News, notes and more from Oilers practice on Friday, including new power play units and the appointment of head coach Todd McLellan to coach of the Under-23 North American team at the World Cup of Hockey.
VANCOUVER, BC - The Oilers put together an impressive performance last night in Calgary, cruising past the Flames 5-2 on the back of Connor McDavid’s two-goal, three-point performance. Not only did McDavid pot two goals, but all four of the Oilers first-overall picks scored in the team’s first victory of 2015-16.
“There were a lot of good things,” said Taylor Hall. “We had some positives in games before, but last night was a combination of a lot of things. Now it’s a good test for us tonight. How do we respond to a win and a good effort? Let’s see if we can replicate that.”
The challenge for the Oilers is keeping the effort and production at the same level as last night, as they play the Canucks this evening.
“When I look at last night’s game, I thought that we did a lot of the things that we had addressed last week, especially after the Dallas game,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We talked a lot about the structure and details, and that showed up in our game in Calgary and we had a chance to be successful. The big test for us tonight is we’ve responded without wins, we’ve responded well in practice and worked on things. We kept our heads fairly high. What do we do with a win? Tonight is the first chance for us to respond to that.”
McLellan said after the win last night that it was a team win. Everyone fell into their roles and did their job. Under McLellan, the players have a sense of what their roles and responsibilities are and they have executed, even in some of their losses.
“Everyone knows where they sit,” said Hall. “There’s a lot of communication and a lot of transparency with the coach. That’s a great thing for us. Guys know where they stand, guys know what they have to do to help our team and that’s huge.”
Grinders have to grind, scorers have to score, penalty killers have to kill penalties. If the players are executing their own roles, the team can have success.
Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller is 12-0 all-time against the Oilers. That’s the kind of history that can weigh on players, but McLellan feels past struggles shouldn’t affect this roster.
“To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t even know that existed. I think sometimes that’s a great thing for a new group,” said McLellan. “Having seven or eight new players, a new coaching staff, and not knowing those facts exist and just approaching the game like any other is a good thing sometimes. It doesn’t get in your head. Ryan Miller has done that to a lot of teams. Let’s face it, any team we play we’re going to have to beat a very good goaltender on any given night to have success.”
Miller is expected to start tonight for the Canucks.
The Oilers will be down one of their more consistent performers in Vancouver. Matt Hendricks has been ruled out against the Canucks with an undisclosed injury.
“He’s brought a lot to our team,” said McLellan. “What you see on the ice is he’s been one of our top players, as far as the details and the grunt work goes. That means a lot to our group. He stirred the drink, I think, for our whole team. Nuge’s line in particular. That’s a real good thing and we’re going to miss him tonight because he is not playing. It’s as simple as that. Somebody else is gong to have to step up and provide us a little bit of that chemistry and that stirring of the drink.”
The Oilers did not have a morning skate, but confirmed that Hendricks is the only change to the forward group. Anton Slepyshev steps in on the right wing with Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The remainder of the forward lines remain the same.
There are no changes to the defensive pairings from last night. Anders Nilsson draws in for his second start of the season. He made 48 saves in a loss to Dallas in his first start of the season.
“I just thought Anders played a very good game in Dallas,” said McLellan. “We’ve got a lot of hockey ahead of us. We will have played our fifth road game in the league tonight, which I believe will put us at number one. We’ve moved around, we’ve traveled a lot. We’re going to put a fresh goaltender in, and why not? I thought he played a hell of a game in Dallas. He deserves to play.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (1-4-0) at CANUCKS (3-1-1)
Season series: The Vancouver Canucks swept five games against the Edmonton Oilers in 2014-15, including a shootout victory in the first and an overtime win in the last. Vancouver left wing Daniel Sedin had two goals and eight assists, and right wing Radim Vrbata had four goals and four assists. Edmonton forwards Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov each had two goals.
Oilers team scope: Rookie center Connor McDavid had the first multipoint game (two goals, one assist) of his NHL career in Edmonton's 5-2 win at the Calgary Flames on Saturday. "I think I'm just getting more and more comfortable," McDavid said. The win was Todd McLellan's first as Oilers coach. "It feels good to finally get a reward," McLellan said. "I think our game has been getting better, minus the [4-2 loss at the Dallas Stars on Tuesday]. It's getting better. Guys are starting to understand a little bit more of the roles and situational play. We played a solid game. We deserved to win tonight." Goalie Cam Talbot made 22 saves in his first win with the Oilers after he went 33-15-5 in two seasons with the New York Rangers. Backup Anders Nilsson, who made 48 saves in the loss to the Stars, could get the start.
Canucks team scope: Rookie center Jared McCann sat out practice Saturday and likely will miss the game because of an undisclosed injury sustained in a 4-3 home loss to the St. Louis Blues on Friday. "He just got banged up a little bit," coach Willie Desjardins told the Canucks website. "We're evaluating. Nothing major or anything. … I wouldn't totally rule him out, but right now I would think it's probably doubtful." McCann, the No. 24 pick of the 2014 NHL Draft, has two goals and a plus-2 rating in four games. With McCann injured, forward Sven Baertschi will be back in the lineup after he was a healthy scratch Friday, when McCann and fellow 2014 first-round pick Jake Virtanen played in the same game for the first time. Baertschi and Virtanen practiced with center Bo Horvat. "I like what they did against Edmonton in the preseason (when they combined for 10 points Oct. 1). I liked that," Desjardins said. "They looked good today in practice as well. If they get that opportunity tomorrow, we'll see how they play." Goalie Ryan Miller likely will make his sixth straight start to open the season with the Canucks off until they host the Washington Capitals on Thursday.