SAINT PAUL, MN - The Oilers continue their four-game Central Division road trip tonight with a stop in Minnesota against the Wild. The game is noteworthy as newcomers Ben Scrivens and Matt Hendricks, both acquired in separate trades yesterday, will both play.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins, who coached Scrivens in the AHL with Toronto, talked about the new goaltender, who will start tonight.
“He’s hungry, that’s for sure. Ben’s trying to establish himself in this league. He believes that he can be a very good goaltender in this league. I was able to watch part of his development. He’s extremely dedicated to his craft, he’s a real technical guy. He’s an intelligent kid and a guy of high character,” Eakins began.
“It’ll be interesting to see how he does this year, he’s got great numbers (1.97 goals-against average and .931 save percentage) in front of a very powerful team. He smells opportunity. The second part is, he’s extremely happy to have come home,” he said of the Spruce Grove native.
Scrivens echoed his coaches thoughts.
“It was a little bit of a shock. I definitely didn’t anticipate it. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I was hoping for. It’s going to be a fun experience playing back at home. I know a lot of family and friends back home are really excited.”
The goaltender was also asked about starting so quickly after arriving.
“I’m not going to look too far down the road. I’m happy to get right into the thick of things and just trying to focus on positively contributing to the group tonight and see what happens after that.”
The first impression of Hendricks was a good one as he was very vocal on the ice during the morning skate.
“We know he’s of high character and he brings some grit like a true professional. He just comes in to work every day and we’re looking for that to rub off on all of our team. Talking in practice, being loud in practice. He has great energy. That should be there every day. That’s a skill,” said Eakins.
“He’s definitely going to get some minutes on our penalty killing unit. He’s going to take some face-offs, he’s going to play the wing, he’s going to play centre. He’s a guy that can move up and down through that lineup as we need him.
Hendricks said that was part of his nature.
“That’s my personality. I want to bring energy in my play but also bring energy by being vocal, by talking to guys, giving them a pat on the shin pads.”
Hendricks added that he was looking forward to just getting on the ice tonight, against his hometown Wild.
“It’s been such a whirlwind these last 24 hours, I think I’m just going to show up and play a hockey game. It’s going to be a little bit of emotion and play with energy. And hopefully the outcome is what we want.”
With Ales Hemsky on his way home and the new arrivals, it necessitates a shake-up in the team’s lines. Coach Eakins said that he wasn’t sure which way he was going to go with that.
“We’re still arguing about it a little bit with the coaches. We’ve got some different views. In the Dallas game, I liked our forward lines for a good part of it, especially going back and watching the game,” Eakins began.
“I liked our forward lines, I don’t think I’m going to tinker with them too much. Now with Hendricks coming in we’ve got some different options. I think tonight we’ll probably start with Hendricks on the wing.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (15-29-5) at WILD (25-19-5)
TV: SNET-W, FS-N
Last 10: Edmonton 3-5-2; Minnesota 5-5-0
Season series: This is the first of three games. The Minnesota Wild won three of four against the Edmonton Oilers in 2013, though the Oilers won 6-1 at Xcel Energy Center in the final game.
Big story: The Oilers made a midseason splash Wednesday when they dealt goaltender Devan Dubnyk to the Nashville Predators in exchange for forward Matt Hendricks, then acquired goalie Ben Scrivens from the Los Angeles Kings for a third-round pick in the 2014 Draft.
Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said it was time for a change.
"We really felt for everybody it was time for a change with Devan," MacTavish said. "It gives us an opportunity to bring in another goaltender, Ben Scrivens, who's had statistically a very good season so far. It gives us an opportunity to have a pretty good look at him going forward to see where he could possibly fit in on a longer-term goaltending plan."
Minnesota is hanging on to a playoff berth in the Western Conference despite the absence of injured forwards Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu as well as starting goaltender Josh Harding. This is their eighth game in 15 days, and they showed some signs of fatigue Tuesday in a 3-0 home loss to the Ottawa Senators.
Oilers: Scrivens will be reunited with coach Dallas Eakins, who coached him with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL before being hired by the Oilers last summer.
"He played very well for Dallas and he's got a shot to come in here and really establish himself in the National Hockey League," MacTavish said. "It was important that Dallas gave him the thumbs up in terms of his relationship with Ben."
Scrivens is excited to be returning to his hometown team.
"That was my team growing up … it's going to be fun to throw on that jersey and play for that logo," Scrivens said.
One thing Scrivens won't find is the kind of support he had in L.A. The Oilers have been outscored 37-24 during a 2-5-2 stretch. They rank in the bottom third League-wide in penalty kill (79.6), shots against (31.7) and are last in goals-against per game (3.51).
Wild: Coach Mike Yeo made practice on Wednesday optional, and most of his players opted not to skate after playing five games in seven days, including a back-to-back this past weekend in which they traveled between games.
With his team missing three key components, Yeo doesn't want to wear his team out with more than 30 games remaining.
"Obviously we'd love to have some practice time but that was a lot of games in a short period of time that we just played with the travel," Yeo said. "We've got to make sure that we put some fuel back in the tank. We've got to make sure that we're ready to compete hard tomorrow."
Who's hot: Oilers forward Taylor Hall has four points (two goals, two assists) during a three-game point streak. … Wild forward Dany Heatley has four points in Minnesota's past three games.
Injury report: The Oilers have been without forwards Jesse Joensuu (flu) and Corey Potter (groin), as well as defenseman Philip Larsen (illness). … For the Wild, Parise (foot) practiced Wednesday for the first time since Dec. 28, though there is still no timetable for his return. He's still on injured reserve along with Harding (illness), Koivu (ankle surgery) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (lower body).