EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers announced some lineup changes this morning, with Andrew Miller being assigned to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League and Tyler Pitlick being activated from injured reserved. Miller appeared in nine games for the Oilers, posting six points (1-5-6). Pitlick has not played since December 31, 2014 as he has recovered from a lacerated spleen.
“He hasn’t played in a while,” said Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson. “We all know that he skates well and he can play a heavy game. That’s what we’re looking at, just for him to go out there and move his feet, shoot the puck and finish his checks. He’s excited to get back in. I know he’s been chomping at the bit for the last month and he’s finally getting his opportunity.”
Pitlick will man the right wing on the Oilers third line with Matt Fraser and Anton Lander. Centres Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Boyd Gordon will not play tonight. That means the Oilers top line will consist of Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Eberle centred by Taylor Hall. Those three were together against Calgary on Saturday. Nelson says Hall could have some potential at centre in the future, based on the very small sample size.
“Potentially, yeah. I liked his game. I liked the way he played,” said Nelson. “He ran good routes, he created speed from underneath and they had some really good shifts in the offensive zone where he won some draws. I liked what I saw. I talked to him about it and he said he felt comfortable and he played with passion. We’re looking for the same thing from him tonight.”
The second line of Teddy Purcell, Derek Roy and Nail Yakupov stays intact while Luke Gazdic, Matt Hendricks and Rob Klinkhammer round out the forward lineup.
The defence stays the same as Saturday, with Mark Fayne still recovering from a shoulder injury. It is expected that Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz will be paired together, along with Martin Marincin and David Musil, as well as Brandon Davidson and Keith Aulie.
BACHMAN IS BACK
Richard Bachman will start tonight against Los Angeles. The goaltender left the team for a brief time, following the death of his brother Shelby.
“It’s been an interesting week, a long week,” said Bachman. “To be back, right back into game action, I’m looking forward to it. It will be nice to be able to get into a routine again with your normal way of life and just go out there and play hockey, which I love to do. It will be good, it will be fun.”
Bachman had two solid back-to-back starts for the Oilers before leaving the team. He stopped all 29 shots for the shutout against Dallas on March 27. He followed that up by making 29 of 30 saves against Colorado the next game.
“He had two really strong games for us and then the incident happened,” said Nelson. “When he came back a couple days ago we watched him practice and we had a good conversation with him yesterday. He said he felt great and he wants to get back into action. We said, ‘ok, if you feel good let’s talk tomorrow morning.’ We talked this morning and nothing has changed so he’s getting the call.”
Bachman says the team has been very supportive since he heard the news while on the road in California.
“It has been great. From the moment I found out, I had a couple guys at my door there in Anaheim,” said Bachman. “No one wants to leave anyone alone at a time like that and they’ve been unbelievable. Coming back here, getting in a couple days ago, it was really nice to see familiar faces and it has really helped.”
Bachman says it could be a little therapeutic when he plays tonight against the Kings.
“I think so. I know my brother wouldn’t want me to sit around and not go about my normal life. He loved watching me play and everything so it’s going to be good to get back out there and play for him and do what I love.”
The end of this season is important for Bachman, as it is for a large chunk of the Oilers roster.
“I think for a lot of guys, pretty much everybody in this room, with kind of the way this season went everybody is trying to prove that we’re growing as a team,” said Bachman. “As individuals, we’ve got a lot of guys up here from OKC and a lot of guys who want to prove themselves and prove they can play in the NHL and be full-time players. For me, it’s just showing them that I can get the job done. I want to be here, I want to be here full time and help this team win.”
The last time Bachman played the Kings, he made 47 of 48 saves for the Oilers in a 2-1 shootout loss on October 27, 2013.
The Oilers suffered an 8-2 loss to the Kings last Thursday in LA. It was a tough pill to swallow for the Oilers, who thought they were playing some good hockey heading into the California stretch of their road trip.
“We want to focus on this game,” said Klefbom. “We’ve got to put that game we played in LA behind us because enough is enough. You can’t play bad and you can’t have a game like that. It’s not good at all. We’ve got to care more for each other and help the goalies out for sure. We’re going to try and focus on having a real solid home game tonight.”
The Kings are tied with the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific Division following a 2-1 shootout loss to Vancouver on Monday. They are in full playoff mode, playing desperate hockey down the stretch and the Oilers know what to expect.
“It is a really desperate team now,” said Klefbom. “I think they’re a very, very strong team. They have a great goalie, some really heavy forwards and some skill too. We’ve got to get back on the horse here. We played some really good games in the last homestand before we went to California. We want to pick that up again and go from there. I think we have some positive things with the team. Obviously, the last couple games, we didn’t play the way we wanted. We just have to keep working hard again and get ready to play tonight.”
Nelson says that in order to have a better result against the Kings, they will need to make their opponent have to go through them for every inch.
“I think the biggest thing is that we have to make Los Angeles earn what they get,” said Nelson. “We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We’ve got to play the right way. We have to stay above the puck, try to make them go through layers. They’re a big, physical team and we’re going to have to try and match their physicality on the walls and in front of the net. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
The Oilers young defence have a big task ahead of them, but Nelson expects them to play to their strengths and keep things simple.
“David Musil is a pretty strong guy and Brandon Davidson and Oscar, they can man the corners pretty well,” said Nelson. “Just play a strong game and make (the Kings) go through them. The whole thing is puck movement. We’re going to have to move the puck quick. For the young D core we have, we just want a simple game out of them.”
QUICK NOTES: Edmonton has a record of 1-8-1 in their last 10 games against the Kings. Their last win against Los Angeles came on December 30, 2014 and was Todd Nelson’s first win as the solo head coach behind the bench. Nail Yakupov is one point away from tying his career high (31). Jordan Eberle has 10 points (5-5-10) in his last 10 games. Taylor Hall has points in seven of his last eight games (2-5-7). Kings defenceman Drew Doughty is one assist away from 200 in his career. Daryl Sutter is two wins behind Terry Murray for third overall in Kings all-time wins list.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
KINGS (39-25-15) at OILERS (23-43-13)
TV: SN1, SNE, SNO, SNP, PRIME
Season series: The Los Angeles Kings have won three of four against the Edmonton Oilers, including an 8-2 victory at Staples Center last Thursday. Ben Scrivens made 37 saves in Edmonton’s 3-2 shootout win at Rexall Place on Dec. 30. Kings center Jeff Carter has four goals, and defenseman Drew Doughty and forwards Marian Gaborik, Tanner Pearson and Dustin Brown each has two. Oilers forwards Matt Hendricks and Teddy Purcell each has scored two goals.
Kings team scope: Los Angeles is tied with the Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific Division following its 2-1 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. The Kings and Flames play in Calgary on Thursday. Each team has three games remaining, but Calgary holds the tiebreaker with more regulation/overtime wins (39-37). “You know what? The League’s tough,” coach Darryl Sutter said, according to LA Kings Insider. “The conference is tough. Last year, this amount of points was in. Last year, Vancouver and Calgary were behind Los Angeles. It’s the way the League is. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing.” The Kings trail the Winnipeg Jets by one point for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Goaltender Jonathan Quick, who made 37 saves in Vancouver, could make his 19th straight start. The Kings are 2-8 in the shootout.
Oilers team scope: Center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likely will miss his second game in a row because of a lower-body injury. Edmonton has lost all three games it has played in April, including 4-0 to the Flames on Saturday, after winning four of five to end March. “We definitely want a different result than what happened last week (against the Kings),” coach Todd Nelson said after practice Monday, according to the Oilers website. “It’s no different for them. They’re going to come in here hungry. They’re going to be scratching and clawing. We’ve got to be ready to play 60 minutes; otherwise it could be a tough night.” Goalie Richard Bachman is expected to start. Bachman, who is 2-2-0 with a 3.04 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in six appearances, rejoined the Oilers on Monday following a death in his family last week. Defenseman Mark Fayne (shoulder), who has missed the past five games, returned to practice and might return to the lineup. “He’s really close. He had a good day today,” Nelson said of Fayne. Defenseman Nikita Nikitin (undisclosed), who missed the game Saturday, will not play.