Tonight the Edmonton Oilers hosts Buffalo at Rexall Place and although the Sabres are last in the NHL standings, the Oilers are not one to be taking teams likely.
“We’re one spot ahead of them,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “We’re not taking anybody lightly. We want to come out and have a good start against them, keep up with the good habits we’ve really instilled in our game over the last little bit and I don’t care what team you play in this league, They’re dangerous. It’s the NHL so I don’t expect our guys to take anybody lightly.”
The Oilers will come into the matchup a little on the injured side. Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov will miss tonight’s game and Matt Hendricks is a game-time decision, along with Jesse Joensuu most likely out for the season with a high-ankle sprain.
With the aforementioned injuries, the Oilers have recalled forwards Tyler Pitlick and Steve MacIntyre from the Oklahoma City Barons. This is Pitlick’s second stint with the Oilers after a knee injury prematurely ended his first NHL call up. Pitlick scored his first NHL goal in the same game he was injured in, on October 26, in Phoenix.
“I thought I was playing well and playing simple,” Pitlick said. “I got that goal and it felt really good to get that first one out of the way. A few shifts later, I got hurt but it is what it is and I came back and I’m ready to go again.”
Pitlick practiced on a line this morning with Anton Lander and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This would present the 22 year-old with a big opportunity to jump in offensively.
“Ryan’s a really good player and it’d make my job a lot easier being out there with him. He’s smart and he makes things easier for the players around him.”
Pitlick has 22 points (8-14-22) in 38 games with the Barons this season, one shy of a career high of 23 set in his 62-game rookie 2011-12 campaign. Barons Head Coach Todd Nelson says Pitlick is ‘ready to play’ in the NHL and will be ‘knocking on the door’ of full-time NHL duty next season.
TOUGH GUY TUTOR
With Steve MacIntyre now in the fold, Oilers rookie tough guy Luke Gazdic now has somewhat of a mentor to go to with questions. Gazdic has been ‘on his own’ when it comes to his first NHL season although he’s handled himself quite well.
“We had a little chat after the warmup skate there just talking about the year and it’s always nice to have someone that’s been there and been through it,” Gazdic said. “Parts of the year, I was kind of going it on my own and kind of jumped in the pool instead of just dip my feet in like I was in there full blow. It’s nice to have a guy, if I have any questions about anything, I can ask him.”
MacIntyre has taken notice of Gazdic this season who has not only notched some heavyweights on his fight card, but has also enhanced his game as the season has rolled on.
“He’s done a good job,” MacIntyre said. “The games I’ve watched, we were talking, just chatting and I was just asking him how things were going and I said hey, if you’ve got any questions, I know how you feel. I know exactly how you feel. But I said you can play the game, you can play the right way and if you need to take care of business, then you can do that too. I just said go out and play your game and I think leading up to this point, he has done that and I’m pretty proud of him.”
When asked to critique Gazdic’s fight card this season, MacIntyre was quick to say he probably wouldn’t want to take one of those heavy rights.
“I’d hate to be on the receiving end,” He said. “He’s a pretty tough cowboy. He’s got a big right hand but also he can play the game. The way the league’s changed and the way the game is changing, it might be a changing of the guard. He’s taken the opportunity and ran with it and done well. My hat’s off to him.”