OTTAWA, ON - The Edmonton Oilers practiced in the Ottawa suburb of Kanata at the Canadian Tire Cnetre on Friday in preparation for Saturday afternoon's Hockey Day in Canada match-up against the Ottawa Senators.
After an emotional win on Thursday in Montreal, the Oilers practice was very spirited. The team was still coming off the high of one of their best victories of the season.
“I’m going to enjoy this the rest of the day and tomorrow morning when I wake up we’ll get geared up for Ottawa," said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson following practice. "It was a big win for our hockey team. We played well. We stuck with our game plan and today’s a good day for the guys to enjoy themselves.”
The practice was brief and to the point, lasting about 30 minutes.
“We worked hard. It was short but we can enjoy this. It was a big win for us.”
Coach Nelson talked about the importance of the victory, helping to reinforce the message after the team played so well on Tuesday against the Islanders but came away with zero points.
“Bouncing back after the Islanders game was huge for us. We played well but didn’t get rewarded. Last night we did. It was a good sign for us. The guys feel good about it.
“We have to keep on pushing forward. Last night was one game. It was a big game for us character-wise but we have to keep building on that and moving forward.”
LINEUP QUESTIONS FOR SATURDAY
Benoit Pouliot skated with the team for the third straight time as he appeared to be getting closer to a return to the lineup.
Coach Nelson said a final decision will be made on Saturday morning to determine if he's ready to play the Senators at 2:00 p.m. local time (12:00 p.m. MST).
“When you add a guy like Benny it’s always going to help your team. Tomorrow morning we’ll have another discussion to see where we’re at. There’s a lot of questions up in the air with the lineup tomorrow so we’ll have the rest of the day to think about it and see how guys are. We’ll make decisions tomorrow.”
Matt Hendricks did not practice today. He blocked a handful of shots against the Canadiens and at least one of them hurt a little more than usual.
“Matty took a puck off the ankle and today was a day where he wasn’t able to go out and practice. If anybody knows Matt, he wants to go out there and play. Tomorrow morning we’ll re-evaluate him and we’ll see if he’s good to go for tomorrow.”
Viktor Fasth is the likely starter in goal. Ben Scrivens participated in the full practice, however, for the first time since suffering his hamstring injury.
ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
One constant theme when talking to the players in the dressing room lately is that everyone has been very happy with Todd Nelson as the interim head coach. Nelson's coaching philosophy has always been to get everyone playing for one another and it's certainly been working well in Edmonton.
“It’s something that I believe in as a coach. I think that if you get a group — it doesn’t matter if you’re coaching a hockey team or managing a business — you have to have everybody tugging on the road in the same direction," Nelson began. "It’s up to the head guy to create that culture and that’s what I truly believe in. I think it’s so important to get guys to play for one another. It feels good when you’re part of something. You’re being unselfish and that’s what we’re striving for here.”
The Oilers have played two of their best games of the season this past week with a loss in New York against the Islanders and the overtime win in Montreal on Thursday.
“You see it the last three or four games where the guys are preaching the same message that I’m preaching and the coaching staff’s preaching. We’re all in this together. We’re finding out that when we stick together as one unit, we can have success.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (16-31-9) at SENATORS (21-22-10)
TV: CBC, TVA SPORTS, SN
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers rallied from a 3-1 third-period deficit to force overtime, but Mike Hoffman's goal at 2:39 of the extra session lifted the Ottawa Senators to a 4-3 victory in the first game.
Oilers team scope: Coach Todd Nelson said Friday that his lineup for Saturday remains in question. Forward Benoit Pouliot practiced Friday and could return after missing the past five games because of a foot injury. Forward Matt Hendricks sat out practice Friday after he was hit in the ankle with a shot Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens. Nelson said each player would be re-evaluated Saturday morning. Despite the lineup questions, Nelson said he and the players were enjoying their 4-3 overtime win against the Canadiens. "[Saturday] morning we'll get geared up for Ottawa," he told the Oilers website. "It was a big win for our hockey club. We played well. We stuck with our game plan. Today was a good day for the guys to enjoy themselves. We worked hard; it was short, but the guys worked hard and we can enjoy this because it was a big win for us."
Senators team scope: Coach Dave Cameron would not commit to a lineup for Saturday, saying he was considering making changes to a group that is 1-3-1 in its past five games. He did say Robin Lehner would start in goal for the eighth straight game. When Cameron looks at the Oilers he sees a team similar to the Senators. Each is struggling but playing better since making coaching changes. "I think they're a lot like us," Cameron said Friday, according to the Senators website. "They're trying to establish an identity, trying to figure out what they are. The style of play they have to play. They have played better since the coaching change for sure. We're going to have to be aware [Saturday], but that's where we are as a team. There's nobody we can put a check mark next to and say they're struggling more than we are so we should be OK tomorrow. We're in the same boat."