EDMONTON, AB - On the eve of the NHL trade deadline, there are always distractions. Head Coach Dallas Eakins took the podium after Tuesday’s pre-game skate and talked about the rumours that swirl and how they may affect a team come game time.
“I think they’re just used to it now,” Eakins said. It’s amazing how much bull crap is floated out there with the rumours. I think people actually sit at home and make up one and see where it goes. It’s too bad because the players read it and I think it does affect them, maybe not so much with our team this year but with other teams in the league. But listen, it’s the world we live in, it’s certainly not right but it is what it is. I talked to our team today. I thought that today was kind of the first day I felt, and I could be wrong but I felt, like we were distracted today. So I addressed it. Then again, what I feel is sometimes wrong, I’m not right all the time. But I think it’s hard to not be at least a little distracted by all the white noise.”
Shortly thereafter, the Oilers announced the trading of goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a 4th round pick. Then, the Oilers announced the acquisition of goaltender Viktor Fasth from the Anaheim Ducks for a 5th round pick in 2014 and a 3rd rounder in 2015.
The Oilers will take on the Ottawa Senators tonight as the morning trade dust settles.
“It’s nice that we have a game and it gets the guys focused on the game and be prepared,” Oilers Ryan Smyth said. “We want to keep climbing the standings, get better as a team and as a group and it is what it is.”
SMYTH AN OILER FOR LIFE
Regardless of what happens at the NHL trade deadline tomorrow, veteran Ryan Smyth says he’ll always be an Oiler and plans to return after his career has ended to rejoin the community he calls home; Edmonton.
“I don’t want to sit here and speculate something that’s out of my control,” Smyth said. “Obviously, opportunities are minimized with my age and stuff. I came back here for a reason. I came back here to get in the playoffs and give ourselves an opportunity here in Edmonton and that hasn’t happened in the last three years. Where the direction goes from here, I do not know but I love playing here and I love the city. We’re going to call this home after hockey, no matter what happens. It doesn’t matter. We feel Edmonton is a great place to raise a family and that’s the way it is right now.”
As a veteran forward who could help a cup contender, Smyth has been mentioned as a possible trade candidate in the media. However, Smyth says he has not had discussions with Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish as to what the team’s plans are.
“I haven’t talked to him recently at all. Obviously, they have an agenda and that’s their plan and it is what it is. I’m an Oiler and that’s the way it is right now.”
Nail Yakupov returns to the ice for the Oilers after missing one game due to a foot injury after being hit by a heavy shot by Justin Schultz in their recent game against Minnesota.
“All good,” Yakupov said. “I’ve been training and I’ve done a lot of stuff for my foot so I feel pretty good on the ice and I’m just ready to go tonight.”
In addition to Yakupov’s return, the Oilers announced this morning that Ben Scrivens would start in net. Defenceman Anton Belov is out with a partially torn oblique. Belov’s fellow blueliner Corey Potter was placed on waivers before practice and Philip Larsen cleared waivers this morning and has been assigned to Oklahoma City in the American Hockey League.
Big story: After consecutive lopsided losses on either side of the Olympic break and an early 2-0 deficit to the Vancouver Canucks in the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic, the Senators were in danger of slipping out of the Eastern Conference playoff race altogether with a loss Sunday.
The Senators roared back with four unanswered goals, scoring a 4-2 win and catapulting themselves back into the playoff picture. The Senators are 11th in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, three behind the eighth-place Detroit Red Wings.
"We hope it launches our march [to the playoffs]," captain Jason Spezza told the Ottawa Sun. "We had a tough one (a 6-1 loss) against Detroit.
"It was an important game and we knew we needed this one. We had a tough trip and it's hard to come out to Western Canada and play all these teams in all their rinks. For us, it's a necessity and we hope this is a big jumping off point for us."
Senators: Not only did the win Sunday vault Ottawa back into the postseason picture, but it also kept general manager Bryan Murray interested in adding a player – or at least holding onto their coveted players, like veteran defenseman Chris Phillips – prior to the NHL Trade Deadline.
"If we lose that game and a couple of other teams in the race win, we're in a difficult position, but I don't know whether it makes a big, big difference," Murray said. "But it keeps us in the race, and you have to react accordingly and that's what we will do."
Oilers: Edmonton has lost three straight games and remains in last place in the Western Conference. Some good news arrived Monday, however, when the Oilers signed goaltender Ben Scrivens to a two-year contract extension. Scrivens was set to be a free agent after the season.
"I'm comfortable here. I made a decision that's best for me career-wise and family-wise," Scrivens said. "I'm extremely excited."
Scrivens is 10-9-4 this season in 26 games with the Los Angeles Kings and the Oilers. He leads the NHL with a .934 save percentage and is third with a 2.02 goals-against average.
"He's been great for us since he came in and he's played really solid," forward Boyd Gordon told the Oilers website. "He's been a good addition for our team and we're obviously very happy for him."
Who's hot:Erik Karlsson has three goals and two assists over his past five games for Ottawa. The 2012 Norris Trophy winner was also named the 2014 Sochi Olympics' best defenseman, and finished tied for most points in the tournament with eight (four goals, four assists). … Ales Hemsky hasn't scored a point for Edmonton since Jan. 12, but had three goals and an assist for the Czech Republic in Sochi.
Injury report: For Edmonton, Nail Yakupov (ankle) should be ready to go.