Every team goes through injuries at some point in the season, but when more than one key player is out at the same time, it can have a negative effect on the locker room. In the case of the Edmonton Oilers, they are currently without four regulars, including their leading scorer Jordan Eberle, who sprained his knee in a game against the Dallas Stars last week. Rookie of the year candidate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out with a shoulder injury, defencemen Ryan Whitney and Cam Barker are out with ankle injuries, and d-man Tom Gilbert is sidelined with a knee problem. But as every self-respecting hockey player will tell you, injuries, no matter how severe, are no excuse for poor play.
Including last night’s loss to the New Jersey Devils, the Oilers have dropped their last 4 games and have lost 8 of 10 overall, planting them firmly in 13th place in the Western Conference, 13 points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. The injury situation is so bad that the team had to make an emergency call-up from their ECHL affiliate before the game. Forward Milan Kytnar suited up for his first NHL game, recording one shot on goal in 5:31 of ice time. Whether or not anyone in the room will admit it, the rash of injuries the Oilers have faced can be discouraging. Last season the team fought the injury bug as well, and it hasn’t seem to let up this year.
While it wasn’t the win they were searching for, last night’s loss definitely had some positive points. Despite being down 1-0, the Oilers fought back to tie the game and earn themselves a point. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin had a solid performance, stopping 21 of 23 shots. Tom Renney didn’t mince words however when discussing Corey Potter’s late penalty that carried over in the extra period. The Devils scored on the powerplay to win the game. In his post game conference, Renney had this say:
“Corey’s been very good for us, but it was one of those very very untimely penalties. It wasn’t what we needed. Safe to say I wasn’t really thrilled with what happened there.” – Oilers.com
Recent call-up Magnus Paajarvi is still searching for his first goal of the season, and is looking to make the most of this new opportunity. The injuries have opened the door for him to come back to the big club after being sent down to the AHL. He had these comments on his second chance with the Oilers and his time in Oklahoma City:
“I played a lot down there. I think that’s exactly what I needed. To just play, to get that rhythm back, to not think so much,” Paajarvi said. “I don’t think I’m too different a player – it’s only been 2 1/2 weeks – but I definitely have a lot more confidence.” “Don’t get me wrong, I want to be up here and with this team for a lot of years, but you do get some perspective when you go down,” Paajarvi said. “It’s not the same, but I do think the experience was good for me. I’m not going to go out now and try and make plays all the time. “I just feel like I can do a whole lot more on the ice. I’m at my best when I’m in the top six . I’m an offensive player. But I have to earn it, too.” – Montreal Gazette
The struggles of the team have brought into question whether or not coach Tom Renney will get an extension on his contract. He’ll probably tell you that’s the last thing on his mind as he tires to get his team out of their slump. Hopefully for the Oilers, their injured troops will be back soon, and in the meantime guys like Taylor Hall, Ryan Smyth and Sam Gagner will have to step up their game. No one ever likes be missing top players. But the games don’t stop for anyone, no matter who’s sitting up in the press box.