EDMONTON, AB - Connor McDavid looked comfortable as he joined the Oilers on the ice for the first time since his injury against the Philadelphia Flyers on November 3, 2015.
“It feels good. It’s good to feel normal again and be out there with them. Obviously today it was a little bit of a lighter practice, they’re getting ready for tomorrow’s game, but it was still a lot of fun to be out there,” he said.
Preparing for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Coyotes, the Oilers are looking to generate a different outcome from their 4-1 loss to Arizona on November 11.
The Oilers lone goal came from forward Taylor Hall, who quickly backhanded the puck shortside past Arizona’s goaltender Mike Smith to make it a 1-0 game.
The Coyotes are also struggling with absent players due to injuries they’ve sustained, with centres Martin Hanzal (lower-body injury) and Boyd Gordon on injured reserve and goaltender Smith is also out with a core muscle injury.
But Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said he isn’t taking the status of the Coyotes bench lightly.
“They’ve got Ekman-Larsson who generates a ton of offence and runs their power play, and they win using that,” he said.
“Stone’s turned into a pretty good offensive defenceman for them. Up front they’ve always had really good structure, their neutral zone and the way they check and the patience in their team is strong so that’s going to be a challenge for us as well. With Mike Smith going down, people think, ‘Well, their goaltenders aren’t going to be capable,’ and they are. They’ve done the job.”
The Coyotes are coming off a 4-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets where Arizona’s Captain Shane Doan broke the record — previously 379 — for number of goals scored for the Coyotes and Jets franchise, and setting a new one at 381.
MORE FAMILIAR FACES JOIN IN
McDavid wasn’t the only absent Oiler who joined in on the morning skate as Nail Yakupov and Rob Klinkhammer also found themselves on the ice alongside their teammates.
“Hopefully I’m back in tomorrow, I’d love to get playing a game here. It’s been a long time,” said Klinkhammer.
The Oilers announced Thursday that the winger, along with blueliner Brandon Davidson, was activated from Injured Reserve.
“This is a super important stretch for us, you know its five in a row against the Pacific Division and it hasn’t gone our way so far, but we still got time, we can turn it around here with a couple on the home stand,” said Klink.
“I think if we stick with it, maybe get a little grittier, bear down a bit, we’ll be fine, the guys have been working their butts off here, it’s been a long stretch, I’m proud of them for that and hopefully I can get back out there and help 'em.”
McLellan said that having all three join-in on the skate this morning helped change the atmosphere and pace of practice.
“Connor, Yak, Klink back involved, more bodies, a little more energy in practice it’s important for our team to have that right now,” said the bench boss.
“We’re playing a lot of games, we’re not having success as far as wins go so somebody's got to bring an energy level to keep the team going. I thought the non-players today did a good job of that and everybody else responded. So we had a good crisp practice, didn’t spend a lot of time but we got done what we needed to get done and ready to go tomorrow.”
McLellan hinted that Cam Talbot could potentially get the nod once again in goal Saturday but had not made a final decision yet.
Coyotes team scope: Goalie Louis Domingue is likely to make his seventh start in eight games, coach Dave Tippett told the Arizona Republic. Forwards Martin Hanzal (lower body) and Boyd Gordon (upper body) will travel on the road trip but likely won't play Saturday. Gordon hopes to play against the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Hanzal and Gordon each participated in an optional practice Friday. Injured goalie Mike Smith (core) briefly skated in sweats on his own. "He's a long way off," Tippett said. The Coyotes have gone 4-1-1 in their past six games and begin a three-game trip through Western Canada. They defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 at home Thursday, when Doan scored his 380th NHL goal to set the Winnipeg/Arizona record, one more than Dale Hawerchuk. Doan has nine goals in his past 10 games.
Oilers team scope: Goalie Cam Talbot is likely to start, coach Todd McLellan said. Talbot made 34 saves in a 1-0 home loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Forward Rob Klinkhammer (ankle) is expected to return; he hasn't played since Dec. 15 and practiced on the fourth line Friday. Injured forward Connor McDavid skated with teammates Friday for the first time since he fractured his left clavicle on Nov. 3. He said his recovery is on schedule but no return date has been set. "There is still a process that I have to go through," McDavid said. "Today was the first step, being on the ice with the guys and I just kind of go from there. We'll see how fast that moves along." Forward Nail Yakupov (ankle) also participated in practice for the first time since his injury occurred Nov. 25. McLellan said defenseman Oscar Klefbom, out since Dec. 11, has upper- and lower-body injuries and likely is out long-term. Edmonton has lost seven of its past eight games (1-6-1).