EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers will have a depleted lineup tonight when they host the Dallas Stars. Defencemen Andrew Ference and Mark Fayne, as well as forwards Boyd Gordon and Matt Hendricks will miss the contest with various injuries.
With Gordon out, the Oilers will be moving Rob Klinkhammer from the wing to centre on the fourth line.
“Klink is going to play up the middle to start with,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said. “We’ll see how that goes and hopefully it works out. If things aren’t going that way we’ll have to juggle things around a bit.”
Klinkhammer hasn’t played centre as a professional, but Nelson feels confident he has tools to succeed.
“Klink is a guy who has good speed,” Nelson said. “The biggest thing with him is when we’re breaking the puck out he’s going to have to kill his speed and support underneath. He was working on that today in practice and he looked fine. Once again, we’ll have to take it shift by shift and just see how it works out.”
Should the Klinkhammer experiment get off to a slow start, the Oilers will lean even more heavily on their other centres: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Derek Roy and Anton Lander.
On defence, the Oilers have recalled Brandon Davidson from the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League.
“I will treat it like a tryout for me,” said Davidson. “Next year is a big year for me, I need a contract. These last games remaining are a tryout for me to just prove what I can do and hopefully fit in well with the others.”
Matt Fraser was on the scary end of a hit to the head on March 16, against Toronto. He’s missed four games with a concussion, but returns tonight against the organization that originally signed him as an undrafted free agent.
“It’s nice to be back,” Fraser said. “A lot of long days riding the bike and doing concussion tests and stuff, but I’m glad to be back. I’m glad to get back on the ice and help the guys.”
Fraser is eager to help the team down the final stretch, with only eight games remaining.
“It means a lot,” Fraser said of returning to action. “We only have eight games left. No matter if we’re out of the playoffs or whatever it may be, we’re still playing for pride and I guess, to a certain point, playing to be spoilers. This is what we sign up for. We still have a job to do. We’ve still got to come to the rink every day and make sure we’re focused.”
Richard Bachman hasn’t seen game action since March 12. Tonight, he will start between the pipes against his former organization. Bachman was drafted in the fourth round (120th overall) of the 2006 NHL Draft.
“For me, I’m just excited to be playing again,” Bachman said. “It hasn’t been too long, but it’s been long enough where you really get that itch to get back on the ice and get some game time. I’m just excited to play, in general.”
Getting a game in helps Bachman stay fresh before returning to Oklahoma City to assist in the Barons playoff run.
“It’s good to obviously get some games up here and get a few games before we get into crunch time down there in the playoffs,” said Bachman. “It’s nice to try and find a rhythm and get some normalcy going for what it’s going to be like down there.” QUICK NOTES: Jordan Eberle has 18 points (6-12-18) in his last 13 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has seven points (4-3-7) in his last five games and points in 10 of his last 13. Stars forward Tyler Seguin is on a four-game point streak (1-4-5). Kari Lehtonen has four consecutive wins in goal for the Stars (.945 save percentage and 1.71 GAA in that span)
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
STARS (36-28-10) at OILERS (21-40-13)
TV: SN1, TXA 21
Season series: Forward Shawn Horcoff scored in the eighth round of the shootout to give the Dallas Stars a 6-5 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Dec. 21. Stars center Tyler Seguin scored two goals in a 3-2 win on Nov. 25 and has five points in two games. Oilers forward Taylor Hall has three goals and an assist in two games.
Stars team scope: Dallas trails the Winnipeg Jets by six points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference and has won four straight games after a 4-3 shootout victory against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. "We know where we are at. This is a game we know we needed two points. We had to get two points somehow," coach Lindy Ruff told the Stars website. "That puts pressure on the teams above us. Winnipeg recognizes where we are now. It's a situation where we might have to run the table, and that might not get you in." Forward Ales Hemsky scored twice after going 17 games without a goal. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves and set a franchise record with his ninth straight road win. "It's been exciting the last couple weeks," Lehtonen said. "We've been playing well and getting results and climbing a little bit, but we still have a little bit to go. It's a good thing we have some games left. I hope we can keep it up. It's going to be tight at the end. It sure makes it exciting."
Oilers team scope: Edmonton is 3-1-1 on a six-game homestand which ends Friday. The Oilers agreed to terms with defenseman Ben Betker on a three-year entry level contract Thursday. Betker, 20, was a sixth-round pick by the Oilers in the 2013 NHL Draft. He has six goals and 31 points in 64 games this season for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. The Oilers recalled defenseman Brandon Davidson on an emergency basis from Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League. Davidson has played four games with Edmonton this season. The Oilers blew a 3-0 first-period lead Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche, but center Derek Roy scored a power-play goal in the third to give Edmonton a 4-3 win. Rookie forward Andrew Miller had two assists for his first career NHL points. Hall scored to extend his points streak to three games since returning from a leg injury.