The Edmonton Oilers have had a season of ups and downs, including a surprising stretch of 7 wins in 10 games at the end of November and into early December. The Oilers strong play even prompted their head coach Tom Renney to mention the playoffs as a possibility for the team. But not long after those words were uttered, the Oilers embarked on a lengthy losing streak, dropping their 7th in a row Tuesday night vs. the powerful Detroit Red Wings. The losing skid has brought on a lot of line-up changes, including the scratching of rookie Magnus Pajaarvi and the demotion of Linus Omark. But injuries have also taken their toil on the Oilers this season, losing Ales Hemsky at various times, and the significant leg injury to captain Shawn Horcoff. The Oilers recently lost defenseman Ryan Whitney to an ankle injury and he is out indefinitely. Saturday’s loss at the hands of rival Calgary Flames came at a cost, as Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle suffered a leg injury. Although it looked pretty bad at first glance, it appears the injury isn’t severe, but he is still expected to be out at least 10 days. Linus Omark was recalled yesterday in lieu of the injury to Eberle, and he was in the line-up vs. the Red Wings. Unfortunately the Wings were ultimately too much for the young Oilers, who fell 5-3, losing a season high 7th game in a row.
The Oilers were guilty of far too many turnovers in this game, and against a quick transition team like the Red Wings, giving up the puck isn’t the best game plan. Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t have a terrible outing, making 32 saves, including two absolute beauties off of Henrik Zetterberg on a Red Wings powerplay. The Wings are suffering from the injury bug as well, with Pavel Datsyuk and Dan Cleary both out, but you wouldn’t have known it tonight. Alberta native, and former Edmonton Oilers fan Chris Osgood was in net for the Wings, and got his 401 win, bringing him just 3 wins shy of passing his boyhood idol, former Oiler great Grant Fuhr on the all-time list. The Red Wings were once again anchored by Zetterberg and future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom in this game, who have stepped up admirably in the absence of Datsyuk.
The Wings opened the scoring just over 3 minutes into the first period thanks to Zetterberg’s 15th of the season from Lidstrom and Drew Miller. The Oilers were able to get the equalizer midway through the period off the stick of Gilbert Brule. Omark and fellow call-up Liam Reddox drew the assists. The Wings scored two unanswered goals in the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Todd Bertuzzi notched his 6th of the season from Juri Hudler and Val Filppula and then Kris Draper scored his 3rd from Darren Helm and Brian Rafalski. Theo Peckham brought the Oilers within one in the third period, scoring his 2nd of the season on a delayed penalty from Hemsky and Sam Gagner. Gagner then got his 10th of the season from Hemsky to tie the game midway through the third, but the ever dangerous Wings scored two goals 40 seconds apart with three minutes left in the game to cap off a 5-3 victory. The Oilers, as they usually do, refused to quit and almost stole a victory, but they just couldn’t out-muscle the Wings. The final shot count was 37-25 in favor of Detroit. The Oilers went 0-3 with the man advantage, while the Red Wings couldn’t covert on two powerplay opportunities. Edmonton’s next game is Thursday night, at home to the suddenly surging New York Islanders.