In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, it doesn’t look like the Jujhar Khaira injury news is all that good, even if it’s not clear how long he’ll be out of action. Who will step in and replace him and is this an opportunity for newly-recalled center Ryan McLeod? Ethan Bear’s game seems to be coming along and Tyson Barrie struggled, getting less ice time as the game went on. Finally, was Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens the first real sign this Oilers team is ready for the playoffs?
Jujhar Khaira Hit Not Good News
This is now the second time this season that Khaira has been knocked out of a game after what appears to be concussion issues. The first was a punch he took from Brett Ritchie in a fight that Khaira badly lost. The second was Monday night after he needed help getting to the Oilers room after getting hit by Alexander Romanov.
There are questions now about how long he’ll be out versus how long he should be out. Head coach Dave Tippett said he expects Khaira will miss some time, but there’s a growing sentiment that maybe the Oilers should considering sitting him for the remainder of the season. Khaira has had a great year and finally found his role on this team, but the speed in which he may have suffered two concussions is not something to mess around with.
Ryan McLeod Gets an Opportunity?
Bob Stauffer spoke during the intermission about the Oilers choice to call up McLeod from the AHL. There was already talk he’d see some games, but with Khaira out for a while, he could really come on strong as the season winds down. “He’s an intriguing player because of his size, speed & ability to create offence. We want to get him in some games down the stretch,’ said coach Tippett.
Tippett added that he wants McLeod to have one full practice before making his NHL debut, so it is likely the center plays next Wednesday vs Winnipeg or next Thursday vs Calgary.
A second-round draft pick in the 2018 draft, McLeod has been on fire with the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors, with 28 points in 28 games. What the Oilers seem to like most about him is how his confidence offensively has skyrocketed. He will wear number 71 for Edmonton. His old number (70) will be worn by Dmitry Kulikov.
Bear’s Season Getting Better
Bear played over 20 minutes last night versus the Montreal Canadiens and it was clear the coaching staff was leaning on him in a tight game before the Oilers scored late in the third in rapid succession, sparked by his one-timer. Bear’s game is really progressing and insiders are talking about he’s getting back his form from the 2019-20 NHL season.
When asked about the game, Bear said, “That’s the kind of hockey we’re going to have down the stretch.” He added, “Everyone is trying to push for the playoffs and make sure they’re ready, so when playoff time comes you just play. It’s about building your game and I think we’re doing a good job of that.”
In contrast, Tyson Barrie was used more sparingly as the game wore on, suggesting that he’s not the player Tippett will call upon in tight games and when stringent defense is the top priority. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering Barrie was brought in for his offense, but it will be an interesting situation to watch.
Is This a Contending Playoff Team?
One of the concerns coming out of last season was how poorly the Oilers showed up when the play-in rounds began. Being embarrassed by the Chicago Blackhawks did not sit well, but there were still questions about whether or not this team was built to withstand the rigors of the playoffs.
Last night’s game versus the Canadiens might have proven the Oilers can play a playoff-heavy style. That was the most physical game the Oilers played all season and it was nasty from the hop. But, as the game wore on, the Oilers seemed to elevate their play and get better.
Not only did they fight back and everyone, including Connor McDavid laid in hits and played an edgier and nastier game, but they were able to turn up the offense down the stretch and take the game from Montreal. Monday’s win may have been the most emotional for Edmonton and it might be one that really sparks a belief that they can play with and beat anyone.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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