Leon Draisaitl wasn’t on the ice this morning, so we will have to wait another day to see what Todd McLellan’s plans are for his lines versus the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. Draisaitl took a puck/stick in the eye versus the Jets and it is swollen. Todd McLellan said it wasn’t safe to have him on the ice today, but is hopeful he will return Thursday or Friday. He expects him to be in the lineup on Saturday.
Draisaitl missed out on an intense practice. McLellan sent a message to his team their work ethic needs to be much better if they expect to win games.
“Part of solving that puzzle (losing), if you will, is work ethic,” said McLellan. “I thought we were really outworked versus Winnipeg and perhaps a bit in Vancouver, but the other night (Monday) we tried to do a lot of things the easy way and today was a reminder we have to get back to work. I’m happy with the way the guys responded, happy with the effort we put in today, but now it has to carry over tomorrow, Friday and on Saturday in the game,” said McLellan.
Here is how the lines looked today. When I asked McLellan if he planned to use Draisaitl on the wing or at centre, he said he hasn’t made up his mind yet.
Chris Kelly was the extra forward. Drake Caggiula and Draisaitl weren’t on the ice.
Matt Benning rotated in on the third pair, but Auvitu and Gryba took the first reps as the third pair.
McLellan used the practice to address the competitive level of his team. It was a grueling practice.
There were many drills, from line rushes, to five-on-five and three-on-three battles, and all involved battling in close quarters. If a drill wasn’t completed to the coach’s satisfaction, he blew the whistle and voiced his displeasure. He wasn’t yelling, but his intensity was high. He pointed out errors and the practice was crisp and fast.
After a few sequences of any drill, he would blow the whistle and players would take a fast lap. Players call this a “grinder” of a practice. It tests their legs and willingness to push through.
The intensity was the highest I’ve seen in any practice this season. McLellan has been around long enough to know when he can push his players. They had a day off yesterday and they don’t play until Saturday, so today was a perfect time for a fast-paced, energetic practice.
Early in practice, Connor McDavid went one-on-one against Oscar Klefbom and ended up crashing into the net. He was fine, but it illustrated the pace of practice. “I want to see that intensity in a game, I don’t want to see that in practice all the time. We shouldn’t need to do that stuff in practice. I want to see that (battle level) in a game,” said McLellan.
McDavid wasn’t the least bit concerned. “It was nothing, just trying to get to the post and we both stood our ground. He’s a big, strong guy,” said McDavid.
Klefbom had a brief scare he admitted. “That is the last thing we need right now (injury), but it is good. We have to play hard against one another and then take it on the ice with us when we play the games,”
The Oilers were on the ice just before 11 a.m. and at 11:44 a.m. the drills ended and they then came some more conditioning skates. One group would start at one goal line. They climbed the ladder using the faceoff dots. They stopped at the circles just outside the blueline, back to the dot in the defensive zone, then up to faceoff dot at the far blueline, back to the other neutral zone dot, then all the way to the far dot in the offensive zone, back to the dot just outside the blueline, and then diagonal to the dot in the offensive zone, across to the other dot in the offensive zone, to the blueline dot, then back into the dot in the offensive zone, and then they would go back the other way and finish in the same end they started in.
They did this twice with each group of six and seven players. It was a hard 50-minute practice, but the video session prior to practice was the visual reminder of their weaknesses.
- “We have some fast players and not just Connor McDavid. There is a group of players who play with a lot of pace on our team and I find them looping and swirling and not being in the right spot, and we have some slower players who are playing really slow right now. We have to get those two groups blended together so that we can be productive and we will make lineup decisions based on that,” said McLellan.
- It is only Wednesday, so it is too early to say if Benning won’t play on Saturday. He has struggled somewhat, and while moving Darnell Nurse with Kris Russell makes sense based on how Nurse has played thus far, the challenge is that means Benning and Gryba are the third pair, or Auvitu comes in for one of them. I don’t see Auvitu as a better option than Benning, but for one game the coach might send a message. I think how Benning performs in practice this week could impact McLellan’s decision. By no means is Benning on the outs, he has just had a tough stretch.
- I won’t be surprised if Benning plays and Gryba comes out.
- Looking at the lines today, I could see Draisaitl sliding in on RNH’s wing if they move him off McDavid’s line. RNH has had a good start offensively, and if he can keep producing that will make a massive difference. I won’t be surprised though if he keeps his top line together.
- McLellan said Caggiula is still day-to-day. If he doesn’t practice before Saturday I highly doubt he plays. The one benefit of this schedule is Caggiula could be out ten days and only miss two games.
- “You need those types of practices now and then. It is good to work like that,” said McDavid.
- McLellan wanted to get his player’s attention on the ice and in the video room. They haven’t played up to their potential the past few games, and he will use this week to hammer that home. By the time Saturday rolls around look for the a much more workman like effort from his team.
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