Brad Malone made his season debut with the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday (March 1) during their 3-0 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
It was the first NHL game in nearly three seasons for the 32-year-old forward, who has been plugging away in the American Hockey League (AHL) even as another opportunity at hockey’s highest level grew less likely.
Malone was recalled from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors on Sunday (Feb. 27), two and a half weeks after being signed by Oilers to a one-year, two-way contract on Feb. 10. He had been under contract with the Condors, playing his fifth season in Bakersfield where he was serving as team captain.
The pride of Miramichi, N.B., logged 17 shifts totalling 9:22 of ice time on Tuesday. Here are some other numbers that tell the story of Malone’s journey back to the NHL.
200 – Career NHL Games
Tuesday was Game No. 200 in Malone’s NHL career, coming more than a decade after his NHL debut on Dec. 9, 2011, with the Colorado Avalanche against the Oilers at the former Rexall Place in Edmonton.
Malone, who was drafted 105th overall in 2007 by the Avalanche, appeared in 54 contests for the Avs over three seasons between 2011-12 and 2013-14, before playing 122 games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2014-15 and 2015-16 combined. After signing as a free agent with the Washington Capitals, Malone was traded to Edmonton on Feb. 27, 2017, and suited up for them for a total of 23 times over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
1,060 – Days Between Oilers Appearances
Before Tuesday, Malone had not appeared in an NHL game since Edmonton’s 2018-19 season finale, logging 14:27 in a 3-1 defeat of the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 6, 2019.
While the game was inconsequential for the Oilers, who had long since been eliminated from playoff contention, it is memorable among Edmonton fans for a couple of reasons, one great, one not so much.
On the positive side of the ledger, Leon Draisaitl scored his 50th goal of the season, becoming the first Oiler to reach that milestone since Wayne Gretzky and Jari Kurri in 1986-87.
Much less enthusiastically recalled was the scary sight of Edmonton captain Connor McDavid sitting on the ice surrounded by concerned Oilers and Flames alike, after being taken down by Flames defenseman Mark Giordano and colliding with the goal post. McDavid suffered a torn PCL ligament on the play and spent the entire offseason recovering.
4 – Players in the Lineup from Previous NHL Game
Draisaitl and McDavid, along with defenseman Darnell Nurse and goalie Mikko Koskinen, are the only Oilers that suited up on Tuesday who were also in Edmonton’s lineup on April 6, 2019.
Two other current Oilers players, Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins played for them in that game against the Flames nearly three years ago, but are currently on the injured list and were not in action on Tuesday.
7 – Former Condors Teammates in the NHL
Despite the limited number of former Oilers teammates, there were plenty of familiar faces when Malone walked into the team’s dressing room this past week. Their current roster includes seven skaters that Malone played with in Bakersfield: Tyler Benson, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson, Ryan McLeod, Markus Niemelainen, Colton Sceviour, and Kailer Yamamoto. He also knew Oilers veterans Tyson Barrie and Derek Ryan from playing with the Avalanche and Hurricanes, respectively.
3 – Hits Doled Out Against the Flyers
Malone may not have picked up a point in Philadelphia on Tuesday, but he made sure to get his name in the box score, recording three hits, second-most on the Oilers behind only Evander Kane, who was credited with five but played over 13 minutes more than Malone. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound forward threw checks at Zack MacEwen in the second period, and Patrick Brown and Derek Brassard in the third.
Malone has a well-established reputation for banging the body, having averaged 2.37 hits per game over his NHL career with the Avalanche, Hurricanes and Oilers.
0 – Condors With More Penalty Minutes
Given his tendency to play the physical game, it comes as no surprise that Malone gets sent to the box every now and again. He’s recorded 256 penalty minutes with the Condors, tying Braden Christoffer for most all-time on the team that began playing in the AHL in 2015-16.
Malone ranks among Bakersfield’s career leaders in every major statistical category. He’s second in games played with 209, fourth in goals with 55, third in assists with 86, and is tied with current Oilers forward Tyler Benson for third-most points with 141.
1 – Overtime Clinchers in Bakersfield
Malone scored perhaps the most memorable goal in Condors’ history, putting the puck behind San Diego Gulls goaltender Lukas Dostal at 7:36 of overtime in Game 3 of the best-of-three Pacific Division semi-final, lifting his team to a 2-1 series victory and booking a spot in the division final.
Goals have never been in short supply for Malone while playing in the AHL. He scored 11 times in 35 games with Bakersfield this season before getting called up to the Oilers. It has, however, been a very, very long time since he lit the lamp in the NHL. 87 months, to be exact, as he scored Carolina’s only goal in a 5-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Dec. 3, 2015.
That’s the next streak Malone will hope to end with an opportunity to play in the Oilers’ next game against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Thursday (March 3).
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.