In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens has been delayed an hour thanks to COVID concerns. Meanwhile, Jesse Puljujarvi’s status for Thursday is unclear. Could the two things be related? If Puljujarvi can’t go, James Neal might get the call. In other news, there is talk about how much Darnell Nurse has been progressing offensively for the team and Mike Smith is back between the pipes for his second start of the season.
Oilers vs Canadiens Game Postponed an Hour
One of the Edmonton Oilers players has entered COVID-19 Protocol earlier today and Thursday’s game versus the Montreal Canadiens has been postponed by an hour as a result. This is not to say a player has tested positive, more that the league needs additional time to test and analyze what’s happening, how it might affect the player, the roster and any future games.
McDavid was asked Thursday about COVID and the NHL and said he hasn’t followed it a ton. He did say he is glad that the North Division had been fairly lucky not to have much in the way of COVID cases or been drastically affected like other teams around the league have. “I think a lot of it is flat out luck.”
Hopefully this isn’t a sign of more bad news to come.
Puljujarvi Did Not Skate at Practice
In news that may or may not be related — Eric Engels is reporting it is Puljujarvi the NHL is testing — the forward was not on the ice this morning for the team skate. As per a few reports from insiders like TSN’s Ryan Rishaug and as confirmed by the head coach after practice, the Oilers held him off the ice for precautionary reasons. It’s not clear if he’ll be able to go tonight versus the Canadiens but head coach Dave Tippett said he would be reevaluated in the afternoon and they’d see where they stand.
If Puljujarvi can’t go or if he tests positive, that would be a sizeable loss for the Oilers. He’s been building noticeable chemistry with McDavid and he’s finally starting to produce. He was getting all sorts of chances but the puck just wasn’t going in for him. He now has three goals in his last four games and he’s been looking more and more comfortable as the season has gone along.
James Neal Could Get the Call
Neal skated on the top line with McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the place of Puljujarvi and Tippett said the only discussion he had with the veteran winger was to keep him up to speed on the situation and how his play has been.
While that doesn’t sound like a negative review of Neal’s play, it is interesting that Neal is not considered a regular in the lineup and probably won’t be playing if Puljujarvi is good to go.
Mike Smith In Net Tonight
Smith will get his second start of the season tonight versus the Canadiens. He was solid in his first game back and it appears Tippett is going to split duties between Mikko Koskinen and Smith moving forward. It’s a huge relief that Tippett now has two goalies he can call upon because it appeared Koskinen was starting to get tired.
The Edmonton goaltending situation will heavily rely on both Smith and Koskinen being able to go. There is no viable No. 3 option.
Darnell Nurse Stepping Up
Nurse has five goals and 11 points in the first 15 games of the season. He’s already matched his total goal output for the 2019-20 season and is only one back of Jeff Petry for the overall lead in goals by a defensemen this season in the NHL. It will be interesting to see if he can keep his hot streak going against the player he’s chasing.
While it’s not about individual stats and Nurse will say he’s just trying to step up in the absence of Oscar Klefbom, this is good news for the Oilers. The team has been getting points from their blue line and that’s a huge addition for the club.
Those that criticize Nurse’s play will point to the number of secondary assists or his production away from McDavid and Draisaitl.
Where do you sit with Nurse? Has his production been a positive sign? Or, are you more concerned his numbers are hiding bigger issues with his overall coverage?
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”