In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, Connor McDavid talks about his disappointment in the NHL pulling out of Olympic participation, Zach Hyman offers an update on his shoulder injury, and Mike Smith was part of the team’s most recent practice. The Oilers’ blue line is still depleted but the situation on who might play versus the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday is fluid. Finally, Zack Kassian enters COVID protocol while the Oilers get other players back.
McDavid Wants Best-on-Best Tournament
Disappointed with the NHL’s decision to pull out of participation at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing due to COVID-19 concerns, McDavid is hoping the league can find another way to hold a best-on-best tournament and suggested another World Cup of Hockey might be a worthwhile idea.
He understands the dangers and why the league made the decision it did, but it doesn’t change his thinking that “we do need to find a way to get a best-on-best tournament done at some point here.” He added, “It’s hard to really put into words what I think a lot of guys are feeling, especially the guys that haven’t gotten to go before. Now, we’re missing it for the second time in a row. We can’t dwell on it.”
Zach Hyman Says He Should Be Good to Return
Hyman said he’s ready to roll after taking an awkward hit that took him out of the lineup for a couple of games. Noting it was the kind of hit he takes all the time, his shoulder got jammed and it was just a weird play. He says he’s feeling good and will be back.
Hyman did say he was bummed to have to watch the Oilers play the Toronto Maple Leafs and not be able to play. As for his shot at the Olympics, he said he would have loved to go and appreciated even being in consideration.
Zack Kassian Added to COVID Protocol
The Oilers are getting a number of players back from the COVID protocol list, including Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan McLeod and Devin Shore but will not have Zack Kassian as he was added to the list on Sunday. Philip Broberg and Dmitri Samorukov were recalled from the Bakersfield Condors on an emergency basis.
The Kassian loss will be felt from a physical perspective but he’s not been incredibly consistent or productive, especially since he’s been in and out of the lineup most of the season. He’s played in 25 of the 29 games this season. The Oilers are really hoping he’s the last of the players who have to be pulled because of COVID concerns, even if that isn’t a given.
Oilers Blue Line Still Depleted
Kris Russell and Markus Niemelainen are both still injured and won’t be available right away for the Oilers’ defense corps. Meanwhile, Darnell Nurse and William Lagesson were added to COVID protocol on December 20th. If Wednesday’s game goes on as planned, neither will likely be in the lineup.
Duncan Keith was added a couple of days earlier and might be available. He is scheduled to practice with the team on Tuesday.
Mike Smith Should Be Good to Go
According to a few sources, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, “All signs point toward Mike Smith travelling with the team to St. Louis tomorrow. There was a lot of talk over the break about how close Smith was to being ready but then the season went on pause and a couple of the Oilers games were postponed. He might have been ready to return earlier, but the extra time likely helped give him some additional rest.
The Oilers will need Smith to return to form and make a decision clear in respect to what the team should do heading into the trade deadline. If Smith is playing well and healthy, the Oilers might not add a goaltender. If he can’t stay in the lineup or doesn’t look like the same netminder who started the season, GM Ken Holland might have to go goalie shopping.
If Smith is able to play, it’s not clear if he’ll get the first opportunity start.
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.”