The injury bug has hit Edmonton Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney once again, three games into his return to the line-up. Whitney played just 35 games last season before going down with an ankle injury, and had been back for about a week before sustaining a knee injury against the Canucks. Whitney got his skate tangeled with teammate Corey Potter and his knee twisted ackwardly. He returned briefly but would eventually leave the game. The Oilers are saying he may be gone 1-2 weeks with a right knee sprain. It’s just bad luck for the 28 year old who is considered the number one blueliner on the team. Before he made his return earlier this season, Whitney said of his recent injury troubles that “it’s been a tough road for (him) mentally.”
As for how it affects the team, it seems that the Edmonton Oilers have gotten used to playing without Whitney, but his absence still creates a hole. He is a strong puck mover and leader in the room, and hopefully for his sake and the Oilers sake, Whitney won’t be out for an extended period. Despite the loss of Whitney, the team managed to hold on for a victory, chasing much maligned goaltender Roberto Luongo in the process. The Vancouver faithful have been merciless with their franchise netminder, booing him in game and calling for him to be traded. Unfortunately for Luongo, his play hasn’t helped his cause. He allowed 3 goals on 14 shots before being pulled in favor of Cory Schneider.
Edmonton opened the scoring early in the second period when Jordan Eberle notched his first goal of the season. Taylor Hall and Corey Potter drew the assists. Four minutes later, the Oilers struck again, taking advantage of a blunder behind the net between Luongo and Keith Ballard. Ryan Smyth got the puck to Shawn Horcoff who made no mistake for his first of the season. About a minute later, Luongo’s night would end, when Taylor Hall scored his second of the season from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle. With the assist, Nugent-Hopkins picked up his team leading 8th point in 8 games, which means he can only play one more before the team decides whether to keep him for the year, or send him back to junior. It almost seems silly to consider sending your leading scorer away, but the Oilers want to be sure they make the right decision for Nugent-Hopkins development.
After Schneider came into the game, the Canucks seemed re-energized. Cody Hodgson scored his second of the season midway through the second period to spoil Nikolai Khabibulin’s chance at a second consecutive shut-out. Alex Burrows brought the Canucks within one in the third period, but the Oilers held the fort to get a 3-2 victory over their divisional rival. Khabibulin continued his strong play making 35 saves. The Oilers welcome the undefeated Washington Capitals to Rexal Place on Thursday night.