EDMONTON - With four games this week alone, the Edmonton Oilers coaching staff took a different approach heading into Wednesday’s contest against the Minnesota Wild.
The club had an optional morning skate, affording the opportunity for a number of their players to take the morning off.
It’s a rare occurrence for the Oilers, especially during the middle of a home stand.
“When you play a lot of games, coaches recognize the fact it’s important to save up for game situations,” said Oilers winger Ryan Smyth, who rarely exercises his option to take a practice off. “It’s nice, it allows guys to be focused and ready to play the game,” Smith said. “It’s going to be a high-tempo game and it’s important because it’s a divisional game.”
Having recently played 10 of 12 games on the road, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place this week to take part in a six-game home stand.
Four of those games occurred this week, starting with a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators on Monday.
Following Wednesday’s contest, they’ll go on to host the Columbus Blue Jackets Friday and Calgary Flames Saturday.
“Everybody goes through it so you just deal with it,” Smyth said. “It’s been fairly decent, the coaching staff has recognized the situation and given us a few days to recuperate and get ready.”
HALL OF A PUCK DROP
The Edmonton Oilers paid tribute to Sun sports columnist Terry Jones prior to Wednesday’s game for his recent induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a media honoree.
Along with being the guest of honour at a luncheon, Jones got an opportunity to drop the puck during a ceremonial face-off.
Things got a little tense when Jones nearly lost his balance on his way towards center-ice as the carpet started to slide from side-to-side.
Disaster was adverted, however, as Jones made his best surfing impression and was able to stay on his feet.
“Damn near went down! Nice save Horcoff! Got to stand by Samantha the anthem singer who had give me that warned about three times,” Jones tweeted after.
The days of having to skate through a stick or elbow to make a hit are waning in the NHL.
But according to one of the league’s most active hitters, players are still trying to protect themselves despite the league frowning on it.
“It still happens, I take elbows in the head a lot,” Clutterbuck said. “But that’s one of the hazards of going in and trying to hit guys.”
Early this year, Ryan Smyth took a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct when he got his arm up to protect himself from a hit.
“Sometimes you’ll get those calls, but there are a lot of other times when you don’t get the call,” Clutterbuck said. “ When I’m going into hit somebody I have to be aware of the fact he might put his elbow or his stick up.”
In the old days, referees would turn a blind eye to a player that made opponents skate through lumber in order to lay a hit.
“It’s changed a lot since those days,” Clutterbuck said. “But it still happens and you have to be aware of it.”
Clutterbuck was actually forced to leave Wednesday game, injuring his leg after trying to take a run at Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney late in the first period.
The last time these two teams met, Darcy Hordichuk and Brad Staubitz could never come to terms on the appropriate time to drop the gloves.
Wednesday the two were on the same page as they got into a fight on the respective opening shifts.
It was Hordichuk’s first fight in an Oilers uniform this regular season. He fought every chance he got in the pre-season.
The stage was sent as Staubitz took eight minutes in penalties in the teams’ encounter last Friday trying to get at Hordichuk.
The Wild winger planned on being more disciplined heading into the return encounter.
“I have to be more in control I was pretty emotional,” Staubitz said. “The last time we played Edmonton I got carried away, took some dumb penalties and I have to be careful not to put our team in that situation.”
Wednesday’s fight could be considered a draw as both connected a few punches.