Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Edmonton Oilers defenceman Adam Larsson were first-pairing partners for Sweden last spring when they won the world championship.
“He told me to stay back and he’d be up the ice (with the puck),” laughed Ekman-Larsson, one of the NHL’s best skaters and top offensive defencemen
Adam Larsson was a first-team all-star at the worlds, playing off the gifted Ekman-Larsson perfectly.
“Adam’s easy to play with because he’s such a hard-working guy and he can make some good plays. He had a good tournament and with everything that happened to him last year (his father passing away in Edmonton on a trip here), it was nice to have a nice ending to that season,” said Ekman-Larsson.
The Oilers workhorse is a shutdown guy here, normally playing with the injured Oscar Klefbom. But, he wasn’t always that guy.
“When we played together on our national junior team, I thought he had more offence to his game when he was younger but he’s a good defender,” said Ekman-Larsson. “He’s a two-way defenceman who can play both ends … you have to keep an eye on him.”
Adam Larsson is a meaner player today than when he first got to New Jersey Devils as the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft. He worked with assistant coach Scott Stevens there and he got him playing a harder game.
“He’s always nice to me,” said Ekman-Larsson. “I guess we’ll see (Saturday).”
RATTIE BACK IN LINEUP
Oilers winger Ty Rattie was a healthy scratch Thursday but started on right wing with Connor McDavid and left-wing Ryan Nugent-Hopkins against Arizona.
Rattie was with the Oilers captain and Nugent-Hopkins late last season but hasn’t played much with them this year, as he’s bounced around, trying to find some traction.
“We’re looking at the first shift … we’ll see how it works,” said Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock. “We’ve got four guys who are inter-changeable and we’ll see how it goes. Those four guys we can move them around depending on how the game goes or the shifts look”
Obviously it’s healthy competition to play with McDavid or Draisaitl.
“If I was a player and I got the the chance to play on those two lines I would be pretty excited,” said Hitchcock.
Rattie was tickled to be back with the big guns.
“Just take advantage of the opportunity at hand,” said Rattie. “If you don’t, they’ll find somebody else for that spot. There’s lots of other guys who would want this.”
What game do the Oilers want Rattie to bring?
“If you play everywhere in the lineup you have to find a way to help the team win. If you’re not scoring goals, you better not be letting goals in,” said Rattie.
NURSE LOGGING BIG MINUTES
Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse, playing an average of 23:31 a game now with Klefbom out, doesn’t seem like he needs an IV bag after games even though he’s played over 30 minutes three times in the last month.
“Do I ever feel tired? No, not yet. Everybody says it comes quick,” laughed Nurse, who was on After Hours at the conclusion of the Arizona-Oiler game on Hockey Night in Canada.
“No everybody gets tired but I still have young legs.”
“Battles are the most taxing part, that’s why you have to clean them up as fast as possible because when you’re chasing those are nights you get gassed.”
Who’s tougher? A big body or an elusive guy like Johnny Gaudreau
“Different challenges. You have to skate with the buzzsaws and you feel you have to go to war with the big guys. Gaudreau can shift at any second so you have to be ready and (Anze) Kopitar will play right through you,” he said.
This ’n that: McDavid turns 22 Sunday when the Oilers are having their annual skills competition … For the fourth straight game, Brandon Manning was a healthy scratch on the Oiler defence as they went with Matt Benning and Kevin Gravel in the third pairing … Coyotes centre Brad Richardson, their most valuable forward this season for 11 goals and his PK and face-off work, has a cast on his broken hand and is out a month after he stopped a shot in Vancouver Thursday … The Coyotes are retiring Shane Doan’s No. 19 Feb. 24 when the Winnipeg Jets are there … Oilers winger Kailer Yamamoto skated but not on a regular line at the morning practice after being out the last seven games. He hurt his hand against San Jose, the first game after his call-up from Bakersfield … Alex Petrovic, who suffered a concussion against San Jose when smacked by Timo Meier, still isn’t ready to play.