Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins talked in length about Luke Gazdic after the team’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Flames.
Gazdic knocked out Kevin Westgarth in a fight following the Flames first goal. The incident was a scary one and one Eakins, who says he likes a good fight, was ‘disturbed’ by.
“Luke’s game has improved greatly this year,” Eakins said. “He’s a big part of our team… I’ll admit, I love a good fight but to see Kevin laying on the ice like that, I don’t like that. That’s a disturbing thing for me and you never like to see a guy trying to get off the ice like that. But that’s the danger of those fights… Luke seems to be catching guys almost every time now, maybe not that drastic but the guy is falling out of the fight because he’s been tagged in the right spot. Luke’s doing an excellent job in his roll. He’s improving as a hockey player and his skill set and I personally, certainly hope that Westgarth is okay because that disturbed me.”
Aside from the outcomes of Gazdic’s fights, Eakins has been happy with the rookie’s work ethic and drive to improve his skills.
In today’s NHL, fighting is still a part of the game but those who fight also have to be able to take shifts and play at a high level and Gazdic can do that.
“For me, the guy has got to be able to play,” Eakins said. “The days of the guy just playing one shift and that’s it, and sometimes not even playing a shift just sitting on the bench, they’re gone. You’ve got to be able to play and you’ve got to bring something. Luke skates well enough that he’s able to get in on the forecheck and he continues to work on his skills. He’s been working his butt of in practice with our penalty kill. He’s dying to kill penalties and we may look at that, kind of after the… trade deadline to see if he can do that a little bit. He works extremely hard on his game, we all know he’s tough, the rest of the teams in the league are finding that out but it’s a great progression for him.”