EDMONTON, AB - At practice a few days ago, Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said the team’s motivation moving forward can be to assume the role of spoiler for teams fighting for the NHL playoffs. One of those teams is the Los Angeles Kings and they come to Rexall Place tonight to face the Oilers.
How do the Oilers play spoilers?
“Just win the game,” Oilers defenceman Mark Fayne said. “They’re a big, tough team so we’ve got to go out there and manage the puck well. We can’t let them get in their cycles down low. Also, stay out of the box. They’ve got a good power play. Get a lot of shots on (Jonathan) Quick. He’s an amazing goalie, but if you get a lot on him maybe you can get a few juicy ones by him.”
The Kings are a big team, which has in the past presented problems for the Oilers.
“They’re a big team, they’re very physical and they have some really skilled guys too so we have to manage the puck well and be very smart on the ice,” Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom said.
The way to combat their size tonight is to raise the intensity and the tempo.
“Just raise our battle level,” Nelson said. “I think our hockey team is not as big as them. So the thing is we have to compete really hard and we have to try play a fast game, we have to keep things simple. We’ve got to stay on the right side of the puck and just play a simple game plan and if there are breakdowns we have to capitalize on the opportunities. But I think for the most part every player and the team as a whole as raised their battle level. We’ve worked on that in practice and the guys are getting better at it and understanding that loose pucks have to be ours. We have to, once again, just play a fast hockey game.”
DISTRIBUTION OF MINUTES
The Oilers moved defenceman Jeff Petry before yesterday’s trade deadline, leaving a hole on their blueline. Petry averaged 21:29 of ice time this season for the Oilers and that means, in his absence, minutes are up for grabs.
Nelson says he hasn’t talked to his defensive players, but sees that they’re eager to get that playing time.
“There wasn’t much discussion, but the guys are all showing me in practice that they want to earn those extra minutes,” Nelson said. “Guys are going to get a great opportunity and it’s up to them to seize the moment and excel. As for guys like Oscar and Justin (Schultz), they play a lot of minutes already. But we’ve got to spread around the minutes that Petey played to other defencemen as well. It’s a great opportunity and we’ll have to keep an eye on it to see who can handle it and who can’t.”
One guy expected to fill a chunk of those minutes is Fayne. The right-shot defenceman averages 18 minutes per game now, and is a calming veteran presence on a blueline full of youth.
“I think it’s definitely a welcomed responsibility,” Fayne said. “You always want to find ways to get on the ice a little more and contribute to the team. Over these next 20 games or so, hopefully I can help to that.”
Although he’s a left shot and already eating up time with Schultz, Klefbom hopes there is opportunity for more minutes for him as well.
“Obviously, it’s a big loss for the team to not have Petey around anymore,” Klefbom said. “But I’ve got to see it from my standpoint and hopefully I’ve got some more minutes and I like that.”
Jordan Oesterle will see more time the rest of the season as well.
Klefbom received some very high praise from his general manager yesterday.
“We’ve seen the benefit of Oscar coming in and playing those minutes,” Craig MacTavish said. “He just gives you 20 minutes of flawless hockey, and he’s had a great effect on Justin.”
“I haven’t heard it really, yet,” Klefbom said of the praise. “It’s very nice to hear good things about yourself and hopefully I can bring that on the ice tonight.”
Klefbom, 21, has played 41 games this season. Last year, he played 48 in the American Hockey League. The defenceman says his time down there, and his nine games there at the start of this season, has helped his development. Also, his familiarity with Nelson as his coach is helping him feel more comfortable in this NHL stint.
“I think it’s a matter of confidence,” Klefbom said. “I played for Todd down there for a year now and it brings me a lot of confidence. I feel like I don’t have anything to prove to him. He believes in me as a player and he knows what I’m capable of on the ice so it feels good.”
Klefbom is also confident that he has another gear and hopes to take his play to another level right away.
“At the start of this year it was very big for me to start off in Oklahoma and keep producing some points down there and get some more confidence,” Klefbom said. “Now that Todd is up here, he knows what I’m capable of on the ice so I don’t feel any pressure at all. I have a lot of confidence right now and I think me and Schultzy have good chemistry right now. I’m ready for the next step. I feel like I have a little bit more on the ice.”
QUICK NOTES: The Oilers 3-2 win over the Kings on December 30, was Todd Nelson’s first game solo behind the bench. Nail Yakupov has eight points (4-4-8) in his last nine games. Jordan Eberle has 15 (3-12-15) points in his last 14 games. Jonathan Quick started a career-long 17 games for the Kings between Jan. 14-Feb. 26. Darryl Sutter will coach his 1,102th game, tying Billy Reay for 16th overall in NHL history.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
KINGS (29-21-12) at OILERS (18-35-10)
TV: FS-W, SNW
Season series: Edmonton Oilers forward David Perron scored the lone goal of the shootout in a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Rexall Place on Dec. 30. Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens made 37 saves. The Kings' line of Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli combined for four goals and three assists in a 6-1 win on Oct. 14.
Kings team scope: Los Angeles remained quiet when the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, with unrestricted free agents Justin Williams and Jarret Stoll staying put. "You always expect to be part of a team that you're on, and this was no different than any trade deadline," Williams told LAKingsInsider.com. Los Angeles completes a three-game road trip Tuesday and is tied with the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific Division at 70 points. The Kings trail the Minnesota Wild by three points for the final Western Conference wild-card spot into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Carter scored twice in a 5-2 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday to take the team lead in goals with 20. He has scored 20 or more goals in eight straight seasons. Goalie Jonathan Quick was pulled Sunday after allowing four goals on 21 shots. He had allowed three goals in his past four starts.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton traded defenseman Jeff Petry to the Montreal Canadiens for a second-round and conditional fifth-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Petry, 27, had four goals and 15 points in 59 games for the Oilers this season, and has 17 goals and 74 points in 295 games in his NHL career. "As well as Jeff played all year, we can't lose sight of the big picture here, we can't lose sight of the fact that we're the 29th team in the League and we have to handle our assets appropriately," general manager Craig MacTavish told the Oilers website. Edmonton coach Todd Nelson said defenseman Nikita Nikitin and center Anton Lander, who have each been out with shoulder injuries, may be close to returning. "Nikitin and Lander, we're hopeful that maybe sometime late in this trip coming up or right after the trip. That’s what we're hopeful for," Nelson said. The Oilers begin a five-game road trip Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks.