Oilers News & Rumors: Smith, Barrie, Bear, Puljujarvi, Klefbom, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, Mike Smith was back on the ice Thursday and reports are he could come off LTIR this Sunday and be back with the team Monday. Ethan Bear was also back on the ice for Edmonton and had an interesting partner on defense. There are updates on Oscar Klefbom’s injury status along with NHL Expansion Draft news, and Jesse Puljujarvi’s agent talks the importance of the player’s improved English skills. Finally, Tyson Barrie is on fire right now and he comments on his improved play over the past four games.

Mike Smith Could Suit Up Monday

It was noted in today’s daily news and rumors post that Smith was back in net for the Oilers during practice on Thursday. He was skating with the main group and Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now and 630 CHED notes that Smith could suit up as early as Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators.

This doesn’t mean Smith will actually play Monday, but the Oilers have a back-to-back set of game against the Senators next week and if Smith is healthy enough to go, he could be starting one of those two contests. What this means for Stuart Skinner and Troy Grosenick is unclear, but the Oilers might have some shuffling to do when it comes to their goaltenders.

Ethan Bear Back, Coach Playing with Pairings

Bear was also back after missing a couple of games due to an injury. He was on the ice Thursday and spent some time skating in a pairing with Evan Bouchard. Bouchard was moved to the left side as part of the experiment and it will be interesting to see if this is something the coach considers for future games.

Ethan Bear
EDMONTON, AB – MARCH 3: Ethan Bear #74 of the Edmonton Oilers lines up for a face off during the game against the New York Rangers on March 3, 2018 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

With nine defensemen, the Oilers can now rotate in a handful of options and see as many as four right-handed shots on the blue line in any given game. In other words, the team has an interesting but good dilemma on their hands. Who plays with whom and who sits?

On Thursday, it appeared the Oilers ran with Darnell Nurse alongside Barrie, William Lagesson and Adam Larsson and Kris Russell with Bouchard. Will Dave Tippett stick with these combinations or will he try an assortment of duos in an effort to find the best chemistry? It is believed the team will continue the trend putting seven defenseman on the game sheet.

Related: Senators News & Rumours: Stützle, Brannstrom, Pinto & More

Importance of Puljujarvi’s Improved Language Skills

As part of an interesting interview with Puljujarvi’s agent Markus Lehto, while speaking with Sami Hofren of Finland’s Ilta Sanomat, Lehto suggested the language barrier was a massive hurdle for Puljujarvi during his first stint with the Oilers. While the translation of this interview can affect the messaging a bit, Lehto noted that Jesse’s poor English made people think he was dumb, when in reality he was simply a player with a big heart and level head.

Ivan Provorov, Jesse Puljujarvi
Edmonton Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi, and Philadelphia Flyers’ Ivan Provorov (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Slocum)

Lehto added that in the past, and before Puljujarvi really worked on improving his English skills, he could have (been) frustrated from the dry spell or lack of scoring. Now, he understands that just because he wasn’t scoring didn’t mean the team thought he was doing a bad job. That helped the forward work through some bad puck luck and pot two goals on Tuesday against the Senators.

Puljujarvi also has his girlfriend Monica living with him in Edmonton and Lehto noted that Monica’s father Juha Malinen — a well known football coach here in Finland — has also been guiding Jesse. Lehto spoke with GM Ken Holland on Monday and the feedback has been positive. As per Jason Gregor of TSN 1260, Holland said of Puljujarvi so far this season:

“I was hoping he could come and be a top-nine player. I like that he is going to the blue paint. He has been around the net and won puck battles. He’s a big man and he’s used his size. He has made us deeper and he’s had an impact on our team.”

Klefbom Could Be Exempt from Expansion Draft

Gregor posted an interesting update when it comes to the status of Klefbom, his long-term injury and his status for the NHL Expansion Draft. The NHL could rule him exempt from the draft which would be a huge break for Edmonton.

Oscar Klefbom Edmonton Oilers
Oscar Klefbom, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Gregor noted that the Klefbom situation was something to monitor. He explained that “Players with potential career-ending injuries who have missed more than the previous 60 consecutive games would be exempt from selection.” He added that the NHL might prorate this number to 41 due to a shortened season and that Klefbom’s case was one that could be reviewed by the league. The question would then be if the defenseman’s injury is potentially career-ending. If Klefbom is ruled exempt, this is huge for the Oilers and their plans for the draft.

Barrie Comments on Hot Streak

Barrie got off to a rougher start this season but is now on fire with the Oilers, scoring seven points in his last four games and now has nine points on the season. Barrie noted that it was tough switching teams and coming in right away and fitting in. He says he’s a lot more comfortable now and it’s starting to produce results.

“I definitely feel like I’m playing more like myself the last couple.” He added, “It’s nice to see the puck go in.”

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