Oilers centre Bogdan Yakimov turns 20 today and he’s hoping to make it a very happy birthday.
“I’m so excited because today is my birthday too,” Yakimov said. “I hope I make a present for me. I hope we win and I make the team. I hope I show a good game tonight. I will try to do everything coach has told me.”
Yakimov is in a battle for a roster spot with the Oilers and when he skates against the Canucks tonight in Vancouver, it is presumably is last opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff. Yakimov says he doesn’t think he’s shown enough to make the team yet, but he’s close.
“I need to do what coach says… Good play in my zone, the defensive zone. Also, good play on face-offs and just a couple of system things.”
The Oilers are dressing players tonight who are battling for roster spots. Among them is 2013 seventh-overall pick Darnell Nurse.
“Just play my game,” Nurse said of tonight’s opportunity. “I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself, just go out there and play hockey. I think as long as you just focus on playing your game you can’t get into too much trouble. The main focus is to not try and go out there and do too much. I think you get yourself in trouble when you do that and you’re not really helping yourself or your team.”
Nurse lasted until the final round of cuts last year. He says he’s grown a lot since then.
“I think last year I surprised a lot of people. They didn’t think I was as ready as I was. But now I’ve just tried to fine tune some of the small things in my game over the course of the last year, playing in Sault Ste. Marie and then watching a lot of film. I feel a lot better in the sense that I’m not going out there and trying to do too much, but still accomplishing a lot at the same time. As long as I can keep the same focus on doing the right things on the ice, making the simple plays and jumping in when the time is right, it should be okay. We’ll see, I’ve just got to take it one shift at a time tonight and have fun with it.”
HUNTING DOWN A ROSTER SPOT
A lot of focus on the camp battles on defence for the Oilers has centred around young high-round talent like Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom. But one player has flown in under the radar to become a dark horse candidate for a roster spot.
Brad Hunt, who spent last season with the Oklahoma City Barons and earned Second-Team AHL All Star designation, is making his push to start the year in Edmonton.
“He’s become a very big danger on that power play,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. “The one thing that we’re going to hammer home here and something that’s going to be a priority on the power play is that we need to shoot the puck more. It’s totally necessary, and Hunt has that mentality. He’s been good 5-on-5, he’s been able to break the puck out real well, he’s had really very few problems in his own end and he’s played a real solid game. He’s brought us an element on the power play that we haven’t had in the past. That’s kept him around and now suddenly he’s very much in the mix to make the team.”
Things got a little heated on Thursday night when the Oilers and Canucks met for the first time in the 2014 pre-season.
“There was a lot of chatter on the ice (Thursday) between the two teams,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “Sometimes you’re so focused on your own team in training camp that you forget that the other guys are fighting for jobs too. It was intense and a wee bit dirty down there. But I thought the guys handled themselves well and it was just an even game.”
It was a game that saw each team rack up 41 penalty minutes and three fights, as the Canucks earned a 2-1 win at Rexall Place. Saturday night’s rematch heads to Vancouver.
WHO’S HOT: Jesse Joensuu has recorded two goals and an assist in the Oilers last two pre-season games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins leads the Oilers in scoring with four points (2-2-4) in four exhibition games. Nick Bonino scored a shorthanded goal for the Canucks on Thursday night against the Oilers. He is second on the Canucks in scoring this pre-season, with four points (2-2-4) in four games. Eddie Lack has played very well between the pipes for the Canucks, recording a 0.50 GAA and .983 save percentage in 121 minutes. He made 21 saves on 22 shots against Edmonton on Thursday night.