Tonight, the Oilers take on the Dallas Stars for the first time this season.
The Oilers have made a few changes to their lineup and one that sticks out is Luke Gazdic will play his first game of the season, against his former organization.
It’s been a long wait for Gazdic, who spent much of the season rehabilitating his shoulder from surgery and then spent two weeks in Oklahoma City on a conditioning stint.
“Mentally for sure, especially when your team is losing,” Gazdic said of the tough time he had waiting to get back in. “You just feel like you’re not doing too much to help the team when you’re not playing and they’re losing. I just tried to stay with it mentally, work hard in practice and that’s all I could really do. Keep a positive attitude because that’s all I could control. Now that I’m back in, it’s great. It’s been a long haul here.”
Head Coach Dallas Eakins said, “With Luke, he’s been extremely patient, he’s worked extremely hard and it was time to get him into a game. Even better fitting that it’s his old team and we hope that he can be physical in a way of driving his legs, finishing his checks and the one thing we really want him to get to tonight is to get to the front of the net.”
The Oilers expect Gazdic to bring some energy to the team in his return tonight in Dallas.
“He definitely goes out there and creates a lot of energy for us,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “I know he’s going to be excited to play tonight and he’s definitely a force out there. It’s going to be good to see what he does and he’s going to be flying for sure.”
Gazdic skated on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov this morning.
The Oilers shuffled their lines up even more, and reunited Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
“I think the biggest thing is we need positive energy and I think our team feeds off that a little bit,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said of the decision to put those three together. “We need a lot from our top players. I just think right now with those three being together, they’re comfortable with each other, they’re excited to play with each other and it gives us some positive energy.”
David Perron, Mark Arcobello and Teddy Purcell were together at morning skate. Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Steve Pinizzotto round out the remainder of the forward lineup.
Ales Hemsky, 31, spent most of his career (11 seasons) with the Oilers, after they selected him 13th overall in 2001.
Now Hemsky will play against the Oilers for the first time with a new organization. It will be weird seeing the former Oiler on the opposite bench.
“It’s definitely a little bit strange,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I think anytime that you go up against a guy that you played with a few years it’s definitely a little different. We know what he can do out there for sure. We have to be ready for that and try to contain him as much as possible.”
QUICK NOTES: Dallas forward Ryan Garbutt led the Stars in scoring against the Oilers last season with three goals and five points in three games. Stars Jason Spezza has points in five of his last six games against the Oilers. Edmonton’s David Perron has 19 points in 21 career games against Dallas. Oilers Captain Andrew Ference plays in his 850th career NHL game tonight. Taylor Hall is one away from his 100th career NHL goal.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (6-13-2) at STARS (8-9-4)
TV: SNW, FS-SW
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars play the first of three games this season. The Stars went 2-0-1 against the Oilers in 2013-14 and outscored them 10-5. Although the Oilers held Tyler Seguin to two points in two games, Ryan Garbutt had three goals in the series, including two in Dallas' 3-2 shootout loss on Dec. 1, 2013.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton heads to Dallas for the start of a three-game road trip on an 0-5-1 slide that includes a 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at Rexall Place on Saturday. The loss dropped their record to 0-10-1 against the Western Conference. "We want to go on this road trip, have some good performances and turn this thing around," forward David Perron told the Oilers website Monday. One of the problems facing the Oilers has been goaltending. Ben Scrivens has allowed five goals in each of his past two starts and hasn't won since shutting out the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 27. "We just don't want to pin this in one place," coach Dallas Eakins told the Oilers website. "This is a team game and when one part struggles the other parts have to stand taller and carry more weight. That's what we need out of the group right now." The Oilers changed goaltending coaches Monday, bringing in Dustin Schwartz to replace Frederic Chabot.
Stars team scope: Dallas' 5-4 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday was its second straight on home ice after losing nine of its first 10. Garbutt (upper body) is ready to return and coach Lindy Ruff said he'll decide Tuesday if Garbutt will play. Forward Jamie Benn was named the NHL's Third Star for the week ending Nov. 23 after scoring six points (three goals, three assists) in three games. Benn went 11 games without a goal before breaking out to help lead the Stars on their current 2-1-0 run. "It's just sticking with it," Benn told the Dallas Morning News on Monday. "Through the good and the bad, you have do the right things all of the time."