EDMONTON, AB - Dave Tippett patrolled the ice after the Oilers broke from their final huddle at Monday's practice, seeking out one-on-one conversations with more than one player.
It's not uncommon for the bench boss to regularly engage with his players directly at the end of practice, in the time between drills, or before the group congregates in front of the whiteboard.
But with eight heavy tilts on the docket before teams around the NHL break for the holidays, this time around took on extra importance.
"You're always having conversations with guys, but coming off last night and coming into this stretch before Christmas, this is a critical time for our team," Tippett said.
"I'm just making sure everybody knows where they stand and what our expectations are going into the next couple of weeks."
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Sometimes, the message in those individual one-on-ones can resonate much louder than the one delivered in a meeting with every one of your teammates. The timing, to players like Jujhar Khaira, amplifies that importance.
"We have our team meetings and all that, and as a group I think we know what we need to do," Khaira said. "But individually, there are things you kind of overlook sometimes that the coaches see. It's nicer when they come up to you individually to talk about it instead of getting called out in front of the group."
"The way Tipp handles it is great, and he's very approachable and very personal."
The Oilers close out a four-game homestand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, with a quick road stop against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday preceding a Hockey Night In Canada matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
A five-game stretch from there on until Christmas includes three on the road against teams occupying playoff spots and a back-to-back home set with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens.
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Being able to string together wins has been something the Oilers have struggled with in the past month, making this busy stretch even more paramount for the club in the Pacific Division picture heading into 2020.
"I'm sure you hear lots of guys talk about it, but we just have to be more consistent," captain Connor McDavid said. "Find ways to string wins together. It seems like we win a game, then we come out and we start slow and we're battling back in games."
"You just have to be desperate. We talk a lot about bounce-back games and not losing two in a row, but we have to find a way to win two in a row as well. We can't be happy with just winning one and losing one. You have to find a way to string them together."