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Fresh faces provide new energy

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The players on the Oilers bench have been saying it for days now— there is a new energy in the room.

“Ever since the coaching change too and the new players, when you bring in that many new guys and ship some guys out then things probably aren’t going well,” Oilers winger Teddy Purcell said. “Through tough times, it does bring you a little life, a little extra energy and we’ve just got to keep feeding off that.”

Derek Roy takes to the ice in an Oilers uniform. Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers

Like Purcell said, it does start with the coach. Anytime there is a change in that office, it brings with it extra motivation. But like your favourite energy drink, the new skaters on the roster have also brought a bit of a jolt.

“Just providing a new look and creating more energy with the players in the room and also on the ice,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said of the contributions of Derek Roy, Matt Fraser and Rob Klinkhammer. “Anytime you get a player through trade or even a call-up, it gives the team a little bit of a new look and guys get excited about that.”

Roy, since being acquired in a trade with Nashville, has a goal and an assist in his first four games with the Oilers. He recorded a point on just his second shift in his first game with Edmonton, when he set up Matt Hendricks for a one-timer. The Oilers beat Los Angeles that night, 3-2 in a shootout.

“Whatever it’s going to take to win hockey games,” Roy said of his role with the team.

Klinkhammer, barely off the plane from Pittsburgh, skated with the Oilers for the first time on Sunday morning. The trade acquisition suited up against the Islanders for his first game in the blue and orange that night. The newcomer attacked the puck behind New York’s net and freed it up to Hendricks for a pretty much wide-open shot at the net.

“Klinkhammer got into the lineup here for the first time as an Oiler and wow, can he skate,” Hendricks said after the game. “He brings a lot of energy, he did a good job on that forecheck and gave me a nice empty netter.”

The Oilers won that game 5-2.

Matt Fraser celebrates his first Oilers goal in Calgary. Photo by Getty Images

On New Year’s Eve, Fraser opened the scoring for the Oilers in Calgary. He banked a shot off the back of Jonas Hiller and in to give the visitors a 1-0 lead. Despite leading in that game 2-0 at one point, the Oilers fell to the Flames 4-3 in overtime. While just two games into his Oilers career, Fraser was not shy about his disappointment in letting that one get away.

“I think this team is pretty fragile right now,” Fraser said in Calgary after the loss. “I heard it a long time ago that losing can be contagious. Part of that, being a new guy in here and coming from an organization like Boston is you’ve got to bring that element of your game where you’re not content with losing.”

Fraser, who also scored against the Islanders, was making a point that it’s about having a winning attitude. That attitude is something that veteran players in the Oilers locker room, like Hendricks and Purcell, have touched on as well in the last week or so. The three new guys have each come in, hoping to help the Oilers build that.

“It’s a winning experience,” Roy explained. “I think when you start winning you gain confidence and you know going into games that you’re going to win. Then when get into the third period and you’re up by a goal, you know that there is no chance the other team is going to come back on you. I thought (against the Islanders) was a good example of that. We came out in the third, kept our foot on the pedal, just kept working hard and good things happened.”

Together, the group of new faces and established Oilers are pushing on and learning how to win in close situations. Since Nelson stepped behind the bench nine games ago, the Oilers have had six one-goal games and have went to overtime five times. They’ve managed just one win in those one-goal games, but have earned points in their last four (2-0-2).

Rob Klinkhammer skates in his first game with the Oilers. Photo by Andy Devlin | Edmonton Oilers

“We’ve got a really good group there. I even said that during the tough times when we were losing 12 in a row or whatever it was,” Purcell said. “There are good guys in here who are trying to stay positive and do the right things. That’s a true thing what (Fraser) said. We had a couple goal lead against LA, we had a lead against Calgary and we found a way to lose that (in Calgary). It’s all part of the learning process. I thought (against the Islanders) we did a really good job of playing with the lead and we’ve got to learn from that. We didn’t sit back, we kept playing with pressure, we kept playing our game and we’ll be more comfortable when we get leads throughout the rest of the season.”

Hendricks adds that he sees the improvement over the last handful of games.

“We’ve talked a lot about our team game,” Hendricks said after the win against New York. “It’s been improving night in and night out, the practices have been improving, there’s more energy in the room right now and you could just sense that we were knocking on the doorstep in the last few games.”

The Oilers three new guys have combined for three goals and two assists in the last four games. They’re helping in the installation of a winning attitude, they’ve brought a fresh source of energy and have contributed to the stat sheet.

It can’t be expected that there will be personnel changes every week, which means that boost to the lineup will need to be sustained when roster flux cools. Nelson says it’s on the coaches to provide that positive energy moving forward and Purcell says it’s on the players to sustain it.

“It just seems like there’s new life instilled," Purcell said. "Our veteran guys need to make sure that doesn’t fade.”

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