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News from Friday's Ryan Smyth retirement announcement and more.
EDMONTON, AB - Tonight marks the end of the season for the Edmonton Oilers and the end of an era with Ryan Smyth announcing his retirement yesterday.
Smyth took the ice this morning for his final morning skate with the team he’s played 15 seasons with over a long and successful career.
“You try to keep your emotions in check and try to take it all in,” Smyth said. “It went as normal as it could be as far as the drills and stuff but you look up at the rafters and see the banners of the cups and the guys that have retired, their banners and stuff. It’s pretty special, it’s a great building to play in and I’m really looking forward to tonight.”
The minutes in the locker room waiting for the game to begin will be the toughest for Smyth.
“Those are the times where you’ve got to find it within you to dig deep, try to breathe through it and relish this great opportunity that I’ve been in for 18-plus years and try to stick within the game plan and I’m just excited to get to game time.”
Smyth’s teammates are happy for him and are hoping it will be a night to remember for the veteran.
“It would be fun to have a good one for our fans and most importantly, Smytty there in his last game of his career and it’s going to be special for him,” David Perron said.
“You feel for him,” Jordan Eberle said. “It’s a tough situation but the way (General Manager Craig MacTavish) worded it yesterday, it’s a tough time but you should really celebrate his career. He’s had an unbelievable career. I mean, I’m sure if anyone watched him in game one that they’d think about even playing 1,300, 1,200 games or whatever it is, they’d be shocked. You just kind of idolize him. I think for me, there’s guys you play against that you just kind of get the ‘wow factor’ and I tell people I got the chance to play against them. A guy who pops into mind is Teemu Selanne the other night. Ryan’s a guy you can tell people you played with. He’s a special guy and it’ll be a good night for him.”
Smyth is still searching for that 127th career power play goal to take sole possession of the franchise record. Although he has said he wants that distinction and to surpass Glenn Anderson, Smyth also wants to win tonight.
“We want to win the hockey game,” he said. “That’s what the bottom line is. It makes it even more special when, at the end of the day, you get that victory. Just play your game and come out and compete at a high level and bring the energy and would it be nice to chip in a goal or a point? Absolutely. I’m not going to sit here and say I wouldn’t but, at the end of the day, we play to win and that would be exciting for me.”
Perron says he’ll be looking to find his linemate on the ice as much as possible.
“That would be awesome for him,” Perron said. “He certainly deserves that kind of success for his last game. I’m not sure how many shots on goal I’ll have tonight but I’ll try to find him as much as possible.”
Roman Horak was recalled this morning from the Oklahoma City Barons and knows that it is his last audition of the season to prove himself to the Oilers.
“Obviously, it’s not easy to come for one game and do some crazy stuff but I’m just going to do my best and hopefully show off what I can do and we’ll see how it goes,” Horak said.
Horak has exceeded his previous professional career high in points with 45 (19-26-45) in 50 games in the American Hockey League this season. He credits playing with a couple of players, Oilers fans are familiar with, as the reason for his success offensively.
“Obviously I was lucky enough to play with, especially at the end here, with (Mark Arcobello) and Anton (Lander) too. Those are both great players and if you get a guy like that down in the AHL, it will happen. I wouldn’t say I changed a lot, I still try to do what I do best with skating and I think I see the ice pretty well. If I’ve got a guy with me that can pass it back and I can pass it back, it’s a pleasure to play with.”
Linemates aside, there has been some individual improvement for the 22-year-old forward.
“Every year you’re getting more experience and you’re getting older so you know how to play the game and you learn with time. Obviously, the NHL is a different step it’s a different story so it’s still tough for me to play up here and (I’m still trying to) establish myself as an NHL player. Tonight is going to be another audition and I’m looking forward to it and hopefully it will work out.”
Horak also commented on being recalled on an important night in Oil Country; Smyth’s final game.
“That’s huge, especially here in Edmonton… Obviously Ryan’s played here for a long time and he’s got over 1,200 games. It’s a pleasure to be a part of it and great to see him and he’s had a long, great career. It’s a pleasure to be here and be a part of it.”
CANUCKS (35-34-11) at OILERS (28-44-9)
Last 10: Vancouver 4-5-1; Edmonton 3-7-0
Season series: The Vancouver Canucks may have struggled against California teams in the new Pacific Division, but they continued to play well against their older Northwest Division rivals, including three wins in four games against the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton won the most recent game against Vancouver, 4-2 on Jan. 27, but the Canucks won the first three by a combined score of 12-3.
Big story: Edmonton's final game of the season took on added significance when longtime Oilers forward Ryan Smyth announced Friday it would be his last. Smyth played most of 14 of his 18 NHL with the Oilers.
Canucks: Coach John Tortorella wasn't willing to experiment too much with his lineup against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday because the Avalanche are battling for playoff position. But he made it clear that wouldn't be the case in the final two games against the also-ran Oilers on Saturday and the season finale against the Calgary Flames on Sunday, so expect to see some new faces.
Goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who made his first start with Vancouver against Colorado and is looking for his first NHL win since October, and promising defenseman Frank Corrado were set to play all three games. Tortorella will bring regular healthy-scratch forwards Jordan Schroeder and Zac Dalpe back into the lineup, and recently signed college free agent forward Michael Zalewski will play his first NHL game
Zalewski has been practicing with the Canucks since signing out of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) on March 14, and Tortorella wants to see what the skilled 6-foot-2, 220-pound wing can do in a game. The 21-year-old had nine goals, 17 assists and 53 penalty minutes in 35 games in the NCAA this season.
"You don't want to make judgments on practice, so I'm anxious to see him play," Tortorella said. "He's practiced really well, we've shown him a bunch of tape on our team concept, and to me it's been a really good process for him."
Oilers: Edmonton selected Smyth with the sixth pick in the 1994 NHL Draft. If seeing him play his final game in front of the home crowd isn't enough motivation for the Oilers, who will miss the postseason for an eighth straight season, there is one more milestone in reach.
Saturday will be Smyth's last chance to set the Oilers record for power-play goals. Smyth and Glenn Anderson each have 126, one ahead of Wayne Gretzky, and Smyth would like to be No.1 alone.
If Smyth does score the goal, chances are it will be from right in front of the net, on a deflection or rebound after absorbing punishment from either an opposing defenseman or the puck.
That's how most, including current teammates, will always remember the gritty forward.
"He was always around the net being greasy and scoring goals that everyone was like, 'How did that go in? Oh, Ryan Smyth scored again,'" David Perron, who grew up idolizing Smyth, told the Canadian Press after practice Friday. "At the end of the year he'd have 30-40 goals."
Who's hot: Canucks center Henrik Sedin has a goal and assist in three games since returning from a knee sprain and leads the Canucks with 48 points. Daniel Sedin has one goal and four assists in eight games since returning from a hamstring injury and is second with 45 points. … Before getting shut out by the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday, Edmonton defenseman Justin Schultz had two goals and an assist in his past three games, and Perron had a goal in each of his past two games; he leads the Oilers with 28 goals.Injury report: Canucks center Mike Santorelli (shoulder surgery) and defensemen Christopher Tanev (broken fingers) and Andrew Alberts (concussion) are out. … Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference (pectoral tear) and forwards Jesse Joensuu (high ankle sprain), Nail Yakupov (broken ankle), Ryan Jones (torn PCL), Boyd Gordon (shoulder) and Luke Gazdic (shoulder) are out, along with Sam Gagner.