GAME DAY: Hemsky hat trick leads Oilers to 6-3 win over Predators
OILERS 6 - PREDATORS 3Ales Hemsky scored his first career hat trick and added an assist as the Edmonton Oilers rolled to a 6-3 win over the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on Tuesday night.
Darcy Hordichuk, with his first as an Oiler, Ryan Jones and Sam Gagner also tallied while Devan Dubnyk stopped 41 of 44 shots for the win.
AT THE MORNING SKATENashville, TN - A four-game road trip begins tonight for the Edmonton Oilers when they take on the Nashville Predators, a team they've had some success against of late with a 4-2-1 record over the past few seasons.
"For whatever reasons, we seem to get to Pekka Rinne," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "I think they respect us enough to know you've got to play the game hard and they do but for whatever reason we seem light on our feet, we seem to have more of an attack mode to our game and we've had good goaltending."
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal, while Ben Eager draws back into the lineup after missing a pair of games due to back spasms. As a result, Linus Omark becomes the odd-man out.
"For us to have success, we need Benny to do the heavy lifting," said Renney. "We've got to go hard to the net, we've got to develop some type of physical reputation through guys like Ben. He's got to play the same way he did prior to being hurt."
One encouraging sign for the team was the fact that Taylor Hall skated for the first time since suffering a concussion on Friday against Calgary at the hands of Cory Sarich.
Renney cautioned that him skating today doesn't necessarily mean he'll be able to play at some point during the road trip but it's a good sign nonetheless.
"I won't be surprised to see him play on this trip, but at the same time but at the same time I wouldn't if he didn't," he said.
"We'll follow the protocol and make sure we do the right thing with him," Renney reiterated. "As mentioned, even the night he hurt himself he was doing pretty good. That being said, there's a procedure that we'll follow here."
The Oilers bench boss added that Hall passed his tests yesterday with flying colours. The sophomore winger rode the bike during the game, getting in some heavy physical activity and took the baseline test as per NHL concussion protocol.
"He had a good bike ride yesterday, his baseline test also went well," he said. "He skated a little bit this morning, that went well. We'll take it a day at a time."
RETURN OF RADULOV
The talk of the town in Nashville was the imminent return of Alexander Radulov to the Predators.
"The great thing is, there's seven or eight guys who know him. When Gaustad and Gill got here, they didn't know anybody so I think it's going to be an easier transition," said Predators head coach Barry Trotz. "Can he help us? Yes he can. He's a dynamic player."
Trotz didn't offer much in the way of information on Radulov's immediate status.
"He's probably on a plane, hopefully coming here," he chuckled.
While he won't be playing the Oilers tonight, Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff weighed in on the situation.
"It'll be interesting," said Horcoff of Radulov coming here directly from the KHL so late in the season. "We're going to have to wait and see how he adapts to it and see how he plays. I think the thing he has going for him is that he's been here and he's comfortable here."
Horcoff added that there are some parallels between this and the Oilers getting Sergei Samsonov and Dwayne Roloson late in the 2005-06 season prior to their Cup run.
"It was huge," he said. "There were a few more guys, too -- Spacek and Tarnstrom. All four of those guys played key roles in our run. They just fit in right off the bat. They were great in the locker room and they filed holes perfectly in our lineup."
The Oilers arrived in Nashville mid-afternoon to weather of 28 degrees celsius. Having not practiced earlier in the day, the team opted to play some football in an open field adjacent to the hotel.
"We've had a tough schedule the last little while," said Horcoff. "We had a long flight (four hours). It was nice to be able to come in and have a little team bonding."
In the match-up, the veteran players took on the younger ones and it was the savvy vets who ultimately prevailed.
"Like anything else, it starts out relaxed and once it gets a little tight it gets competitive. The veterans proved their worth and pulled it out in the end," Horcoff laughed.
Oilers head coach Tom Renney said the ability for the team to have some fun like that is very important.
"You know what's interesting about that is some might be critical of a team that's in our position having fun," he remarked. "But you have to. If I have a regret this year it's that we didn't get enough time to do those types of things because it does galvanize your group. It's great to have fun and enjoy each others' company in something like that.
"I think it had a residual effect this morning," the coach continued. "Our skate this morning was good. Guys were energized. Obviously, we hope we come out tonight the same way. That's what little things like that should do. Pump some air into your tires and allow you to play well, play hard for each other. That's what team building is all about."
Media and Oilers staff had a football game of their own after the players left the field. It was a tightly-contested battle with edmontonoilers.com's own Tom Gazzola getting the winning touchdown in overtime for Team Colours over Team Black.
Team Black captain Bob Stauffer was unavailable for comment afterward.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com