GDB 44.0: Seeing your Ex

Game Day

(photoshop: @isuckatpicking)

Adam Larsson experienced it last Saturday, playing his first game in his old city against his former team. “It was awkward, and I think tonight will be much easier for me,” he said.

Tonight Taylor Hall will return to Edmonton for the first time, and after playing the Oilers on Saturday, Hall thinks tonight will be easier for him, although he admitted it has been different being back in Edmonton for the first time since the trade.

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“I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Edmonton,” he laughed. “The game isn’t about me. We need a win and hopefully we can start the road trip on a good note.”

I expect the fans to give Hall a nice round of applause when he is announced in the starting lineup. Most coaches put a player in the starting lineup the first time he returns to his old city. I’m sure we will see a short video thank you for Hall at a stoppage in the first period.

For the Oilers it is a sidebar.

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They need a win against a team they should beat.

The Oilers dominated the Devils on Saturday, but needed an overtime powerplay goal from Mark Letestu to defeat them. Corey Schneider kept the game close, and the Oilers must play with the same urgency at home as they’ve had on the road.

They came out flat, again, versus the Sharks on Tuesday and they need to eliminate slow starts on home ice.

If I’m Todd McLellan, I would start McDavid’s line. I was surprised they were the third line over the boards versus San Jose. The top line has been their best line as of late, and with the Oilers struggling with lacklustre starts at home, I’d start #97’s line with the expectation of a strong first shift.

LINEUP

Oilers

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Anton Slepyshev will play his first game since December 11th and Jujhar Khaira will play his first NHL game since February 28th, 2016. Khaira and Slepyshev will add some speed and size to Edmonton’s bottom six.

Khaira will skate with Letestu and Kassian, while Slepyshev slides in beside Caggiula and Lucic.

Brandon Davidson’s return has unearthed two new D pairs. Davidson needs to stay healthy and get in a rhythm, and he’ll see a lot of defensive zone starts being paired with Larsson.

Devils

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Karl Stollery from Armena, just outside Camrose, makes his Devils debut. Stollery was cut from Midget AAA in Camrose and had to travel and play in Daysland when he was 15. But he kept working, and ended up playing three years for the Camrose Kodiaks, then four years at Merrimack College. He signed a free agent deal with Colorado, spent two and half years with them, mainly in the AHL, but did play seven NHL games before being dealt to San Jose near the deadline.

He finished the season with the Worcester Sharks, and did play five games with San Jose. Last year he was in San Jose playing for their AHL team, and signed with the Devils this summer.

He has kept battling and will get another chance to live the NHL dream tonight, and he’ll have a huge cheering section at Rogers Place. We often forget about the players who keep battling to get to the NHL, and then try and stay there. Stollery told me yesterday on my show he’s very excited to be back in the NHL, and he believes he can play. He just wants an opportunity. Good luck Karl.

QUICK HITS

  • A major understatement is saying Jordan Eberle needs to score. But I’ve been paying closer attention lately to why he isn’t. The easy answer is he doesn’t have as much confidence with the puck, or even shooting it right now. Yesterday at practice I focused in on Eberle. They had a drill at one end of the rink, where most of it was for Talbot to practice going across the crease to stop the shot on a cross-ice pass. I noticed that even in practice Eberle wasn’t finishing. He never scored on Talbot, while Sekera did a few times, and Gryba and Maroon did at least once.

    He had a combination of hesitation and frustration during the drill. Confidence is a finicky beast for pro athletes, and even consistent scorers can lose it.

    “Losing confidence happens,” said former NHLer and current TSN analyst Ray Ferraro. “I remember going 18 games without a goal, and it happens in such small doses you don’t notice it until it’s a massive thing. It isn’t like you just lose your confidence after one game. It builds up. Maybe it is one or two times you don’t drive the net, and then you’ve gone five or six games and you haven’t scored. Now a little panic sets in. You miss a few really good chances and now it is a regularity that you don’t score or get to the front of the net. I don’t think he will break out of hit until he goes back to getting inside of the D-men. It isn’t that easy, it is hard, but he’s done it and needs to again,” continued Ferraro.

    I asked Ferrraro to watch Eberle’s game on Tuesday so we could discuss what he saw on my show yesterday. Ferraro, as always, gave a great scouting report on what he saw from Eberle.

“Jordan has been a really consistent, productive player. But, often guys who score don’t realize your game is getting a little bit away from what makes you do best, because it happens so incrementally small. It happens a little bit. You aren’t driving net quite as much, you aren’t getting inside defenceman as much and then pretty soon, because you don’t realize it is happening, or unless it gets pointed out to you and you snap back, pretty soon that becomes the norm not the rarity.

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“I watched Tuesday’s game and I can’t tell you many times I noticed Eberle over handled the puck, or he drives down the wing and he turns into the corner. Teams will let you do that all day. Then with two minutes to go, the goalie was out and the puck was on the opposite side of the ice. Eberle fades to a posting up spot, about eight to ten feet to the side of the right goal post. And when there is a rebound, he comes to the rebound on the outside of the player. He has no chance to get to that puck. How is the puck going to get to you through everybody on to the other side?

“I would suggest pulling some of these clips and showing him the clips, if they already haven’t, and remind him he doesn’t shoot like Ovechkin or Laine, so you won’t score from over here. Yes once in awhile the puck will come through traffic to the back door, but most of the time, look where the goals are scored. The shot charts tell the story where goals are scored from. Remind him he has to go there, because he’s proven in the past he will go there and have success. ” explained Ferraro.

  • Ray added Eberle still has the ability to score, but when you lose your confidence the biggest battle is between your ears. You can’t let it impact your aggressiveness as a scorer. You have to fight through the negative thoughts and remember you can score. He is adamant the best to way to break out is to to go the net repeatedly. We’ll see if Eberle can break out of the worst slump of his career during this home stand.
  • Luke Gazdic is a healthy scratch for tonight’s game. That seems like an odd choice for his coach to sit him against his former time. 

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From All About the Jersey

All I want on this four-game road trip is more watchable hockey than the other four-game road trips. Please be watchable, Devils. Give Taylor Hall help, he can only do so much on his own – and with six shots against Florida on Monday, it can be a lot. But imagine if you can be options for Hall instead of guys skating with him. In fact, be an option for the Devils puck-carrier even if it’s not Hall or yourself. I’d like more of that as it was lacking on Monday.

TONIGHT…

GDB

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(photoshop: @TomKostiuk)

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers get back to .500 at home with a 4-2 victory. Ten wins in 20 home games isn’t good enough, and I expect them to play with much more desperation than they showed on Tuesday.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall scores. He’s a former Oilers forward. It happens regularly.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Larsson scores against his former team. Oilersnation is a bit perplexed to realize it is possible for an Oilers player to score against his former team. It creates a shift in the hockey “force” in Edmonton.

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