THE TEAM TODAY: Power Players
Oilers riding high with second-ranked power play; injury updates on key players
The power play success mirrors that of the Oklahoma City Barons where five members of the Oilers' current power play -- Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Teemu Hartikainen -- all played. The Barons power play is still tops in the AHL at over 24%.
"It certainly helped that we all played together, with the exception of Horc, on our unit in OKC and having that experience and just being able to continue that in the NHL has definitely been a benefit," said Hall. "As far as being at 35% no I didn't think we'd be there but that's the way it goes, sometimes your power play has to carry you and right now it is."
Nugent-Hopkins echoed Hall's thoughts.
"It's good that all four of us -- including Hartikainen (on the second unit) -- got to play with each other down in OKC and really worked on the power play there. I think we got off to a good start. It would be nice to be producing more on five-on-five but we're definitely happy with the way the power play has been going so far."
Nugent-Hopkins added that having a good second unit -- Hemsky and Hartikainen did yeoman's work on the team's opening goal last night -- has contributed to the success.
"It's definitely nice," he said. "I think it's great to be able to have three shifts -- one line gets out there twice and one line gets out there once -- it definitely gives everybody a lot of confidence."
Despite the lack of scoring five-on-five goals with only two so far this season, Hall noted that the team has done well enough five-on-five to draw a lot of penalties and the season goes in waves.
"The season goes in ebbs and flows and there's ups and downs. There's going to be times when the five-on-five game isn't working and there's going to be times when your special teams are going to have to carry you and that's what's going on right now. We all believe in what we're doing five-on-five and feel like we've got enough chances to score some goals, they're just not going in right now."
THE FIRST PLACE OILERS
The Oilers found themselves in first place in the Northwest Division with the victory and third in the Western Conference. Hall talked about being in that position.
"If you had told us that after five games we'd be at the top before the season we definitely would have taken that and now it's about (playing with the lead). We didn't play very good with the lead last night and now we need to play with the lead in the standings. We need to realize that every game is important and the games that we can force overtime with a gritty win or when we can put teams away in the third period we have to do that to get points."
Coach Krueger felt that it was an important step for the team to take.
"It's a confirmation today that we've worked well to get ourselves what we wanted and that was a good start to the season. What it does is give us no bonus for tomorrow. All that much more will Phoenix be ready for us but it confirms how hard the players have been working, it confirms that we're on a good track and it's also something that we want to strive for and eventually attain is this kind of position in this conference so let's deal with it and learn from it. Right now all it does is confirm everything we've done to-date and probably makes tomorrow all that much more difficult which is an exciting challenge to take on."
The head coach added that despite being in first, the team needs to take things day-by-day.
"We're trying to field the best team every day. We want to win every single day. This season is going to run by way too quickly on us. We're not thinking beyond today. Yes, we have scheduling for the next four weeks and plans detailed for the next nine days but as far as coaching is concerned, that coaching staff, we're waking up every single morning trying to think of what's the best team that we can put together to win today and we're going to do that all the way through."
KHABIBULIN GETTING CLOSE
This morning, the team put Yann Danis on waivers for the purpose of sending him to Oklahoma City but the team will still wait 24 more hours before declaring Khabibulin ready to go.
"The plan is that he joins us tomorrow if all goes well. That's what we're looking at right now. He's joined us on the trip and it looks like he should be able to back up according to all reports. We'll make that final call tomorrow morning. Yann will still be coming with us even though you all know that he's on waivers, he'll be coming with us to Phoenix and we can make that decision from there."
Krueger added that if Khabibulin gets cleared, it means he's ready to go and he will get game action sooner rather than later.
"We wouldn't be doing this if he wasn't ready. If he takes over the roster spot from Yann Danis, he's ready to go. From Freddy Chabot the goaltending coach, to the medical side, T.D. Forss, that move will only be made when he's ready to play so he's ready."
Khabibulin had no concerns coming off the injury, noting he's been in this situation before.
"I'll just treat it like I had an injury in the regular season, missed a couple of months and now I'm coming back," the goalie stated, adding he doesn't know when he will play his first game. "I haven't talked to Ralph yet about it so whatever day he decides is when I'm going to get in."
Khabibulin said he was looking forward to getting game action and just being around the team again on a full-time basis.
"It's been awhile since I played and it gets old pretty quick rehabbing and just practicing, especially just being here by myself during the lockout. It's not much fun so I think I'm looking forward to games now."
As for how his first game might go, the 40-year-old Russian netminder had some ideas.
"Ideal situation would be to get in the game, first period get lots of shots from the blue line with no screens," Khabibulin joked. "But you can't really control that. I have to deal with what comes my way."
EAGER TO PLAY
Ben Eager did not skate today but Coach Krueger noted that he will be on the ice sooner rather than later.
"Remember we started out with Ben that we needed some time and we're hoping to get him on the ice in the next few days just to test. That's one of those injuries you can't call and Jonesy is in the same path," Krueger stated. "He's also touched the ice today (with equipment) for the first time. We're definitely not in the short term."
Jones was happy to be able to continue his progression from returning off an eye injury.
"Slow and steady I guess," Jones chuckled. "It's just kind of a progression thing. Every week or every few days I get to do something new and if I can do it without any aggravation to my eye I get to move on. It's just a matter of going through those steps and hopefully getting back to playing sometime soon."
With his first skate with equipment on, Jones was glad to be able to make that step.
"It's exciting. This stuff hasn't been used in awhile. Not since I got hit. But it'll be good. Like I said, it's the next step in the progression so my spirits get a little higher when I get to do something else. So it's a good day."
The winger added that there are no timelines as of yet for his return.