Tag: Edmonton Oilers

Nikita Nikitin

Nikitin refutes MacTavish, says fitness ‘was never a problem’


Edmonton blueliner Nikita Nikitin, who hasn’t played since Jan. 29 because of a shoulder injury, has responded to comments made by Oilers GM Craig MacTavish that suggested Nikitin wasn’t in shape to start the season.

“I was in shape,” Nikitin said this week, per the Edmonton Sun. “I was in good shape. That was never a problem.”

Nikitin’s fitness level became a story following the trade deadline, when MacTavish told media the Russian rearguard didn’t come into the year in tip-top form, suggesting it might’ve played a role in what’s been a disappointing first year in Edmonton.

More, from the Sun:

“Nikita was playing better, he started off slowly, I don’t think he was in the best shape that he could have been, we have to get that rectified next year,” MacTavish said at the time. “But he was getting into shape and he’s a top-four NHL defenceman.”

The suggestion he was out of shape, made the Russian defenceman a target in Edmonton, particularly on radio call-in shows. Nikitin was lambasted on air, even though his fitness level at the beginning of the year was never in question until MacTavish made the comment.

Former head coach Dallas Eakins, who emphasized fitness, never suggested in public Nikitin’s fitness level was a concern.

In the first of a two-year, $9 million deal, Nikitin admits this season “has been frustrating for me,” noting that injuries to both his back and shoulder have kept him from fulfilling projections of him playing a top-four defensive role. What’s more, he — like many Oilers — had an immediate uptick in quality after Todd Nelson took over for Eakins as head coach; that’s only added to the frustration, as Nikitin says he only had a small window where he was playing his best hockey of the year.

“I think before the shoulder injury I was playing good,” Nikitin said. “I felt good, I was healthy.”

Sabres’ Nolan scoffs at notion his players have nothing to play for

Ted Nolan, Darcy Burchell

The Buffalo Sabres’ current winless skid hit five games with a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night.

Buffalo is now 3-17-3 in their last 23 road games and concluded its most recent road trip with just one of a possible 10 points (0-4-1).

The Sabres (19-42-6) have a have a three-point cushion on the Edmonton Oilers (18-38-11) for the last spot in the league.

Despite the aforementioned numbers, Sabres’ head coach Ted Nolan scoffed at the notion his club has nothing to play for with 15 games remaining on the 2014-15 schedule.

“I beg to differ, these guys have a lot to play for,” Nolan said following the Sabres’ 4-3 shootout loss. “These guys are playing for their livelihoods and they’re playing to get a job in the National Hockey League and sustain that.

“There’s all kinds of kids playing junior hockey and in Europe and all over North America trying to steal these jobs on you, so if you don’t stay on top of your game, you won’t keep them very long.”

Nolan has been particularly happy with the way his veterans have responded to the situation this season.

The line of Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson and Johan Larsson accounted for three goals and nine points Wednesday.

“That’s why I have a lot of respect for Tyler Ennis and Matty Moulson and [Brian] Gionta,” said Nolan. “They have kids from the American Hockey League coming up here and they’re not complaining. They’re playing as hard as they can and those young kids are benefitting from it.”

Buffalo returns to action Saturday night when they play host to the New York Rangers.

Bylsma returns to coaching, sort of, with WHL Kelowna

Dan Bylsma

Former Pittsburgh bench boss Dan Bylsma got back in the coaching ranks last week, thanks to reconnecting with an old teammate.

Former NHLer Dan Lambert, now the head coach of Kelowna of the Western Hockey League, brought Bylsma out to British Columbia for a series of practices with the Rockets. Lambert and Bylsma were teammates in both the AHL and IHL in the early- to mid-90’s.

Kelowna’s in the midst of a stellar WHL campaign, sitting atop the Western Conference with a roster featuring the likes of former Oilers center Leon Draisaitl and Caps prospect Madison Bowey.

“It was a pretty nice gesture on Dan’s part to come and spend time with our team,” Lambert said, per the Kelowna Capital News. “He brought a lot of knowledge, details and habits, those sorts of things. Dan showed our players energy and enthusiasm…he’s an energetic guy.

“It’s been great for our team to have him here.”

Bylsma, 44, has been working as an analyst for the NHL Network following his dismissal from the Penguins at the end of last season, but said on numerous occasions he wants to get back into coaching. Looking at the current NHL landscape, there are two gigs currently filled on an interim basis — Peter Horachek in Toronto, Todd Nelson in Edmonton — and a variety of bench bosses rumored to be on the hot seat, like Claude Julien in Boston and Craig Berube in Philadelphia.

(And yes, Bylsma coaching the Flyers would be something.)

Almost inevitably, there will be some coaching changes this offseason and it’ll be interesting to see how often Bylsma’s name pops up with regards to vacancies. While his resume is impressive — a career points percentage of .670, and one Stanley Cup — his last year of coaching wasn’t very successful, what with the U.S. flaming out at the Olympics and the Penguins crashing out of the second round of the playoffs.