GDB 31.0: TWO-STEPPING IN NASHVILLE

The Oilers enter Nashville in the midst of a dangerous dance routine; one step forward, two steps sideways and one step back. They wrapped up a crucial four-game homestand with only one win and capped it off with a dreadful performance against the Blues.

Their only victory came against the Predators, and if the Oilers have any hope of staying in the playoff race, they will need a victory in Nashville tonight.

The Predators handed the Oilers their worst loss of the season, 6-0, back on March 8th, so if you combine that with their woeful effort on Saturday you’d expect the Oilers to put forth a much better effort tonight.

LINEUP

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took the morning skate and he will play. In order to get him on the roster the Oilers had to send Teemu Hartikainen down to OKC.

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And with RNH coming back Lennart Petrell will come out of the lineup. I don’t think the line combinations matter as much as the Oilers finding a combination of hustle, smarts, effort and consistency.

Hall/Horcoff/Hemsky
Smyth/RNH/Yakupov
Paajarvi/Gagner/Eberle
Jones/Belanger/Brown

Smid/Petry
N.Schultz/J.Schultz
Fistric/Potter

Devan Dubnyk will start in goal.

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YAKUPOV ICETIME

I asked Ralph Krueger to share his thoughts on how he uses Nail Yakupov in the 3rd period.

JG: Are you trying to protect Yakupov late in games, or are you concerned about his defensive awareness?

RK: He has our confidence. He’s an 18 year old, he’s going to be playing in this role, probably very similar, for the rest of the year. Not For lack of ability or will, he’s very responsible without the puck now. He’s trying to play the team game all of the time. We’re happy with him, but he’s an 18 year old and down the stretch the hierarchy has it in a way that we have more experience in other positions and other players. When you’re reduced to six to nine forwards and you’re trying to close games up and take them either into overtime or finish them with a lead, he understands that it’s just not his time yet. It was no different when we went back a few years to the roles that Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle had to now being able to play in those minutes.

But it’s nothing against Nail, we all know that putting a player of that age in the lineup has its unique challenges, and I think that we’ve been able to use him very well and we’re happy with the minutes that he’s played.

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JG: What about in overtime when it’s 4-on-4?

RK: We just have a lot of confidence in our penalty shooting ability. We’ve had some troubles 4-on-4 during the season, so we did have him playing if you think back. And there were some 4-on-4 breakdowns that cost us games that were extremely painful, and so we’ve kind of gone with more experience there. Those are gut feelings, whether you have 8 guys, or whether you end up going with 6. And he just wasn’t in the top 6 mix the last game, but he could be the next one. There’s nothing wrong with Nail playing there, but there’s a defensive element there and a risk reward. I’ve been in situations before where you play three forwards and one defenceman and just go for it.

But again, we believe in our ability also to win in penalty shots and we just felt the way that that game had been going, and the way that San Jose had been pushing us through the last part of the game that our chances might have been better. But we did play one of our best 4-on-4 periods, I thought, this season. They had 0 shots on our net and we had a couple of scoring chances, so I thought it was actually pretty good overtime period.

JG: How do you balance the feeling as a coach from game to game? You mentioned how right now you’ve got some veteran guys, and when it’s a tight game you’d lean towards them. Against San Jose after that shift in the third period when he had two big hits and got the crowd and bench energized, yet he didn’t see the ice again. How do you balance it? Is it just a gut feel, do you have a plan going into the 3rd period, or do you go from game to game and switch it that easy?

RK: I have all of the numbers and I’m a numbers man. I have them in my head and I’m working them down as the game evolves. I’ve got nine forwards in my head. On the one side I’ve got the green side; that means we need goals. The other side is the red side, we’re trying to shut a game or close it down, I’ve got nine forwards in my head and then going down to the last four minutes I’ve got six forwards. It’s a game to game thing. It really truly is conversations that we have with Bucky and Freddy between periods coming from above. It is final conversations with Steve (Smith) while we’re in those TV timeouts so I get some input from around me, and then the stomach just really takes you down the stretch. And you go with the players who really feel good that night for that situation. "

Yakupov was on the ice for two OT losses, on February 04th and 06th. He did lose his man, Tanev, vs. the Canucks but he made no mistake on the Jagr game-winner. We can agree or disagree with Krueger’s responses, but I respect him for taking the time to express his thoughts on Yakupov. I do agree with the coach on bringing him along slowly in regulation, but considering Krueger admitted Yakupov has worked extremely hard at becoming more responsible at ES, I’d look at giving him a shift in OT when there is more room to be creative.

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QUICK HITS

  • Why is Sam Gagner having his best NHL season? A big reason is because of a guy named Andy O’Brien. Read more here.
     
  • If you honestly believe the Oilers are better off moving out veterans and replacing them with unproven youth, then you can expect the Oilers to remain near the bottom of the western conference moving forward. The Oilers need to find PROVEN NHL players, not more "maybe," "might be," or "what if" type players.
     
  • I’m not saying the Oilers can’t move a veteran or two, but the return is likely more prospects and picks. These trades won’t fix the Oilers’ problems immediately. The Oilers need more experience, more consistency in their competitiveness and they need some size/skill in their top nine.
     
  • The Oilers will be competitive when their best players are equal to the best players on the other teams. The 4th line doesn’t win games for the Penguins, Blackhawks or Ducks. Their best players do, and until the Oilers best players are mature and have more experience the Oilers won’t win. That isn’t a knock on their young kids, it is just a fact. 
     
  • Case in point. The Capitals have won 5 of 7 and are suddenly two points out of the playoffs. Alex Ovechkin has 7 goals and 11 points in those 7 games. To win consistently in the NHL you need production from your top lines, top defenders and goalies. Focusing on the woes of the Oilers 4th line is a great distraction, but it isn’t the main problem in Edmonton.
     
  • A stellar quote from Ovechkin courtesy of Corey Masisak from NHL.com: "Right now I’m scoring goals and I’m king of the world. Couple weeks I was almost in the toilet. Maybe [they] forgot to flush me."
     
  • Today is the last day to help my hometown, New Sarepta, win the right to host a concert, but more importantly raise money to build a new arena. Do me a favour and take 30 seconds and vote here for New Sarepta. Thanks.
     
  • The Oilers play their remaining 18 games in a span of 34 days. They have four sets of back-to-back games and they only get two days off between games three times. The Oilers will have to play unbelievably well to have a shot at the playoffs.
     
  • If you were GM of the Oilers what moves would you make? Now you can show your intellect with www.websimhockey.com. It is a 100% web-based, multi-player hockey simulator. You take on the role of the General Manager of a virtual hockey team. You manage the various aspects of your team (drafts, trades, lineups, coach strategies, negotiations and contracts signings, arena construction, tickets, beer, hot dog and parking costs, and much more).  Properly managing your team and its finances will ensure your success.  The first 12 Nations readers who email [email protected] with "Nations promo" as the subject line will get a free trial. Good luck.  

  • This is an awesome beer commercial. I’m sure most of you have a buddy that reminds you of the guy brushing his teeth.
     

TONIGHT…

GAME DAY PREDICTION: In the last three meetings between these teams in Nashville one of them scored six goals. The Oilers got blanked 6-0 this year, but won 6-3 and 6-2 last year. I’m a fan of offence so I’m hoping that trend continues. The Oilers surprise us with a 6-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ales Hemsky scores twice thus heating up discussions over whether the Oilers should trade him before April 3rd.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During intermission Sportsnet will feature "trade watch," and instead of Ryan Jones’ name coming across the prompter it will read Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Even though the hosts will say it was an error, many will take to twitter and blogs suggesting destinations for Nugent-Hopkins. Seriously, some will believe that moving RNH would be a good move.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR


  • Please tell me why this organization continues to place Yakopov in positions of failure!! and Why Ryan Smyth is an option for top 6 play… what in the world has he shown this season to warrant top 6 play.

    I can have patience for the kids making mistakes along the way but placed in the positions where they are supposed to play!

    What is a complete waste of time is messing with that to give a 37-8 year old player who has been signed for one year to many and shown nothing – extremely useful time in the top 6.

    Petrell should have stayed in Smyth should have sat out and continue to sit out and be the occasional depth forward who plays when someone is injured.

  • vetinari

    Thank the hockey-gods but we need NHL veterans, not more picks and prospects.

    In fact, Tambi should be on the phone selling marginal farm players like Hamilton and Plante to any suckers, er… I mean… GMs willing to send back an NHL veteran or two while the prospects have some value.

    Also, Hemsky is under contract for one more year so unless someone is prepared to trade a veteran centre who can play top 6 minutes or a veteran puck-moving defenceman in the mold of a young Gonchar, there’s no need to keep bringing his name into discussions. Ditto for Gagner, who is growing by leaps and bounds this year. And as for Horcoff, no team will take his cap hit so don’t waste your breath on rumors involving him.

    If the Oil are going to move any veterans, it will likely be players in the last year of their contracts before becoming UFA’s like Khabibulin, Jones, Smid or Whitney, and frankly, we should look at resigning Smid long term and Jones to another two or three year deal. Otherwise, we have little to nothing to offer other teams other than be a home to salary-dumped players.

  • 106 and 106

    I’m all for veterans complimenting the youth………but veterans with skill. I still fail to see how Horcoff, Belenger, Smyth, Petrell…….make us a more competitive team.

    I could think of at least 100 veterans on other teams I would have over ours. It’s exactly this kind of thinking that got us here in the first place.

    As for RK, obviously all of his motivational skills have amounted to nothing. He is trying desperately to create a system ( mostly on the fly) that will work for the players we have. I see them all lining up on the center line pretending they are not playing the nuteral zone trap.

    May RK should try the Chris Farley motivational speech and move these guys into a van down by the river!

    If we lose to Nashville, well it’s time to start selling.

  • Katz will be spending a lot of money this summer, he doesn’t want to Yakupov to meet his bonuses and have to spend even more. He ordered Mac to order Krug not go give Yak a lot of opportunities to put up points, that is why they feed this phantom expierence story to the media and the fans.

    Gagner’s article link is a joke.

    *Iginla will be signing with the Oilers in the summer for two years at $4 the first year and 3.75 the next.

  • washed up

    I still would be looking to move Yakapov if i’m the Oilers. He’s one of the best trading pieces they have. Also he’s a small skilled winger, totally expendable to oraganization moving forward.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    So Ill just leave this here, Sharks traded Murray to the Pens for 2 2nd round picks…..was Dithers even looking for a trade like that!!? I know the Oilers have Fistric and Peckham(in the press box) but to get a guy like Murray from the Sharks for that!! ffs Tambolini!!

  • Jason Gregor

    I am starting to agree that the boss doesn’t want to pay bonuses.

    The team is after all way under the cap.

    The oil are the new Leaves .Full building therefore management doesn’t give a crap.

  • DSF

    Taylor Hall needs to mix it up and attack the middle once in a while , there is no rule that says he cant switch spots with his center, we arent using him properly unless he can attack with his speed from other areas, same with Hemmer, they need to attack from the middle to leave better rebounds and present a different look. We cant keep seeing long wristers that rnd up in wasted possesions, we need shots from the middle right at the goalie and we need to attack those rebounds.

  • DSF

    The refs are giving us a fighting chance and are calling balanced calls, we need to be aggressive and keep the pedal down, the penaltys will balance out and the more we take the more the Preds will get, and we want to be on the PP as much as we can , aggressive play works for us tonight with the way the refs are calling them, nice and balanced. Now we just need to force the issue and not worry about takeing one because we know there will be a fast balancing call and we will get our own PP.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    We might as well ask J Schultz to take at least 30% of his rushes all the way to the bank tonight, he needs to be utilised more often. Ask him to take it in fast and to make the first give and go pass and recieve it on net.

    Ebbs needs to take the exact same lane and feed thaat d-man the elbows big time just to make a point.

    Brown needs to start a fight so we can regain momentum.

    If they score again within the next four minutes we need a TO.

    • DSF

      We need to use the give and go, they have excellent lateral support in the d-zone so we need to use the give and go to make them adjust so we can catch them in transition and break their lateral support. We need to attack at different levels .
      And we need to stop trying to hit the backdoor guy with the rebound from that stupid wrister I keep seeing from Halls line.
      Attack them down the middle useing the give and go with short crisp passes. Then repeat.

  • DSF

    We need our d-men to aggressively skate the puck out and have the second d-man follow up supporting, but we need to immediatly put our heads down and sprint upice to counter theit 3 man attack on the forcheck, they are also dumping in softly to time themselves, so we need to sprint it up at least fifteen feet and then make a breakout pass, maybe 20 ft up them pass if its clear, but we need to set them back on the forcheck with immediate forward puck movement from behind our net.

    • DSF

      Ha ha ha ha. We wont make it to the shootout, we are desperate so Ralph will probably pull Dubby with five minutes to go so we can go for the winning goal.

      We are seeing a nice balance in penaltys from the refs, man we should put the pedal down and hit them down the middle and pile on their goalie.

      It works to our favor to increase the number of penaltys tonight so lets get the hell moving.

      We need to get aggressive, on the PK, 5 on 5, everywhere, we need our d-men to rush the puck out immediatly and we need to attack them with long breaKout passes and give and gos down the middle with support.

      We need to speed the game up, the Preds are trying to slow it down on us. we need faster playaction initiation when we have possesion of the puck a faster transition to offense.

      We might want to ask ourselves why we signed Brown in a game like this one, this is our last grasp after all.

      Maybe if we stap a 5lb weight to Halls forearm
      we will stop taking those weak-kneed waste of a possesion wrister he uses, my Grandmother hits harder with her purse than he hits the net with that shot form the perimeter, he needs to take it to the middle or give it to someone who will, or grow some balls and take it there himself, Hall is looking really gunshy this year, he has lost his threat of going to the net off rushes, even Hemmer does that, Eberle does that, but not Taylor Hall, he thinks the job is done to soon and needs to STOP that rebound play he is trying to hit, we are not coming into the zone fast enough through the n-zone to use that play, just take it to the net at the end of the rush, jesus, or we need to put MPS up there and drop Hall down.

  • Alsker

    Nice PP, even if they didnt connect, puck possesion, support, and good decisions w the passes. Yak looked beastally good, not like an 18yo, oh ya hes not(unless your RK)

    • I agree , and it needs to produce goals tonight, special teams will be the difference tonight.

      Yakupov is a nice addition, he is a physical player and adds a nice dimension to the line he is on. Right now we need him to be with Gagner learaning how to be a pro athlete at the NHL level. In two years he will be playing with Nuge regularly without a doubt.

      All we need to do is implement the three pass rule, never more than 3 passes on the PP without a shot, it is retarded to overpass on the PP when you have a numbers advantage in a sport where a numbers advantage is the most lethal advantage you can find. We need to definately work it around but we also need a defined limit to the wasted time, we need a quick set up and then we need to use that numbers advantage to get to rebounds, this means we want our perimeter shots coming from the middle of the ice not the wings, no angled perimeter shots, just straight down the pipes so we get better rebounds and support.

    • McDavid's Comet

      Were you expecting anything else? It’s his first yr. in the NHL if he is still a disaster 5 yrs. from now then it will be a bad move. Gotta give him some time to mature and that goes for a most of the core. All great players….. but not just yet.

      At the beginning of the yr. I was optimistic that because of the schedule situation that perhaps just maybe this team could take advantage of it and make playoffs but now I have to be realistic and hope they at least finish ahead of Calgary but that is even hoping for too much. So, so be it, we finish in the bottom 5 and pick a center that will eventually help.

      With a little luck we fire Mr. Dithers and hire Mr. Burke and perhaps start making moves to really improve the team.

  • 106 and 106

    Penguins:

    Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Sutter, Kunitz, Morrow, Orpick, Martin, Letang, Murray and Fleury.

    6 million cap space still?

    Is Shero the only GM that knows what he’s doing?

    Clap clap clap

  • 106 and 106

    Dam good thing Dubby was on his feet to make that glove save that is his booked weak spot the shot from that exact area high while drops down.

    We really need to make contact more and try to initiate some bad feelings, we need to win this game more than they do its do or die for us.

  • 106 and 106

    I cant believe I said that and 2 mins later Dubby is on his knees again and they burn him.

    Pull Dubby immediatly to try to kickstart us, NOW RALPH. They will burn him high wrister again for the 9th time this season if you dont pull, him, we are well scouted as mentioned earlier in the GDB.