THE TEAM TODAY: Promotions & Demotions
Petrell moves up with RNH & Eberle, Khabibulin's imminent return & more at practice
PROMOTIONS & DEMOTIONSEdmonton, AB - Home. Rexall, a ‘Place' where the Oilers have amassed a 16-12-4 record this season, establishing some dominance in a building where 41 regular-season contests are played each year.
But, in recent weeks, it's been a tough go. Three in a row have been won on the road, but losses to Toronto, Colorado Vancouver – then interrupted by a 2-0 shutout over the league's highest-scoring team in the Philadelphia Flyers – Phoenix and now St. Louis, home cookin' has been a most challenging recipe.
With 25 wins on the season, matching last year's total with 20 games to play, the Oilers had an opportunity to surpass it but fell short with a lethargic 5-2 defeat last night.
Coming off an emotional 5-2 win in Winnipeg on Monday, it was a disappointing result that the squad couldn't help but echo the morning after at practice. As such, Head Coach Tom Renney shuffled the deck and concocted some new line combinations to help spark the club's struggling attack.
After scoring a goal and an assist in the Oilers' triumph over the Jets, Lennart Petrell will get a promotion. The 27-year-old rookie will move up to play alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
"He's had some good chances and he had a good game in Winnipeg, he's got a hard, heavy shot, he's a big guy, and maybe he can help lean on some people in the [opponent's] lineup," Renney said, noting Petrell's importance to the team.
"With a little bit more [ice time], maybe he has an even greater impact on the game. He's a very likeable guy, (he's a) great teammate and he'll do anything he can to win a hockey game. If you watch him shoot the puck, there's something there. It's laser and it's heavy and we want to get him more touches."
Petrell was inked to a one-year, entry-level deal on Jun. 15, 2011. He made his NHL debut vs. Pittsburgh during the Oilers' home opener after spending the previous seven seasons with HIFK Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League. Renney isn't surprised with the rookie's seamless transition to the bigs.
"He was described to me as being all that," he said, emphasizing the skills he mentioned previously. "[The NHL] is a tough league to play and how you're deployed, there's not much you can do about that other than go play; so he's at the mercy of the coach and he's been really good with that.
"That's probably the biggest thing, is where guys have to make an adjustment in terms of how they're used, but he's handled that really well and has just gone out and played. He went to OK-City and did the same thing, came back here, did the same thing. He's certainly a guy that knows who and what he is. This should be looked upon as an opportunity for him, to see what more he might be able to do for us."
While Petrell looks to be the man of the hour, it's also possible that the Oilers will look to recall a player from Oklahoma City. Linus Omark's name is most likely, as the 25-year-old has posted 14 points in 15 games in an abbreviated 2011-12 campaign.
In addition to that move, Nikolai Khabibulin has been activated to team's roster and could be ready to start tomorrow night vs. Dallas. The 39-year-old last played on Feb. 19, stopping 15 pucks on 17 shots before leaving with a groin injury.
As a result, Yann Danis has been reassigned to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
"It's the same thing, game-by-game," the veteran said. "I want to get a chance to play, get a chance to do the best I can and help the team win. Ideally it'd be nice to get a couple shots early (tomorrow), long shots, and get in the game that way. I'd like to handle the puck a little bit, but it's something that's out of my control, so whatever happens, I have to prepare for anything.
"I've been through it quite a bit. I don't expect any rustiness."
While Devan Dubnyk was given the reigns in Khabibulin's absence, there's still some healthy competition between the pipes. No one is guaranteed starts, and chances are that Renney will ride the hot hand down the stretch.
"As many I can get," Khabibulin said, referencing how many starts he'd prefer to see. "Ideally I'd like to play every game. Dubey is a good goalie, too, and he deserves some games. It's up to the coaches. Whoever gets to play, we support each other."
In the not-so-happy department, Cam Barker would be looking at the opposite angle when it comes to roster moves. The 6'3", 223-pound reclamation project has been struggling of late, posting a -1 rating in only 11:33 of ice time against the Blues.
The 25-year-old, who was once a third overall pick by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2004, didn't look as sharp as he did on Monday in his hometown of Winnipeg. Barker's reads were often miscalculated, which resulted in ill-timed step-ups in the neutral zone, costly pinches and weak gaps.
"He's had some good games," Renney said. "There's no question he's had some good games. As a team, we've really struggled at times, too. Barks is going to have to play is way out of it.
"Use his size, use his strength, use his shot, use his pass," he added, helping to garner attention to the rearguard's noticeable strengths. "All you're trying to do is your best as a good person and good teammate, and his teammates will surround him."
With Barker potentially owning a seat in the press box tomorrow night, Andy Sutton will get back in. Theo Peckham, who hasn't played since Jan. 31 vs. Colorado as he nursed a sinus issue (and, after that, riding the pine as a healthy scratch), is still looking for a sniff. Renney stressed the importance of getting his young blueliner back into game action.
When that will be is anybody's guess, mind you.
"I'm in a bit of a dilemma here," Renney explained. "I've got to play some people to make sure I'm comfortable with where they are in the grand scheme of things. Pecks is in that group, we've got to get him going here. There are 19 games left and he's missed 13 in a row or something like that. He's got the passion to play and we need that in our lineup, of course.
"In the meantime, those are coaches' decisions that a player doesn't have any control over. He's just got to deal with it and he's doing a good job of that."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick