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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers at Red Wings

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers



News, notes and more from Oilers practice on Thursday, including Nail Yakupov out 2-4 weeks with an ankle sprain and Jujhar Khaira recalled from AHL Bakersfield.





DETROIT, MI - The Oilers are hoping for a similar result to the last time they played the Detroit Red Wings, tonight. On October 21, in the first meeting of the season between these two clubs, the Oilers handed the visiting Red Wings a 3-1 loss at Rexall Place.

Now the Oilers are in the middle of a long road trip that so far has yielded no wins, no points in the standings and only one goal in two games.

In order to get on the winning track, Edmonton will need to generate more second chance scoring opportunities.

“Less time in our zone, be better through the neutral zone,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan of what his team needs to focus on in Detroit. “When we get into the offensive end, we kind of let the players know where most of the games are being scored from. Sometimes they forget that. It’s not that far from the blue paint. The first shot has to be released so that the second and third opportunities can be put in.”

The players are on the same page as their coach.

“We’ve got to take more shots and go for second chances, second opportunities around the net, try and get those greasy goals,” said Leon Draisaitl. “I think that’s how we’ll get back to scoring more goals.”


Cam Talbot hasn’t played since November 14, at home against Los Angeles. The goaltender will start for the Oilers tonight as he looks to better his season numbers of a 3.09 GAA and .890 save percentage.

As he has sat out and watched the last several games, Talbot hasn’t appeared shaken. McLellan says he has liked the way the netminder has carried himself around the rink and in the locker room.

“I think some of that confidence has come back practice-wise,” said McLellan. “He looks good, he looks excited. We had good conversation yesterday so all that is real positive. We need to play well in front of him, he needs to play well behind us and when he leaves tonight he has to feel good about his effort.”

Talbot made 28 saves in the Oilers win over Detroit in their previous meeting.


Jujhar Khaira was recalled by the Oilers yesterday, but may not make his NHL debut. That decision will come down to how he looks in warmups and whether or not the coaches want him to play after travel.

“He’s not going to get here until really late,” said McLellan. “With Thanksgiving travel in the U.S. nothing is easy at this time of the year. We hope to get him in equipment and put him in warmup at least and let him feel an NHL environment. We’ll make a decision after that about whether he plays.”

Khaira has seven points (3-4-7) in 16 games this season with the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL. He was taken in the third round, 63rd overall, of the 2012 NHL Draft. The report out of Bakersfield is that he’s rounding out his game, has played physical and has been strong on the forecheck.

Should he get into tonight’s game, or games moving forward, the Oilers hope he brings more of the same.

“He has size, he’s heavy,” said McLellan. “I think his game is developing, from what I understand, in the American League. He looks to be a lot more confident. When we play against teams, like Carolina for example, when they hold onto the puck, that size factor comes into play a little bit. We think he can contribute there.”


Whether or not the Oilers lineup looks different against Detroit than it did in their loss in Carolina is yet to be determined. Given the optional nature of this morning’s pre-game skate, there wasn’t much to go off of.

McLellan shuffled the forward lines yesterday at practice, which could potential place Jordan Eberle on the right side of Draisaitl and Taylor Hall.

“We’ll see tonight,” said Draisaitl. “Hopefully, he can bring something different to the line or whoever we’re out there with. I think it’s a team thing we have to do. We have to get more pucks on net and try to get those greasy second chances.”

However, just because that was the look yesterday doesn’t mean it is what the head coach will deploy tonight against the Red Wings.

“You never know what can happen,” said Hall. “Todd is a guy who seems to change things on the go. Even if we start with some lines tonight, they could change in a heartbeat during the game. That’s the way it is. When we’re not playing well, when we’re not winning, that stuff is going to happen. We’ll see what happens tonight.”

There will be a better indication of what the Oilers forward group will look like during the warmups prior to tonight’s game.

-- Chris Wescott,




OILERS (7-14-1) at RED WINGS (11-8-3)

TV: TVA Sports, SNW, FS-D+

Season series:
The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 at home on Oct. 21. Nail Yakupov led the Oilers with two assists, and rookie Connor McDavid scored the first game-winning goal of his NHL career. Tomas Tatar scored for the Red Wings.

Oilers team scope:
Yakupov is out 2-4 weeks with an ankle sprain he sustained when he was taken to the ice by linesman Matt MacPherson following a neutral-zone faceoff in a 4-1 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. Edmonton recalled forward Jujhar Khaira from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Thursday. Coach Todd McLellan said goalie Cam Talbot will start. McLellan shuffled his four lines in practice in Detroit on Thursday because of the Yakupov injury and a lack of production in the first two of a five-game road trip, which opened with a 1-0 loss against the Washington Capitals on Monday. Right wing Jordan Eberle moved alongside Taylor Hall and center Leon Draisaitl. Teddy Purcell joined center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and left wing Lauri Korpikoski. Benoit Pouliot was with Mark Letestu and Matt Hendricks on the third line, and the fourth line was center Anton Lander between wings Iiro Pakarinen and Luke Gazdic.

Red Wings scope:
Detroit took off Thursday after a 3-2 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday, when they blew a 2-1 lead late in the third period. Pavel Datsyuk scored his 300th NHL goal. He has been playing on a line with Brad Richards and Teemu Pulkkinen. "You know Richards is a good player; he can just handle a pass, the puck, and he can shoot and make a play," Datsyuk said. "Same with Pulkkinen … when you use him as a shooter, it's kind of make it happen." The Red Wings (3-0-2), who will play the second of a five-game homestand, have earned at least a point in each of their past five games. Goalies Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard alternated for 10 games between Oct. 27 and Nov. 16, but Mrazek has started three of the past four games. Mrazek made saves on 19 of 22 shots Wednesday. "I thought Petr played good again," coach Jeff Blashill said. "I think our goaltending's been real good. They're not going to stop every puck, you got to find a way. Again, you're up 2-1 throughout the majority of the game, we got to find a way to make it three."

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