6 Highlights From the Oilers’ 6-Game Home Stand

The Edmonton Oilers started their 6-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec. 5 and when it was all said and done, it turned out to be a tough stretch for the team, going 1-5. Their slow starts were a cause for concern, which by the end, gradually improved. They allowed the opposition to take control, dictate the game, and put more shots on net from the drop of the puck. When the Oilers’ defensemen started to return to the lineup (Darnell Nurse, Cody Ceci and Duncan Keith), they started games with more jump, outshot teams, but couldn’t bury their chances consistently—  until the last home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets last Thursday.

Nonetheless, they stayed the course despite their winless skid, received scoring from their depth players, and were able to pull off a much-needed win to end the home stand. Below are six highlights that stood out in the Oilers’ last six games on home ice.

The Return of Ethan Bear

Many Oilers’ fans had Dec. 11 circled on their calendar because the Carolina Hurricanes were coming to visit Rogers Place. Warren Foegele would play his former club but more importantly it was the first game former Oiler Ethan Bear would play in Edmonton since both players were traded for one another this past off-season.

During a time out in the first period, Edmonton played a video tribute for the former Oiler. There was a standing ovation, followed by stick taps from both benches and the camera showed a visibly emotional Bear. He described the feeling in an intermission interview saying, “It’s a different feeling honestly, obviously a lot of emotions. It’s a crazy feeling being back here, I’m feeling all the support and love.. and getting cheers, and even the video was pretty emotional. I got to start my career here and to get that love and support is something I never imagined.” Overall, It was an emotional night for everyone in the building with many fans there to show their gratitude and support for Bear.

Markus Niemelainen Sets a Rookie Record

A factor to the Oilers’ losing streak was their missing defensemen. However, Nurse, Ceci and Keith all returned throughout various games on the home stand but each player still had to get up to game speed. A silver lining with the missing blueliners was the callup and play of Markus Niemelainen, who has impressed in his limited playing time.

Saginaw Spirit, Markus Niemelainen, OHL, NHL Entry Draft-6 Highlights From the Oilers’ 6-Game Home Stand
(Markus Niemelainen formerly of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

In seven games with Edmonton, he’s delivered 36 hits, 10 of them coming in a single game against the Hurricanes. Oilers’ play-by-play analyst, Jack Micheals had mentioned during a broadcast that he set a record with the most hits by a rookie in a single game (10). He was recently added to the injured reserved list and It’s unclear if he’ll stay with the team when their defensive unit returns to full strength. The Oilers lack players on the backend with his skillset— someone who enjoys dishing out punishing hits.

Draisaitl Missed a Wide-Open Net

Leon Draisaitl has scored 143 goals in 246 games over the last four years. Needless to say, he’s one of the premier snipers in the NHL. The Oilers had struggled to score the first goal of the game in their previous four matchups leading up to their date with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 14. The crowd was lively, with both Oilers and Maple Leafs fans having a vocal battle in the stands, chanting for their preferred teams.

It was clear, just from the rambunctiousness of the crowd alone, that whichever team scored first would gain momentum. At the 12:25 mark of the first period, Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Muzzin delivered an early Christmas present onto the stick of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the slot. No. 93 — with 21 assists on the year — passed the puck to an open Draisaitl. Jack Campbell was out of position and the net was wide open for No. 29 to score his 24th of the season.

Instead, the German centre launched the puck a couple feet wide of the open cage. The entire crowd was in shock but no one more than Draisaitl, who looked high in the sky in disbelief. That play alone was the turning point in the game. Toronto built momentum thereafter, en route to a 5-1 win.

Perlini Impresses in His Recall to the Oilers

Brendan Perlini left an impression this preseason when he showed his willingness to use his hard shot that netted him six exhibition goals. From playing in Switzerland last year, to signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Oilers this season, he was looking like a reclamation bet that was about to pay off.

Related: Oilers: 4 Things You Didn’t Know About Brendan Perlini

However, the regular season told a different story. In 13 games, he had zero points and only six shots in 7:33 of average time on ice (TOI). An argument could be made that he deserved more ice time to showcase his skills but he wasn’t noticeable in the ice time that he did receive. When Devin Shore returned from the injured reserve, Perlini was the odd man out and was waived down to the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bakersfield Condors.

In two games with the Condors, he scored two goals. When Shore was sidelined due to COVID protocol, he was recalled, inserted into the Oilers’ third line, and looked like the Perlini of the preseason. In just under 10:30 of ice time, he scored a goal, assisted on another, while firing seven shots on net. A confident No. 42 and his shooter’s mentality will be a welcome addition to the team, who at times, has struggled to put pucks on net in the early stages of a game. Oilers’ Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been placed on COVID protocol and as the Hockey Writers’ Rob Couch has mentioned, this could be a good opportunity for Perlini to make his presence felt in a top-six role.

An Oilers Jersey Was Tossed Onto the Ice

Back in the 2013-2014 season, the Oilers were in a much dire position than they are today. The team didn’t have any superstars like Connor McDavid or Draisaitl and the team finished with a 29-44-9 record. That season was the first installment of “toss an Oilers jersey on the ice” as it happened twice that year. Former Oilers’ goaltender Ben Scrivens said at the time:

“Pay your money, you get to do whatever you want. You want to boo me? Go for it. You want to jeer me, call me every name; you’re entitled to that. You can spit on me for all I care if I deserve it. But when I see a jersey thrown out on the ice … I’m from here. You’re not just disrespecting guys in the room, you’re disrespecting guys who wore this jersey before us.”

The Oilers were down 5-1 in the final minutes of the game against the Maple Leafs when a jersey was seen lying on the ice at Rogers Place while play was ongoing. There’s merit to what Scrivens said back in 2014. Throwing a team’s jersey on the ice is disrespectful and distasteful. At the time, the Oilers were about to be on a six-game losing streak but taking a look at the bigger picture, they still would’ve had a winning record of 16-11 on the season. Colton Sceviour said of the jersey toss, “the fans are frustrated. We don’t go in the room laughing and mucking it up, we’re frustrated too. We’re going to get out of it and they’ll have to buy a new jersey.”

3 Oilers Snap Goalless Drought

Three Oilers were able to break their goalless streak on the home stand. Perlini was able to score his first goal of the year, while his teammates, Foegele and Derek Ryan, hadn’t scored in a painful number of games. Ryan, who signed a two-year deal with the team, hadn’t scored since Oct. 16 in a span that lasted 22 games. Ironically, his last goal was against his former team, the Calgary Flames.

Foegele’s last goal came against the Vancouver Canucks on Oct 30. His scoreless streak lasted 21 games but that wasn’t for lack of chances. In his six games prior to scoring, he had 17 shots on goal with many of them on good individual efforts with solid drives to the net. With Zach Hyman out with an injury, No. 37 has been riding shotgun with McDavid the last two games.

Warren Foegele Edmonton Oilers-6 Highlights From the Oilers’ 6-Game Home Stand
Warren Foegele, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

In a previously written article, it mentioned McDavid and Foegele as an ideal pair. No. 37 has size and tenacity to chase pucks and create space for the Oilers’ captain but at the same time, he has the speed to keep up with plays. Add in their previous chemistry from playing as kids and they have a potential recipe for success. Jesse Puljujarvi, who scored two goals against the Blue Jackets, serves as the triggerman on the line. They haven’t scored 5-on-5 yet but they’ve had opposing teams hemmed in their end for long stretches. No. 37’s goal may have been an empty netter but It’s only a matter of time before the pucks start going in more frequently.

The Oilers endured one of the worst slumps in recent memory but a silver lining is that it happened now as opposed to later in the year when they’re gearing up for a long playoff push. Ending the home stand with a 5-2 win was crucial for a shift in the players’ psyche, especially with all five of the goals coming from players not named McDavid or Draisaitl. The team will have to be resilient, with more players — Nugent-Hopkins and Keith — being added to COVID protocol. The Oilers will look to make it two wins in a row against the Seattle Kraken on Dec. 18.

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