The Edmonton Oilers continue their four-game road trip with an afternoon game against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday. The team hopes to build off their last two games during which they played well enough to win on both nights but only came away with one victory — versus the Panthers.
“It's not hard (to stay positive). Our players see the good that we're doing. They understand that if we play the way we have the last two nights every night the odds will fall in our favour and we’ll start to win hockey games,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins following team practice Friday at PENN University.
“The players see that we’re giving up far fewer chances against with the way we’re checking now and we’re getting far more chances for. With the group we have, especially up front, if we keep getting that many chances every night they’ll eventually start going in the net for us.”
PREPARING FOR PHILLY
In the Philadelphia Flyers, the Oilers will be facing a team that has also had a rough start. Edmonton is 4-11-2 for 10 points in 17 games. Philadelphia is 4-10-1 for 9 points in 15 games.
“I think they’re a team that’s very similar to us right now. I think our guys know and appreciate how hungry and how badly you want to come out of the slide we’re in,” said Eakins.
The Flyers are 2-7-0 on home ice with a league-low 22 goals in 15 games. The next closest team to the Flyers is New Jersey at 29 goals scored in 15 games. Conversely, the Oilers have allowed 66 goals in 17 games with Calgary and Florida tied for second worst with 57.
“The other side’s going to be just as hungry. We want to give him a taste of, hey, let’s jump on them early and hopefully those feelings of ‘oh no, here we go again’ are coming over their bench.”
The Edmonton head coach added that there are no easy outs in the NHL.
“It doesn’t matter who you play in this league. It’s going to be a tough night every night. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first place team in the league or a team that’s struggling, it’s going to be a difficult night. That’s one thing we all know for sure.”
Lines (based on jersey colour) for the Oilers on Friday were:
Justin Schultz skated on his own prior to practice.
There were two lines which had four players on it. Gazdic, Smyth, Jones and Yakupov were wearing white jerseys and Acton, Joensuu, Gordon and Arcobello were wearing black.
Eakins said that we shouldn't read too much into the lines.
"I’m undecided because I don’t know if Joensuu or Perron are going to play. I was concerned with getting those guys on a line and we might have to reshuffle the deck quickly in the morning if those guys can’t play," stated Eakins.
The head coach also said that there wasn't much to having Yakupov on the fourth line with three others.
"I wouldn’t read anything into that."
PERRON, JOENSUU AND BELOV ALL GETTING CLOSER
David Perron joined the Oilers for practice at PENN University in Philadelphia on Friday. He skated on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle but it’s not yet known whether he will play.
“We'll see how he is. Joensuu is in the same boat. I put them on lines today being hopeful that they'll be able to,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins after practice.
Joensuu skated with Mark Arcobello and Boyd Gordon (with Will Acton subbing in at centre as well).
“I’m feeling better. Worked hard for a few days there in Sherwood Park,” said Perron. “We'll see how it goes later today and make a decision for tomorrow.”
Perron has missed his last four games. After initially missing the team’s game against Toronto with an illness, a neck injury got aggravated and he has been out for the past three as a result of that.
Joensuu has missed 10 games in a row with a back injury. He initially tried to come back from the injury early and ended up out of the lineup again. It has been frustrating for the Finnish winger.
“It's tough any time you get hurt. It's one of the most annoying and toughest things in hockey,” Joensuu began. “Me and the trainers have been working on (getting 100%). I don't know if it's tomorrow but if it's tomorrow I'm pretty excited.”
Regarding Anton Belov, Eakins said the blueliner was also close.
"We have to see how his knee is feeling in the morning and the call will be made on that one (at that time)."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (4-11-2) at FLYERS (4-10-1)
TV: NHLN-US, SNET-W, CSN-PH
Last 10: Edmonton 3-6-1; Philadelphia 3-6-1
Season series: It's the first of two meetings between the teams this season. The last time they met was Feb. 23, 2012, a 2-0 win for the Edmonton Oilers against the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. The last time they played in Philadelphia was March 8, 2011.
Big story: Two struggling teams will take the ice Saturday. The Oilers have one win in seven games (1-5-1) while the Flyers are 1-3-1 in their past five. The Flyers enter as the League's worst team offensively averaging 1.47 goals per game, while the Oilers have allowed the most goals, an average of 3.82 per game.
Oilers: Edmonton could get a boost offensively with the return of forward David Perron. He has missed the past four games with a neck injury but he practiced Friday in Philadelphia at left wing on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
"It's feeling better," Perron told reporters. "I had a good practice [Friday], first time back. I've been skating back home for three, four days there. It's fun [being with the team]."
Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said any decision on Perron's return to the lineup would be made Saturday morning.
"We're going to see how he is," Eakins said. "He was the one guy I couldn't get to with the mad dash after practice. I have to speak to him, see how he is. [Jesse] Joensuu is in the same boat. I did put them on lines [Friday], being proactive that if they are good at least they've skated with guys that they would play with. I'm hopeful they can play, but we're not going to push somebody into a lineup that isn't ready to play."
Flyers: After a disappointing 3-0 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday the Flyers held a players-only meeting. Players refused to reveal any details from the meeting, but one player not among those being questioned was captain Claude Giroux, who left Wells Fargo Center prior to the media's arrival.
Giroux did speak after practice Friday and said the reason he left was out of frustration with his play as well as the team's. Two seasons ago Giroux was third in the League with 93 points; this season he has seven points -- all assists -- in 15 games and his minus-11 rating is tied for the third-worst in the League. And dating to last season he's gone 21 games without a goal. Meanwhile the Flyers slipped to eighth in the Metropolitan Division and 29th in the League standings.
"I was frustrated," Giroux told reporters. "At myself and how we're playing."
Giroux said the key to pulling out of the slide is to get back to the basics of the game.
"Just play hockey," he said. "It's the same story every day. Just got to enjoy the game. Obviously it's hard to enjoy the game when you're playing like we are playing right now, but we need to enjoy it a little bit more. We go to games, and obviously when you do one bad shift or one bad power play and the crowd starts booing you put a little more pressure and you want to do even more. And I think we need to just play the game."
Who's hot: After snapping his five-game scoring drought, Eberle has three points in the past two games for the Oilers.