The Oilers fine-tuned their roster on Wednesday, recalling Bakersfield Condors centreman Jujhar Khaira from the farm and assigning Anton Lander.
Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan hopes Khaira’s inclusion in the lineup – if he plays – will bring a higher tempo to his bottom six.
“Pace, speed (is what) we’re looking for,” he said. “Pace for that third and fourth line is what we’re looking for and hopefully J.J. can give that to us.”
The decision to bring up the 22-year-old came after McLellan thought his team’s pace was outmatched early on against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
“I thought last night that the pace that San Jose played with throughout their lineup, especially early in the game was better than ours,” McLellan said. “Perhaps went our way a little bit later in the game.”
“I think it’s been a problem,” Nilsson said. “First of all, I have some gay friends, that’s why I put the flag on my helmet to show support to their cheap jerseys. Other than that, I feel it’s important that the League is doing this and show that it’s OK and you can play no matter what sexuality you have. Especially to younger kids and to the younger group, to show to them that it’s OK to play sports no matter who you like.”
Nilsson won’t be alone in his support. Some players will use special Pride Tape on their sticks on their sticks during warmups, including Zemgus Girgensons. Girgensons showed off his stick following Buffalo’s team meeting on Tuesday morning.
Each stick will be auctioned off following the game on sabres.com/auctions, beginning at 9:30 p.m. and running through Sunday, Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. Proceeds will benefit You Can Play. The Sabres will also $5,000 to both the Gay & Lesbian Youth Services and the Pride Center of WNY.
“I think the You Can Play initiative is a great program for the League that they’ve embraced and encompassed,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “The game is a great game for wholesale NHL jerseys and all orientations, regardless of who you are or what you are.”
For as proud as Nilsson is to support the cause, he also hopes there comes a day when such a night isn’t necessary.
The Blackhawks (47-20-5) became the first Western Conference team to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Calgary Flames defeated the Los Angeles Kings. Chicago leads the Minnesota Wild by seven points for first place in the Central Division and conference.
“We’ve been in a lot of tight games lately, where offense has been hard to come by, and it looked like it was the same thing for 40 minutes tonight,” said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who scored two goals in the third period. “It’s nice for us to finally get a few bounces, and no doubt it gets your crowd into it and energizes your team. It made a huge difference for us tonight.”