DALLAS, TX - The big news from the Oilers morning skate was the absence of Taylor Hall. The Oilers top left winger is dealing with an illness that came up last night and carried over to this morning. He was unable to skate this morning but hasn’t been fully ruled out for tonight’s game against the Stars. He is officially questionable, according to Head Coach Todd McLellan.
With Jordan Eberle already out of the lineup due to a shoulder injury, Hall, should he be unable to go tonight, would represent another blow to the team’s offensive weaponry.
“There’s a fair sized void without Jordan and Taylor involved in the lineup,” said McLellan. “We’ll have to be strong defensively. We can’t give them any gifts and let the game get away from us. When we do get our opportunities, some of the more unusual suspects have to step up and be involved in the offence. We worked hard on it yesterday. We hope that it will improve throughout the group, nevermind individuals.”
The lineup that skated this morning in Hall’s absence included shuffling of the forward lines. Benoit Pouliot skated on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Teddy Purcell, in Hall’s place. Lauri Korpikoski was moved up with Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov. Rob Klinkhammer skated with Anton Lander and Anton Slepyshev on the third line, while the fourth line looked like Luke Gazdic with Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks.
On defence, Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz, as well as Andrej Sekera and Mark Fayne remain together. The pairing of Brandon Davidson and Eric Gryba, which skated together on Monday, was together once again this morning. Andrew Ference and Griffin Reinhart were also a pair at morning skate.
The team was not ready to commit to anymore lineup decisions until they know if Hall can play or not. McLellan says who is in and who is out will be determined later in the day. He did not rule out the possibility of playing seven defencemen.
“Potentially,” said McLellan. “There’s a lot of things we could or couldn’t do. A lot will hinge on Taylor’s availability and we’ll make those decisions later on in the day. Everybody has to be ready to play.”
POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITY FOR DAVIDSON
Today, the Oilers did not confirm if Davidson will see action tonight, however, the defencemen has been paired with Gryba each of the last two practices and McLellan said yesterday it was “likely” he would play tonight against the Stars. Davidson says he’s ready to play his first game of the season.
“I’m excited, but it’s a regular game day for me,” he said. “This is what I’m used to. Everything stays the same. I’m not nervous, I’m not overzealous or anything. I’m confident and comfortable. I can’t wait to get out there.”
Should he play, this will be Davidson’s 13th NHL game. He played 12 last season for the Oilers. The 2010 sixth-round pick of Edmonton is excited about the potential of being paired with Gryba.
“It’s great, actually. He plays a style that complements me. I think I’ll be able to complement him as well,” said Davidson. “He’s a strong, physical guy and a simple-play kind of man, just like myself. I think we’re able to do some damage in the d-zone. I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it.”
If inserted into the lineup, Davidson hopes to be able to help spark an Oilers offence that is searching for more production.
“I love to chip in offensively as much as I can,” said Davidson. “I need to do that, especially with the way things have been going here. It would be nice to get the first (goal) out of the way and help my team out as much as I can. It’s been tough watching from the sidelines but when I get my chance I have to make the most of it. It’s a good opportunity for me and hopefully I’ll be able to put some pucks on net.”
NILSSON TO START
The Oilers will start a new face in net tonight as Anders Nilsson replaces Cam Talbot between the pipes for the first time this season.
“It’s going to be fun to get going and playing my first game of the season,” said Nilsson. “I’m excited to play tonight and get into a rhythm again, feel the game speed and get back into it. I’m excited for tonight and I’m looking forward to it and hopefully I can contribute to two points.”
Nilsson has been waiting for his opportunity following a strong pre-season in which the netminder stopped all 53 shots faced. Talbot has played well for the Oilers, however, and started both of the team’s first two games.
“That’s how it is,” said Nilsson. “That’s part of the game and that’s part of the goalie game. Talbot has obviously played great. He’s had two great games so far. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to win but he’s played great for us. That’s part of being a goalie. You never know when you’re going to get a chance and when you get the chance you want to try and make the most of it. In the meantime, you just have to try to stay focused and work hard in practice and do what you can.”
McLellan and the Oilers feel confident that Nilsson can play a good game for them in Dallas.
“We feel good about our goaltending,” said McLellan. “We talked about that throughout training camp. We feel we have goaltending depth that goes all the way down into the AHL. Anders has played very well in exhibition season. Our team played well around him. There’s no guarantee that will happen again but we believe it can. The players believe it can, and Anders believes it can. We’re excited about starting him tonight. Looking forward to his game.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (0-2-0) at STARS (1-1-0)
TV: SNOL, FS-SW
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers were 1-1-1 against the Dallas Stars last season. Tyler Seguin scored twice in each of the Stars' wins on Nov. 25 and Dec. 21. Goalie Richard Bachman made 29 saves for his second NHL shutout in Edmonton's 4-0 victory on March 27 at Rexall Place. Seguin and Oilers forward Taylor Hall each had five points to lead all skaters.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton visits American Airlines Center looking for offense after scoring one goal in its first two games. Coach Todd McLellan emphasized the importance of earning what he called garbage-type goals at practice Monday. "I think our team will score, I really do," McLellan said in video posted on the Oilers website. "We're trying to be perfect right now." Nail Yakupov, moved to the second line with Connor McDavid and Benoit Pouliot on Saturday against the Nashville Predators, is expected to remain in the top six. "When the team isn't scoring we have to make a change," McLellan said. "It's [Yakupov's] chance to play with Connor and [Pouliot]." Goalie Anders Nilsson is likely to start after Cam Talbot made 52 saves on 56 shots in losses to the St. Louis Blues and Predators. "It's time for him to get in and perform," McLellan said.
Stars team scope: Dallas moved Patrick Eaves to the top line with Jamie Benn and Seguin, and Cody Eakin to the third line with Mattias Janmark and Ales Hemsky, at practice Monday. Forward Valeri Nichushkin, pointless in two games, alternated at right wing with Colton Sceviour on the fourth line. "Val has really been struggling," coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars website. "I've been trying to help him by shifting him around. His game, everything has got to get a little bit quicker." Ruff did not reveal his starting goaltender, but Antti Niemi skated late with goaltending coach Jeff Reese, an indication Kari Lehtonen could get the call. Ruff's message Monday was defending with passion two days after the Stars lost 6-3 to the Colorado Avalanche. "We had some missed assignments and those assignments hurt us," he said. "We had very few of those in the preseason and game one, and I want us getting back to that again."