THE TEAM TODAY: Home Woes
Oilers comment on need to string wins together on homestand, injury updates & more at Wednesday's practice
"We were feeling pretty grumpy today" said Head Coach Ralph Krueger. "We've cleansed now, we've purged.”
The Oilers were in the game all night long, but gave it up late as Kings forward Jeff Carter tallied the go-ahead goal at 19:10, while ex-Oiler Jarret Stoll added another into the empty net 28 seconds later.
"Certain phases of the game, our management with the puck and our lack of simple creativity towards the net and create secondary chances. Those were elements that really got lost (Tuesday). You need to be angry when you have a game that close where points were easy to be grabbed and we were quite off the mark. We're remaining positive as far as looking these things right in the eye. It's the reaction of that we want to see right away tomorrow. It's not acceptable for us, 15 games into the season, to fall that far off what we're expecting of each other, especially with puck management.
"The positive thing is that we were 45 seconds away of getting another point against the Stanley Cup Champions.”
With the loss, the Oilers now sit in 11th in the NHL's Western Conference with a 6-6-3 record (15 points). Edmonton is two points back of the Dallas Stars for the eighth and final playoff spot with a game at hand.
Lennart Petrell, who's currently day-to-day with a head injury, did not skate for the second straight practice. Krueger stopped short of calling it a concussion once again, but did admit Petrell is feeling some "concussion-like” symptoms as a result of taking a redirected Ben Eager slap shot off the head in Saturday's warm up.
"He's heading in positive direction" said Krueger. "His head has been moving sideways, but we felt a bit of an improvement today. We can't put him on IR. -- he's too close. He could be skating tomorrow or, at the latest I would say, on Friday.
Krueger rolled out some new line combinations at practice:
The top unit of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle remained intact. On the second line, Nail Yakupov was bumped back up to play with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky. Ryan Smyth, Eric Belanger and Ben Eager made up the third line, while Teemu Hartikainen, Chris VandeVelde and Magnus Paajarvi composed the fourth.
Defenceman Theo Peckham was back on the ice after completing his two-week conditioning assignment with the Oilers' AHL affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. The 25-year-old has been on the IR since Day 1 of the season due to a hip flexor injury. There were also some concerns about the blueliner's conditioning, but that's no longer an issue.
"It was fun" Peckham said of his Oklahoma experience. "Just getting back into playing games and being in that competitive environment was fun. It was great to finally hit someone that wasn't wearing an Oilers jersey.
"I felt pretty good. I felt a lot better than I thought I was going to feel. I'm back with the right attitude, I'm in good shape and did the right things down there to come back and have success.
"I feel like I'm ready to go.”
Changes could be coming, but right now the plan is to stick with 13 forwards and eight defenceman on the roster.
TWO TO GO
With dates against the Minnesota Wild and Phoenix Coyotes left on the current homestand before the Oilers head for a monstrous nine-game road trip, the Oilers know they need to start stringing some wins together.
"We want to get some wins and get on a roll here" said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who's registered a goal and six assists this season. "We get so hungry after a loss and we need to get that same hunger after a win. We need to create a winning atmosphere in here. It's something that needs to change. We need to stay even keel, no matter if we lose or if we win.”
The Oilers have won back-to-back games only once this season (Jan. 28, 4-1 over the Colorado Avalanche and on Jan. 30, 2-1 over the Phoenix Coyotes). Following up Saturday's 56-shot, 6-4 win with a blasé effort Tuesday night didn't please many.
"Against Dallas and Colorado we put lots of pucks on net and got guys going there. Last night we were putting pucks on net, but we didn't have too many guys going there, getting greasy and getting those second and third opportunities" said Nugent-Hopkins.
That's an issue.
"I like to look at the problem right in the eye quickly -- very quickly" said Krueger. "I expose it, communicate it and give them (the players) an opportunity to talk back. In this season especially, I believe you have to be really cognizant of the emotional state of the team. You have no time to recover because the schedule is so condensed.”
"We have to (play with urgency)" added Eric Belanger, the Oilers' leading faceoff man with a 52.4 percent success rate.
"It's a good thing to talk about it, but we have to do it. The right things have been said and now it's to bring it every night. We know what we have to do to have success. We did a lot of good things (vs. Colorado) and it got away from us last night. That game was there to be taken and we left some points on the table.
"But we have to learn from it and move on.”
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick