comes to me,” Dubnyk said. “It’s nice to steal a win for the team.”
The Oilers also spent their off day addressing penalty troubles because they currently rank 26th overall in minor penalties and they have been shorthanded 61 times this season – more than any other team in the League.
“It's something we're addressing here and trying to correct," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger told the team’s official website. "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."
Who's hot: Sam Gagner leads the Oilers offense with 13 points so far this season (four goals, nine assists), including a goal and an assist in his last outing. … Veteran forward Jaromir Jagr has three points in as many games for the Stars, and his eight points are a team-best.
Injury report: Edmonton will be without forwards Ryan Jones (eye), Shawn Horcoff (hand) and Anton Lander (foot) … Dallas forward Ray Whitney (foot) is on injured reserve and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks.
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