Some interesting news to come out of morning skate today for the Dallas Stars, as Mike Heika reports that Jamie Oleksiak will be a healthy scratch against the Oilers with Philip Larsen getting into a game for just the second time in six games.
I don't think this can be seen as a "bad sign" in regards to Oleksiak, rather than a chance for the Stars to get Larsen into a game against a team he played pretty well against last week. Larsen has struggled this season and with Oleksiak looking solid in the five games since being called up, the young Dane has seen his chances at ice time diminish.
The Stars will also shake things up a bit on the fourth line, with Ryan Garbutt getting the chance to add some renewed energy to the team. Antoine Roussel, who was sent down and then called back up over the weekend, will be a healthy scratch. Glen Gulutzan seemed to hint that Roussel's penalties were not well-regarded with the team, but he's going to get another chance to prove that he can remain effective while also learning to cut down on the useless penalties.
"They better because it's a chance to play, and it's a big two points for us," said Gulutzan when asked about the energy level the new players can bring, per Heika. "We trust both those players, and the opportunity to come in and contribute, they should play with lots of energy and juice."
Both Loui Eriksson and Derek Roy opted not to take part in morning skate, reports Heika, although both are expected to play. Roy is likely taking care of his groin (rimshot) while there is still a lot of questions about what seems to be ailing Eriksson.
Lines and defensive pairings are expected to be:
Morrow - Benn - Jagr
Eriksson - Roy - Ryder
Smith - Eakin - Vincour
Nystrom - Fiddler - Garbutt
Dillon - Robidas
Rome - Daley
Goligoski - Larsen
Kari Lehtonen is in goal, although what will happen tomorrow is still up in the air.
"You'll see fresh legs tomorrow," said Gulutzan, in regards to whether tonight's scratched players will hit the ice in Calgary. "We're not going to dance around keeping things together. We've got most of our core together and we're going to put guys in tomorrow that can give us some fresh legs in back-to-backs."
Moving on, some interesting news out of Edmonton....
"We're improving as a team and we're going to be capable of moving players in and out of the lineup," said Oilers coach Ralph Krueger after the morning skate. "It's about making sure we have a lineup we feel, with the players we have and the energy we need, is the one that gives us the best chance to win.
"There's no room for feelings in a season like this."
Krueger is referring to the news that veteran forward Ryan Smyth will be a healthy scratch tonight against the Stars, along with defenseman Ryan Whitney. The Oilers called up young forward Chris VandeVelde and it's clear the team is looking for some sort of spark, having lost five straight games before running into fantastically good luck in a win against Columbus, despite being outshot 14-40.
There's no doubting that Whitney is struggling this season, and last season as well, after surgeries to his knee and ankle further limited his mobility. The trade talk is starting up already that the Oilers could be looking to ship out another veteran defenseman who seemingly hit a wall in Edmonton and could never recover. Whitney has been a healthy scratch just three times in his career, all with the Oilers, and did not play in the game against Columbus.
"I thought after the last game I'd be in the lineup but I'm not," said Whitney on Tuesday. "I'm very frustrated. I want to play. We got outshot 40-14 and I'm not playing so I think that shows where their thoughts are. (But) I don't think he cares who you are. He wants to win. Whatever he thinks is the best lineup, is the one he's going to play."
There's an interesting thought at play that Krueger "shaking up the team" by sitting a couple of veterans could spark the rest of the Oilers, but that is certainly up in the air. The problem with the Oilers hasn't just been with Whitney and Smyth and there is an opinion that the Oilers have long been too easy on the young players while sacrificing the veterans that are probably on their way out anyway.
Want to send a message? Bench one of the young guys to send a message. Jordan Eberle has just two points in the past six games (when the Oilers have been struggling) so perhaps sitting a player of his caliber for a game would send a more realistic message to the team.
Perhaps this is just a case of Krueger putting what he feels is a legitimately better roster on the ice. We'll find out for sure tonight.