In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, there’s talk about Mike Smith’s injury scare at practice this weekend. What does it mean for future starts? Ryan McLeod is out of COVID quarantine and ready to join the team and defenseman Oscar Klefbom spoke with the media about his surgery, the chances of him making a return and the NHL Expansion Draft. There are updates on the status of Zack Kassian and are the Oilers going to try and roll with a bigger, more physical blue line?
Mike Smith Injury Scare
The Oilers had a bit of a worry Saturday when Smith left the ice in serious discomfort. He heading down the tunnel and it appeared he was dealing with some sort of injury. After practice, Sportsnet’s Gene Principe reported comments from head coach Dave Tippett who said: “He just tweaked something. I went in and saw him and he’s fine but it scared him a little.”
Oilers insider Tom Gazzola reported Smith was back on the ice Sunday for practice and put in a solid 20 minutes. Head Athletic Therapist for the Oilers, TD Forss followed him off the ice, likely to check in to see how he’s doing. TSN’s Jason Gregor wonders if the Oilers will play Mikko Koskinen on Monday just to give Smith a couple extra days rest.
Obviously, any sort of nagging injury to Smith would be problematic for the Oilers who have heavily relied on the wonderful 2020-21 season he’s having as their starting goaltender.
Ryan McLeod Out of Quarantine
As expected, recently-recalled AHL forward Ryan McLeod is out of quarantine and was on the ice today with the Oilers Sunday. A quick, skilled and offensively gifted forward, McLeod went 14-14-28 in 28 games played for the Bakersfield Condors. Projections are he’ll get a look with the team down the stretch here.
McLeod got some second-unit power play time at practice today. The Edmonton Journal’s Kurt Leavins writes that he thinks the Oilers have bigger plans for McLeod despite publicly being cautiously optimistic. He writes:
I suspect both Tippett and Ken Holland think McLeod can make the team better immediately, over the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. Between Holland’s reputation for slow-playing rookies and Tippett’s focus on winning, I don’t believe for a second that using one of only 4 recalls was just a “lets see what the kids can do”.source – ‘The shuffling of the Edmonton Oilers D-corps could be a sign of things to come: 9 Things’ – Kurt Leavins – Edmonton Journal – 04/25/2021
Klefbom Speaks to Media About Surgery, Future in the NHL
Defenseman Oscar Klefbom stopped by for a visit with the team this weekend and spoke with the media about his surgery and where’s he’ll be by the start of next season. The Oilers need to know by July if he’s going to show any signs of coming back to play in 2021-22, as they’ll need to decide if they protect him at the NHL Expansion Draft.
Klefbom talked about how he weighed continuing his NHL career versus having a normal life 20 years after his hockey career is over. He says it’s too soon to know where things stand, but he’s taking things one week at a time and is hoping he’ll be able to resume a somewhat normal training routine this summer.
As for his future with the Oilers, he doesn’t want to leave but he understands if he’s not protected during the expansion draft because Holland is in a tricky spot. The uncertainty surrounding his injury and a lack of information means the Oilers might not want to hold a spot for him and that could mean he winds up in Seattle. He’s prepared for that to happen.
Kassian Out Week to Week
It appears the injury suffered by Zack Kassian is a bit more than a Charley Horse. He’s been ruled out and considered week-to-week on the injury side of things. That leaves the Oilers without two of their skilled and heavy forwards as the regular season winds down. While the Oilers have depth at the forward position, they don’t have a lot of players like Kassian and Jujhar Khaira.
Oilers Going With Size on Their Blue Line?
Seeing as the Oilers are going to play mewly-acquired Dmitry Kulikov with Adam Larsson as a shutdown pair, expect the Oilers to rely heavily on Kulikov and at the expense of a player like Caleb Jones. Tippett and Holland want big bodies that are built for the playoffs and the series against Montreal reinforced how important that might be.
If Slater Koekkoek is ready to return, Leavins wonders if he’ll get the nod over someone like Kris Russell. The additions of Kulikov and Koekkoek, added to a corps that includes Darnell Nurse and Adam Larsson makes the Oilers bigger and heavier on the back end.
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.”