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BLOG: McLellan discusses McDavid's health struggles

After being affected by two illnesses for a good portion of the season, the captain is at 100% now and it shows

by Marc Ciampa /

After a bit of an up-and-down start to the season by his standards due to having to fight off two different illnesses, Connor McDavid is now back to full tilt for the Oilers and it showed with his impressive four-point performance on Tuesday in Columbus. 

With 39 points in 31 games, McDavid is now in sole possession of third in NHL scoring. Last season, McDavid had the exact same totals as he does this year through 31 games (12 goals, 27 assists, 39 points, +6 rating) and last season, McDavid ended up leading the NHL with 100 points. He has 20 points in his last 14 games which is a 117 point pace and nine points in his last six games which is a 123 point pace.

Oilers head coach Todd McLellan attributes McDavid's recent uptick in part to the fact that he's able to handle more ice time. 

"There were nights (when he was ill) where he was down to 15, 16, 17. So he's on the ice more. He's on the ice more because his energy level is up," McLellan began. "When the energy level is up, you can play hard both ways -- offensively and defensively -- you can win races that you would normally win. You can get more out of your shift later. He's always had great lungs and great legs where he could play hard and fast even 40 or 45 seconds into a shift where a lot of guys would begin to fade and are looking to get off.

"That all adds up to him having a better game."

McLellan added that the first illness wasn't a typical flu that a lot of players have to go through in a season. 

"It took a lot out of him. There was probably not enough made out of the first illness. The second one was just a common one that everybody else had. You combine the two and it takes a little off you."

Mark Letestu added that the team feeds off the energy that McDavid can bring to the game. 

"I think he's getting rewarded, too. He's getting on the scoresheet more often now. To me, his approach has been the same. He hasn't wavered, he hasn't gotten frustrated at least in our room. When he's going, the team goes. He's the heart of our team. He drives us. When he's going like that, it's certainly easier to strap them on and go play as hard as he is."


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BLOG: Oilers need to build on road trip breakthrough

After winning two out of three and outscoring the opposition 13-5, the real test for the Oilers is Thursday at home

by Marc Ciampa /

With two wins out of three in their trip through the Eastern Conference, the Oilers looked like they have turned a corner. The real key was that the team could have easily won all three if some bounces went their way.

"I don't know how the play was before but just hearing about the last three games we played, you can really see a change," said newcomer Brandon Davidson. "It sucks to even say we could have got two more in Toronto there. I thought we played well enough in all three games to win each game. It's nice to see that everybody's on the right track here now and we're all moving in the same direction."


Mark Letestu felt that the team he saw on the road trip was a lot closer to the team that played in April and May last year. 

"I think we found something closer to our identity, or what we'd want our identity to be. It's a funny game sometimes, you have two Vezina winners and you chase them before the third period and then can't buy a goal in Toronto," Letestu began. "The way we played the three games, it was consistent. We were dangerous at all times. It was just a matter of puck luck from the one night but we're starting to get results, starting to see our power play coming around and getting scoring throughout the lineup."

Oilers head coach Todd McLellan felt that the real test is now in how the team responds after the successful trip. 

"Short term, the five days we were gone, it was a breakthrough," said McLellan. "I thought we put good efforts together for three nights in a row but it's only worth something now if we come back home here and grow on it," McLellan stated. "We won't know that until we take the test tomorrow. I hope that we've learned lessons and will adjust our game accordingly so that we do play better here. But time will tell."

What is most important for the team, McLellan remarked, is the need to string some wins together and get back in the playoff race.

"When you just look at wins and losses, I know our performances were better on the road, but we ping ponged a win, a loss and a win in there and you don't get any traction by doing that. We'll be a lot more relieved if and when we string together a good group of games and everybody's contributing."



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BLOG: Puljujarvi continues to improve

With three goals and five points in his last five games, Jesse Puljujarvi is playing the best he ever has as an Oiler

by Marc Ciampa /

Jesse Puljujarvi scored again on Tuesday in Columbus to mark three goals (and five points) in his last five games. In all, he has four goals in his last eight games and has a +9 rating in those eight contests. He's played a lot of those games on the wing of Connor McDavid, but Coach McLellan says that's not why he's succeeding. 

"The difference is not Connor, it's Jesse," McLellan said. "He's looking more and more confident. He's playing a different game. I think that's visual to all of us. He's using other tools rather than just opening up for the shot.

"His goal last night, he went to the net, he stopped, fought off a big body more than once, scored falling down. You think about the goals he scored lately and a lot of them have been within five or six feet of the net. He's figuring that out that there's a nice little reward if he gets into that area and the puck gets there."

Mark Letestu agreed with the coach when asked to assesses Puljujarvi's play. 

"He's getting more comfortable," Letetsu began. "I think that's just growing up and maturing in the League. You can tell he's starting to feel like he belongs. He's starting to carry the puck, he's more confident with plays, he's not scoring on the outside. He's getting to the interior, he's scoring on rebounds, he's making really good passes. You start to see the talent that's there and how dynamic he could potentially be for us."

McLellan hopes that Puljujarvi can build off his recent success and get better. 


"He's having fun doing it right now and we want him to maintain that level of confidence."

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BLOG: McLellan gives updates on Sekera, Larsson and Talbot

Oilers head coach gave a status update on Wednesday on the injured players

by Marc Ciampa /

The Oilers had a successful road trip without three key pillars of the team on the defensive side in Andrej Sekera, Adam Larsson and Cam Talbot. On Wednesday, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan provided an update on each player. 

"Larsson and Sekera are both doing a good job of rehab and trying to get back into the lineup. We'll worry about those problems when we have them," McLellan said about the possibility of a logjam on defence with a full slate of healthy defenders (Sekera is projected to return early in the New Year). 

"(Larsson) skated today, he skated when we were on the road so things are improving. We're probably back to that day-to-day scenario but with his injury, he could wake up tomorrow and it could be back to where it was before. So we've got to get completely through it and make sure that he's fine."

Regarding Talbot, he will be reevaluated following Thursday's game.

"Talbs is getting awfully close. He won't be involved in tomorrow's game against Nashville but there's a potential target date if everything goes well further into the weekend."



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BLOG: Davidson looking to build off successful debut trip

Brandon Davidson is looking to build off his first three games in his second stint as an Oiler

by Marc Ciampa /

Brandon Davidson played all three games on the Oilers recent road trip and acquitted himself very well, with a +3 rating and seeing his ice time increase each game. 

"He should be thrilled," Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said when asked about how he thought Davidson should feel after his performance. "He's played three darn good games. He looks like he's excited to be here again. He looks confident on the ice surface, he's made some good plays. Penalty kill's improved with him in the lineup. There's a lot of positives for him right now.

"We need him to continue to grow his game and maintain that confidence level."

Having played with the Oilers before, it was a very easy step for Davidson to return to the lineup and contribute immediately. In Montreal, he was a healthy scratch of late with his last game in a Canadiens uniform being on November 22 against Nashville. 

"I think knowing the system, coming in here and knowing the guys that's really helped get me off to a good start. The first three games have gone pretty well and I feel like the team's moving in the right direction, too," Davidson began, adding that a big reason he's felt so good on the ice is his positive energy as a result of being back in Edmonton. 

"Attitude is everything. It truly provides a lot of energy, it picks a guy up from what the last six months has held for me. I think it's time to smile."


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BLOG: Video and written content from Wednesday

Watch videos and read blogs from Wednesday's media availability prior to the Oilers off-ice workout

by Marc Ciampa /

The Oilers held an off-ice workout on Wednesday after returning late Wednesday morning following their 7-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Next up for the team is a game on Thursday at Rogers Place against the Nashville Predators. 



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FUTURE WATCH: Ryan Mantha caught up with first-year Bakersfield Condors defenceman Ryan Mantha to talk about his transition to pro

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Bakersfield Condors defenceman Ryan Mantha joined the Oilers organization at last season's NHL Trade Deadline, after signing a three-year entry-level contract. Originally a 2014 fourth-round draft pick of the New York Rangers, the 21-year-old chose not to sign with the Rangers franchise, making him available as a free agent. Mantha finished last campaign with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League and is now 23 games into his American Hockey League career. In the 21 games he's played this season, the 6-foot-5, 229-pound blueliner has one goal, five assists and is a steady minus-two.

Video: MINORS MINUTE | Starrett's Debut

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FEATURE: Gryba's passion for archery hits the road

Oilers defenceman Eric Gryba finds time to feed his passion for archery, even during the busy hockey season

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

COLUMBUS, OH - If Eric Gryba could do it, he'd be outside with his bow 4-5 days per week - easy.

That's why it's not surprising that on a road trip, with a day off scheduled, the Oilers defenceman will check his bow under the plane and bring it to a nearby archery range in whichever city the team is playing.

Video: FEATURE | Archery with Eric Gryba

Oilers TV followed Gryba to Velocity Archery in Columbus, Ohio a day before the team beat the Blue Jackets 7-2. Gryba unleashed arrow after arrow at targets, consistently hitting the middle section, and showing off how practice makes perfect.

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GAME STORY: Oilers 7, Blue Jackets 2

The Oilers dominated the Blue Jackets 7-2 to close out their road trip

by Ryan Frankson /

COLUMBUS, OH - That's one way to relieve the frustration of getting shut out the game before.

Two days after the Oilers were all over the Toronto Maple Leafs but got stymied by goaltender Curtis McElhinney in a 1-0 defeat, they had no trouble converting in their road trip finale against the Columbus Blue Jackets and cruised to a decisive 7-2 victory.

Video: OILERS TODAY | at Blue Jackets Post-Game

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LIVE BLOG: Oilers at Blue Jackets

Minute-by-minute updates as the Oilers take on the Blue Jackets in Columbus

by Chris Wescott / Head Writer

The Oilers close out this road trip with a showdown with the Blue Jackets in Columbus.

You can watch on Sportsnet Oilers, or listen live on 630 CHED and the Oilers Radio Network.

Follow along during the game with live updates, notes, commentary and highlights with our in-game blog.

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