PREVIEW: Oilers at Coyotes
Oilers open two-game road swing against Pacific Division rivals Phoenix
|TV: Sportsnet West (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 1:08 p.m. MT
AT OILERS PRACTICEThe Oilers practiced in Leduc on Friday prior to departure for their weekend games in Phoenix and Los Angeles.
The line combinations at practice were:
Yakupov - RNH - Eberle
Perron - Arcobello - Hemsky (Hamilton)
Jones - Gordon - Pitlick (Gagner)
Gazdic - Acton - Eager
The lines were the same as last night's game against the Capitals.
“I thought they had great chemistry for two periods," Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said about the line of Yakupov, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle. "They were actually playing quite well against the Ovechkin line. Then in the third it seemed to fall away. With our record, and with our injuries it’s been a lot of different line combinations and I just want to breathe for another day so I think I’m going to leave them.”
Eakins said that the team will likely go with Jason LaBarbera in goal on Saturday against the Coyotes.
“I’d like to give Barbs a chance against his old teammates,” said Eakins. “I think we’ll go that way. There’s two sides of the coin. He’s going to play his old teammates and he’ll be excited and motivated but his teammates are going to be motivated to play against him as well. That’s the way we’re leaning right now.”
EBERLE REFLECTS ON THURSDAY
Despite a multitude of scoring chances and solid play, particularly early on, Jordan Eberle's line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov finished minus-four on the night Thursday against Washington. Eberle spoke to that after practice Friday.
“Any time you go minus-four you take a few things (away from the game) but that being said, I don’t think the plus/minus stat really reflected the game. I really thought that we had a ton of chances and it could have gone either way,” Eberle began.
“I had a great first shift. For most of the first two periods we were all over them. Then you just make a couple of mistakes and they capitalize. In that aspect, it’s tough to look at minus-four and say you had a bad game where I thought we played pretty well.”
With key offensive players like Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner out as well as depth forwards who had been contributing like Jesse Joensuu and Ryan Smyth, Eberle knows the pressure is on his line to contribute.
“You just want to continue playing any way that you can. Those players being out are key players for us. We’ve got to pick up the offence as a collective group. As one of the lines that plays a lot of minutes and a lot of offensive minutes, we want to be a line that scores offensively and keeps the puck out of our net.”
Eberle also looked ahead to the weekend trip to Phoenix and L.A. which begins tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. MDT at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, AZ.
“We’ve got back-to-back games here coming up (so you want to) try and conserve energy as much as we can. And we need a couple wins.”
POWER PLAY A WORK IN PROGRESS
The Oilers power play currently ranks 24th in the NHL with a 12.8% success rate. They have five goals on 39 opportunities. Adding to that, the Oilers have a league-high three shorthanded goals against.
Coach Eakins used a good portion of Friday’s practice in Leduc to work on the power play.
“It was more just the basics of the power play. I liked our power play last night, especially our very first power play that we had. We came out really bombing it. A goal there would have changed the game dramatically, I think,” Eakins said. “You have to stay encouraged by that. They’ve taken a step forward, listening. Today was more about reinforcing that message.”
The head coach had five-on-four, five-on-three and four-on-three drills during the practice.
“With the four-on-three and the five-on-three stuff, just to get in time to know that we know what we’re doing. It’s a necessary part of it. It brings the practice to an absolute halt but it’s necessary to do it so we have those things covered off.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (3-7-1) at COYOTES (6-3-2)
TV: SNET-W, FS-A
Last 10: Edmonton 3-6-1; Phoenix 5-3-2
Season series: This is the first of five meetings between the Edmonton Oilers and Phoenix Coyotes, new rivals in the Pacific Division. Each team won once in its opponent's building, with the Oilers taking two of three overall. Nail Yakupov led all players with two goals, including a power-play goal in overtime of Edmonton's 2-1 win in Phoenix on Jan. 30.
Big story: Yakupov had five goals and two assists in the first nine games of his rookie season en route to topping all first-year players in goals (17) and tying for the most points (31). As the Oilers scuffle through the opening month of the 2013-14 season, Yakupov seems to have hit the dreaded sophomore slump. He has no goals and one assist in nine games this time around and has been a healthy scratch twice, but the 20-year-old is still carrying himself confidently.
"It's coming, don't worry," Yakupov said prior to the Oilers' 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday. "We've been playing well and what's important is that we're winning games and it doesn't matter who's been scoring points. I just have to keep working hard and if you work hard then the points will come, whether it would be today, tomorrow, next week or next month."
Oilers: Edmonton had indeed been playing well, with consecutive wins to finish off a six-game road trip, but the Oilers fell to 1-3 at Rexall Place after Thursday's defeat and now head back out for a brief weekend swing at Phoenix and the Los Angeles Kings.
"We made four or five mistakes and it seemed like they capitalized on every one," Eberle said in The Edmonton Journal.
Coyotes: A stretch of seven straight games with a point (5-0-2) ended for Phoenix on Thursday in Los Angeles, but the Coyotes sure didn't go down without a fight.
The Kings blitzed them for four first-period goals only to see the Coyotes come all the way back as Jeff Halpern and Martin Hanzal scored in the second, and then Hanzal and Shane Doan lit the lamp 59 seconds apart early in the third. But the Coyotes ran out of gas after that and the Kings recovered to deal them a 7-4 loss.
"It looks like our season, where we can be so good at times and then we can be so bad at times," Doan said. "As leaders, we've got to talk and we've got to stick to what's fundamentally working for us because that's really what our games is -- keeping it simple and doing things right, the way that we know to, instead of trying to get off our own page."
Injury report: Edmonton defenseman Corey Potter (back) has been sent to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League on a conditioning assignment. Forwards Ryan Hamilton (knee), Steve MacIntyre (knee), Sam Gagner (jaw), Jesse Joensuu (back), Taylor Hall (knee) and Ryan Smyth (groin) are all out. … Phoenix forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is on injured reserve.
-- Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer