DETROIT, MI - The Oilers continue their five-game road swing with a showdown in Detroit with the Red Wings. The Oilers could get a boost to their lineup, with Anton Lander returning from a shoulder injury and Benoit Pouliot on the mend from illness. Pouliot is a game-time decision.
“We’re excited to have him back.” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said of Lander. “I think it will give us more options up the middle, obviously. Benoit is a game-time decision. He is feeling better and we’ll see how he progresses during the day.”
Lander says he is feeling great and is ready to contribute as the Oilers meet the Red Wings.
“They’re a great team,” Lander said. “They have a lot of skills, they play hard and have a lot of speed. They lost last night, so it’s going to be a good game tonight. We’ve got to be ready for it and try to get the puck out and try to get on the forecheck, which we’ve been doing good pretty lately.”
Ben Scrivens will start in net and the Oilers are undecided on their defensive lineup as of this morning.
The Red Wings won the lone previous game against the Oilers this season, a 4-2 decision at Rexall Place on January 6.
With Lander returning, the Oilers have more options of the middle. Matt Hendricks can now move back to the wing. It also gives the Oilers back a weapon that was developing quite nicely before suffering a shoulder injury on February 18, against Boston. Lander had three goals in his last five games before getting hurt.
“I thought he was playing excellent hockey when he got injured,” Nelson said. “He put together a really good string of three weeks to a month of really consistent (hockey) and he was arguably one of our best players, if not the best, on different nights. The things is having him go in the middle certainly helps us out. We can put Hendy back on the wing. Hendy did a great job up the middle, but the thing is we can now get our lines somewhere like we were two weeks ago.”
It was unfortunate timing for Lander to be taken out of the lineup. The 23-year-old centre was coming into his own and was showing that he could be a reliable option for the Oilers third-line centre spot moving forward.
“It’s never a good time to get hurt, but that’s hockey,” Lander said. “That’s how it works. There is nothing you can do about it so I’ve got to focus on the right thing and that’s to go out and work real hard out there.”
FACING THE MAGIC MAN
21-year-old Oilers winger Nail Yakupov would have undoubtedly been a Pavel Datsyuk fan while living in his home country of Russia.
Datsyuk, a Russian native himself, has craved out a very successful career with the Detroit Red Wings. At age 36, he’s still got it. Datsyuk has 54 points (22-32-54) in 53 games this season.
Yakupov talked today about playing against Datsyuk and what it’s like to watch him play.
“It’s crazy,” Yakupov said. “You’re just watching and you’re just enjoying the play with Pavel on the ice. He just does so many good things on the ice. Sometimes, you want to be like Datsyuk, but I don’t think someone in the world is going to be close to Datsyuk at all. It’s really good, it’s really fun to play against that guy and when you watch his shifts from the bench it’s really enjoyable. It’s a good opportunity. You’ve just got to enjoy the movement and try to beat him one on one and make a good memory in your life.”
The Oilers interim coach is very familiar with the Detroit Red Wings organization and the Michigan area as well. Nelson played multiple years in Grand Rapids with the Griffins. He coached for the Griffins in the AHL during the 2002-03 season. While coaching in Oklahoma City, the Barons faced the Griffins in the 2013 Western Conference Final.
Now Nelson gets the opportunity to coach against one of the best in the business, Mike Babcock, tonight in Detroit.
“I have a history with Detroit,” Nelson said. “I worked for them for a year and know everybody in the organization. Plus, I still have a house in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There will be a lot of people from Grand Rapids coming down to watch the game. I’m very excited to be coaching here in Detroit and I’m looking forward to it.”
QUICK NOTES: Edmonton is 1-7-2 in their last 10 games against the Red Wings. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins posted his second-career hat trick in the Oilers 7-4 loss to Carolina on Sunday. Nugent-Hopkins has seven points in his last five games. Jordan Eberle had a three-point night against Carolina and now has six points in his last five games.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (18-37-11) at RED WINGS (36-17-11)
TV: SNW, FS-D
Season series: The Detroit Red Wings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 at Rexall Place on Jan. 6. Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader had a goal and two assists, and center Pavel Datsyuk had a goal and an assist. Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle had two goals.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton has lost four in a row (0-3-1), including 7-4 to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday in the second of its five-game road trip. The Oilers blew a 3-0 lead, allowing six unanswered goals in a span of 17:26, and wasted center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' second career hat trick, first since Oct. 15, 2011, in his third NHL game. Left wing Benoit Pouliot missed the game because of the flu. Goalie Richard Bachman, making his first NHL start since Oct. 29, 2013, allowed six goals on 34 shots. Eberle scored his first goal since Feb. 2.
Red Wings team scope: Detroit has lost two straight following a 5-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on Sunday. "We didn't execute at all in our own zone and gave up a lot of chances," coach Mike Babcock said. "Our power play was no good, gave up two shorthanded goals. Our penalty kill was no good, couldn't stop them, so we weren't good." It's the first time the Red Wings have lost two in a row in regulation this season; they lost 5-2 to the Calgary Flames on Friday. Goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who allowed four goals on 23 shots, was pulled after the second period because of an undisclosed injury. Babcock said the Red Wings will likely call up goaltender Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League.