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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

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


  • I think it’s time for the mercy hook. Not just Dubbie either. Lots of tools need to be replaced from this joke of a tool box. Oilers are disgraceful including: upstairs, players, coaching and everyone behind the scenes. What a frustrating group the Oil has become

  • We might want to use a stacking tactic through the n-zone as they are looking to make contact and gain superior position off of that hitting so they are on us like white on rice, they arent playing a fast paced game so we might as well stack three guys and just take it at them for a change, just go right at the first pred near the puck and allow him to make contact but at the last second spin around and turn so you can protect the puck and make a relay to the man behind you, just do this twice and you are at the net and will have picked one d-man and a forward out of the playaction.

    Lets see the Flying V-Door play !!!

  • washed up

    I don’t understand how when the Oilers are in the attacking zone and the play is about to die I always see more preds then Olier’s which i kinda understand. Then when the paly goes back the other way it always seems like it’s an odd man rush or at least 2 on 2. It seems like some of the Oilers players just disapper.

  • Alsker

    kruger will be fired this week . Bring on ruff. I feel bad for our players . Our coaches and management suck . How long is this rebuild ? 7 years and no improvements. what does iambi need to do to get fired. I refuse to buy anything related to the oilers before someone is fired.

  • Jason Gregor

    Anybody who thinks Dubnyk is a legit number 1 goaltender is crazy. Big time goalies make big save in big games and Dubby in my mind has only stole 1 game in Columbus this season and has pretty much sucked since then.

      • Eddie Shore

        Agreed. Dubby is so not the problem. Stops a freaking breakaway and then less then a minute later some guy I have never heard of makes Fistric and Potter look like Junior B defenders. The Klein goal was a goal on 29 of the top 30 goalies in the NHL. Lundquist might stop that. People got to stop expecting Dubby and Khabby to stop point blank opportunities and have a .935 save percentage.

        • Eddie Shore

          Perfect shot at the end of an absolutely horrendous defensive display by Potter/Fistric on a 2on2. Lots of blame to go around, very little should be directed at Dubnyk.

          • DSF

            Just change your first two words to perfect save and I might see it your way, ha ha ha, Dubnyk needs to stay on his feet wayyy more, and he has been targeted and burned repeatedly by the midrange high wrister because he drops way to early. If we dont step up and stop that shot we are vulnerable constantly.

    • SLAM

      All I can say is thank God I don’t have season tickets. Still not sure how Tambellini stays employed. Hopefully we can start to tank and get another lottery pick… Sigh.

        • SLAM

          Sorry I’m not saying that I want that draft pick. Hell I’d take close to the playoffs or at the very least exciting hockey with some jam. I am just saying failing either of those, at least I can one day where I can be sure something good will happen…

      • The Soup Fascist

        I am a season ticket holder but have sold the last three home games plus all but the last two of the year.I have been stateside the last couple of weeks and have to listen to the games on Ched,the last time the Oilers were in Nashville after the game Rob Brown made some pretty scathing remarks about the organization, he must of gotten in a little hot water because since then they have all been sickening to listen to. Is it just me or does Jack Micheals make you want to throw up! Hey Rod please come out of retirement.

        • The Oiler’s need to move 3/4 of this roster by next training camp or this team will be right back here again.

          Gagner – Hemsky – Smyth – Horcoff – Jones – Paajarvi – Schultz Sr. – Kahbibulin – Petrel – Hartikinen – Petry – Peckham – Belanger – Potter –

          These players can be used to acquire the necessary players this team needs.

          The Oiler’s have burned through the ELC and are now going to start burning through contract years…..Brutal. Edit: Can someone explain WTF Schultz Sr. was on the ice for in the last minute of play! good God!

          • washed up

            Agreed. I’m just saying that most of these trades need to be made during the off season. No sense trading Paajarvi at the dead line for a draft pick. Like I said the oiler Need legit roster players. I think you should add Yakapov and Eberle to that list. Not because there not good player’s with lots off upside. Your just not going to get a good player in return for a Peckham.

          • washed up

            Yes for sure. That’s why I think Yakapov could be a big trade piece since he is still on entry level. Probaly could have gotten Eberle on the same term, but under 5 mill, not sure what the rush was.

      • Alsker

        The Oilers are good enough not to be 28-30th. Florida is so bad they’ll have the most amount of bingo balls on draft day. But now that 14 teams have a shot at number1 its not a lock for anyone. The Oiler’s look like a 26th place team. Close some nights.Like tonight. But not good enough yet to get over the the lack of experience in their top players. Still it will take patience and time for that experience to grow these players into”legitimate” NHL stars .

  • washed up

    We need to engage the offense like the Blues did to us.

    We need to keep the d-zone exits the same and the n-zone traverses the same but as soon as we get the puck over their blueline , everyone must flood their zone and go to random hotspots and shooting areas, and the puck carrier must be the triggerman that iniates our offens on his own and randomly, we just want him to stretch the defense out a bit by puckhandeling a little to force their defense to transition a few times and stretch out and then he needs to make a pass/shot between those transitions, remember the support men are all beating the defense to the hotspots because they are just sprinting there immediatly and the puck carrier isnt wasting much time getting the pass/shot off because he doesnt need for set plays to develop he can fire it at any time with equal effect because all of his support is in prime areas and moveing from one to the next randomly, its a percentages play.

    Lets go for it, we need the offense.

    This is a simple adjustment, just allow the puck carrier to be the triggerman every possesion, and mix it up letting any and everyone be that triggerman, just smoothly work the zone transitions until you hit the blueline then everyone sprint to hotspots and get your heads up because the pass/shot is coming fast.

  • washed up

    The first goal Dubnyk should of had, the second one he gave up on the play,I’ll give you guys the third goal he had no chance. But really you people think Dubby is a number 1 goalie, his back up tonight(Habby) is a better goalie positionally.Just watch Dubby he is a flopping fish. Brutal .Don’t get me wrong the D is brutal too, but a true number 1 goalie steals games and Dubby doesn’t

  • Wax Man Riley

    blaming the goalie is hilarious…this is one of the most offensively challenged teams in the nhl and the oilers make them look like the 76Canadians…and how about no response to that knee given to eberle in the first…this is a baaaaaadly coached hockey team…honesty its so sad

  • Eddie Shore

    Three pass rule fellas, we need to get shots, and no long crossice passes that arent onetimers, there is no need for them unless those long passes are onetimers.

  • DSF

    Anyone want to place bets on when Ralph pulls Dubby?
    I say with 2:50 left to go,ha ha ha.

    I do wish he would wait a bit longer but its fun to bet on him,ha haha. 2:48 has been the earliest i have seen him pull the trigger so far.

  • Alsker

    Ummm…320 learning experience in the last half dozen years…yaaaa…what have we learned…it takes way more brews to get thru an oilers game this time of year

  • Alsker

    The burning question is why we didnt bring our 3rd period game in the 1st period because we won the 3rd period of the game, whatever we adjusted to was what we should have started with.
    Why is that? What did the coaches change in the 3rd that they should have adjusted in the 1st????

    • Alsker

      Lol..we’ve been asking that question for what 4 coaches now, liked RK but DAMN I miss slats’ attitude, his ruthlessness behind the bench kept everyone honest and on their games. It also made them HOFers. Mr.Ruff are you willing to come and put up with Lowbellini(until you bitchslap both of them into reality), PLEASE!!!!