PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Flyers
Oilers and Ilya Bryzgalov face off against the Philadelphia Flyers
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The Edmonton Oilers take on the Philadelphia Flyers tonight at Rexall Place. It is Edmonton's second game in as many days and Philadelphia's first since the Christmas break.
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The big story tonight is Ilya Bryzgalov facing off against his former team for the first time since the Flyers bought him out in the offseason.
This morning, Oilers coach Dallas Eakins spoke to the media about the impact Bryzgalov has had with the team so far.
"He's been a good teammate, a pleasure to coach. He's been stopping the puck fairly well. We've had absolutely no problem at all," Eakins began.
"I'm always open to anything. Once Bryz was an unrestricted free agent, I spoke to him on the phone probably for close to an hour, not knowing him at all. It was a very long conversation about his experiences. I went through some of his past coaches, I was trying to get a feel for who he was. When I hung up the phone, even though I wasn't sure which way we would go with this I was certainly cheering for him. I was hoping that he would get another chance."
Bryzgalov has made the most of his chance, with a 2.80 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in seven starts and eight appearances.
"You have to be open to everything. It's very dangerous to shut doors on people when they run into a rough spot in a certain place. There are some teams in the league that have done a wonderful job on taking in guys who may have suffered the year before through a tough stretch and got them back on their feet.
"We're still early on with Bryz but so far so good for me."
Eakins remarked that Bryzgalov has also helped with the other Russians on the team, most notably Nail Yakupov.
"Something that came unexpected has been his work with Yakupov and Belov. A great example is in the Anaheim game there was six minutes left on the clock and Yak got a hold of the puck a couple of times. Not decisions we loved and not anything that cost us. The whistle went and Yak sat down in front of me. I was just about to lean into him and talk to him about the play. There was a (TV) timeout and Bryz was already in front of me. It was a one-sided conversation. Bryz wasn't yeling, it was an even tone. They were going on in their native tongue.
"Bryz pointed at the clock and I thought I knew what he was saying. After he was done I tapped Yak on the shoulder and said 'he's right'.
"Yak turned around and said, 'that's right, I can't turn the puck over at this time in the game. Bryz is right.'"
The last couple of games, Nail Yakupov has played around six minutes with no power play time. Eakins talked a little about the thought process behind putting him on line four.
"There is a plan and that plan will change a little bit tonight. The thought process of having him with those linemates are that there are other players playing better ahead of him at his position. That's the first part of it. The second part of it, and more important part, is we want Yak to play a simple game and not be enticed into playing a complicated one. Sometimes when you play with more skilled players you get enticed into that complicated game. We thought we would put him with a couple guys who want to get the puck deep and want to play a simple game."
Yakupov had a goal and an assist Monday against the Jets and, more importantly, took shifts late into the 1-0 game last night.
"I think it's rubbed off on Yak the last couple games. He's battled extremely hard in his limited minutes. We think he's taken some strides forward and we challenged our group, if you want to play on the power play how about get your five-on-five game straight? That's how it's always been in hockey.
"We think he's earned that right again and we're going to get him back on the power play."
Corey Potter suffered a groin injury on Friday and will not play tonight. Martin Marincin, recalled Thursday from Oklahoma City, will suit up in his place.
"I feel great. It's good for me, every time I get called up," Marincin stated.
Other than that, there shouldn't be any further lineup changes for Edmonton. Steve Mason starts in goal for the Flyers.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
FLYERS (17-16-4) at OILERS (13-24-3)
TV: CBC, TCN-PH
Last 10: Philadelphia 5-3-2; Edmonton 3-6-1
Season series: This is the second of two games between the Philadelphia Flyers and Edmonton Oilers. The Flyers won 4-2 at Wells Fargo Center on Nov. 9; however, they are 0-3 with a tie at Rexall Place since winning there March 19, 2001.
Big story: The Flyers begin a six-game road trip after a 4-1-1 streak in the six games before the Christmas break moved them into third place in the Metropolitan Division after a bad start. The Oilers come home after a 2-0 victory against the Calgary Flames on Friday.
Flyers: Philadelphia begins its trip having won six of 19 games away from home. The Flyers are 0-3-2 in their past five games on the road.
Coach Craig Berube said his team has to simplify its game to have success.
"For me, you've gotta play a simple game, can't force things on the road," Berube told the Flyers website.
"You have to be smart with the puck. It takes a lot of discipline on the road."
That would mean taking fewer penalties, which might not be easy for the NHL's most penalized team (17.2 minutes per game).
"We take too many penalties that aren't needed," Berube said.
Oilers: Edmonton is back at Rexall Place after a satisfying victory against their provincial rivals. Ryan Smyth had both goals, and Devan Dubnyk stopped 27 shots to give the Oilers consecutive victories for the third time this season.
Oilers coach Dallas Eakins was more than happy to take the two points.
"I thought we played a sound game," Eakins said. "I don't think it was a real exciting game. It was two teams trying to not give up anything."Adam Hall (flu) didn't practice Friday. Defenseman Eric Gustafsson (knee) is sidelined, but forward Steve Downie (upper body) is ready to return
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com