March 23 2009 01:59PM
The Oilers skated this morning except for Souray, Roloson, Reddox and Nilsson. Nilsson just walked by me during practice and I jokingly asked him if he will be in the doghouse for missing the skate. He laughed and said he got the green light not to skate today. He bruised his knee on the road trip, so they gave him the day off today, but said he will play tomorrow.
Souray and Roloson are just getting rest, and while Reddox told us he feels fine, he clearly doesn't have clearance from the medical staff to play. With four extra forwards there is no need to rush him back.
Lots of PP work in practice today. Both the first and second unit spent close to 20 minutes working on quick puck movement and lots of shots. They still don’t shoot enough with the man advantage and clearly the message is to get more rubber on goal.
If the Oilers can win the special teams battle, their chances of winning are much higher because this season they’ve become pretty effective 5-on-5.
Look at the recent road trip. The Oilers were +2 on special teams in Colorado, +1 in Chicago and then -1 in Minnesota. They won the games where they won the special teams. In the 12 games prior to Colorado, the Oilers never won the special teams games and they went 4-3-5 in that stretch.
If this team can improve their PP and their PK in the final ten games they are a lock to make the playoffs.
Oh! Line juggling
If the first line was producing as little as they have been lately you would of seen a change in personnel, but don’t expect O’Sullivan, Hemksy and Horcoff to be split up anytime soon.
Hemsky has two goals in this last 13, while Horcoff has two (both on the PP) as well. They aren’t producing five-on-five, but MacTavish will not split them up.
“In times before I would have changed that line if it wasn’t productive, but now I think they have to work themselves through it. The other lines are playing okay, so I don’t want to switch them, but they (first line) has the capability of working themselves through it. I see a lot of potential on that line, and I expect them to produce very soon.”
If the first line wakes up it would make life much easier for the Oilers and their loyal fans. O’Sullivan is 1-1-2 and –4 in the last six. Hemsky is 0-2-2 and –3, while Horcoff is 2-0-2 and –2. Horcoff averaged 20:39 of ice-time during this stretch, Hemsky 18:25 and O’Sullivan 20:07.
Compare their production to the 2nd line:
- Gagner: 4-4-8... +3 and 16:16 of icetime.
- Kotalik: 1-3-4... +2 and 14:25 of icetime.
- Nilsson: 2-4-6... +4 and 13:38 of icetime.
Horcoff and O’Sullivan kill penalties so that is the where they get most of their extra minutes, but even if you take away those three minutes a game the production of the first line is well below Gagner’s line.
We constantly hear how this is the FUN time of the season, and the time where your go-to-players need to show up. Gagner and company have upped their game, and it's time that Hemsky et al follow suit.
They play the most minutes within the forwards and they need to start producing to make life a bit easier for their team, and most importantly that would allow MacTavish to rest Roloson for a game. He will play tomorrow against Detroit, and right now it seems as long as he gets rest on off days, he will play until the Oilers have secured a playoff spot. Phoenix to Anaheim is a much easier back-to-back than Denver to Colorado, so don’t be surprised if the Colossal Fossil plays both of those.
In case you missed my post on JW's article about Eberle's contract and how the Oilers were allowed to sign him:
He signed a three-year entry level deal that kicks in next year if he makes the team.
He is playing the remainder of this season on a “Futures” contract. It allows a player to play a maximum of 25 games. These types of contracts are common in the AHL and ECHL. They don’t count under the 50 team contracts.
While the Oilers didn’t confirm this, I would suspect that Eberle’s agent wanted a three-year deal in place before his client played on the “futures” contract in the AHL.
Eberle will play the RW with Potulny, and the LW will be either Schremp, Willis or Stone according to Rob Daum.