WINNIPEG, MB - The Edmonton Oilers practiced at the MTS Centre on Friday afternoon in preparation for Saturday’s matinee game (12:00 p.m. MST start) against the Winnipeg Jets.
Lines were shuffled, mainly out of necessity with Nail Yakupov very likely out of the lineup Saturday with a head injury. Here is what the Oilers went with:
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle Perron - Gagner - Jones Smyth - Gordon - Hendricks Gazdic - Arcobello - Joensuu
“We lost a forward and we had to restructure the lines. We’re trying to get something that we thought would work against the Jets,” said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. “Going back to Nuge, Hall and Eberle is easy. The one thing that you worry a little about is putting all your eggs in one basket but I think Gags has played much better as of late, Perron’s showing some fire and hopefully they can bring us some secondary scoring.”
Eakins also added that Ilya Bryzgalov will be starting in goal.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins talked about being reunited on the ice with Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall as the team’s top unit up front.
“We’re definitely comfortable with each other. We’ve played together quite a bit in the past so we should be able to find the chemistry early. We’ve got to try and find that. Right now, we’ve just got to keep things simple and use each other a lot out there,” said Nugent-Hopkins.
The third-year centre added that he felt that the Oilers need to eliminate the mistakes in their game in order to succeed and hopes they can start that on Saturday.
“I thought we played some pretty good hockey in a couple games and had a little bit of a letdown in some parts of the game. We’ve got to end up on a high note and it’s going to be a good game. We had a good game against these guys at home not too long ago so we know they’re going to be hungry for a win.”
YAKUPOV PROVIDES LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Eakins noted that Yakupov is currently undergoing the concussion protocol as the team tries to assess where he’s at. He added that he didn’t feel like the hit which put him out in Minnesota was a dirty one.
“I saw it as a hard hit. I didn’t think it was a bad hit, one that would be suspendable. We used it as an example in the video today. That’s a place now where all the teams are promoting back pressure. And those guys coming back hard, they’re not just pulling back waiting for the defenceman, they’re coming back looking to steal the puck. Or if you turn up or get stalled, they’re going to take you out.
We use that more as a teaching lesson. That’s not a good place to start to stickhandle with the puck, somebody’s coming from the other side. -- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (15-30-5) at JETS (21-23-5)
Last 10: Edmonton 2-6-2; Winnipeg 5-5-0
Season series: This is the third of three games between the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets. Michael Frolik scored with 5:02 left in regulation as the Jets rallied for a 5-4 victory in the season opener on Oct. 1, but the Oilers came back with a 6-2 win on Dec. 23 as Taylor Hall had a goal and two assists.
Big story: Winnipeg has scored five goals in winning each of its first two games under new coach Paul Maurice, but the more encouraging sign for the Jets has been allowing just one goal to the Phoenix Coyotes and two against the Calgary Flames. They rank 22nd in the NHL with a goals-against average of 2.92.
Oilers:Ben Scrivens became the fifth goaltender to play in a game for Edmonton this season when he made 29 saves Thursday in a 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild, the third in a row for the Oilers.
Devan Dubnyk was traded to the Nashville Predators on the same day Scrivens was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings, while Richard Bachman (groin) has been on injured reserve since early November and Jason LaBarbera is now part of the Chicago Blackhawks organization. That leaves Scrivens and Ilya Bryzgalov, neither of whom was on the roster at the start of the season, to handle the duties moving forward.
"On the whole it was another good learning experience for me. At this point in my career, it's another chance to develop," Scrivens, a savior for the Kings earlier this season when Jonathan Quick was hurt, said in the Edmonton Journal. "I don't want to compare one team to another team because you're comparing 20 different identities. There's nothing identical."
Jets: Like its opponent Saturday afternoon, Winnipeg is stuck in last place in its division. However, the Jets still sit on the fringe of the Stanley Cup Playoff race in the Western Conference, only 10 points out after their back-to-back victories. They won three in a row at the end of December before a five-game skid to start 2014 cost coach Claude Noel his job. Their season high is a four-game winning streak from Nov. 8-15.
The Jets jumped on a struggling group of Calgary Flames on Thursday, racing to a 4-0 lead after two periods en route to a 5-2 victory. Six players had multi-point games.
"We did a good job using our speed and I think that's been the key for us the last couple games," forward Blake Wheeler said in the Winnipeg Free Press. "But it's two good games. I don't think we can get ahead of ourselves. We have a long ways to go. We're back to playing the way we want to be playing. But the key now is to stay with it."
Who's hot: Hall has two goals and two assists in the past four games for the Oilers. … Dustin Byfuglien has two goals and four assists during a four-game point streak for the Jets. Bryan Little has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak. Olli Jokinen has goals in consecutive games.