The only thing as brutal as the Edmonton Oilers power play lately has been the weather around here. The good news is it’s supposed to stop snowing and warm up. As for the power play, not so much.
While the mercury is headed north in the next couple of days, the Oilers power play has gone south and stayed there over the past 11 games, a stretch of futility in which its gone zero-zippo-nada-no cigar in 38 straight attempts after an 0-for-5 hummer in a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center Sunday.
It’s a headlong lurch into the tank that’s coincided, not surprisingly, with the loss of defenceman Ryan Whitney, who tore up his right ankle against the Buffalo Sabres back on Dec. 28.
Toss in the ongoing ineffectiveness of Kurtis Foster and you get what we’ve got. The Oilers couldn’t even get a sniff with a six-on-three against the Ducks late Sunday after they yanked Nikolai Khabibulin while already enjoying — wrong word, probably — a 5-on-3 advantage.
With Whitney likely done for the season — the Oilers won’t confirm it but my information is he’s having, or has already had, surgery on his ankle in Charlotte today — the outlook isn’t going to improve anytime soon.
After this 11-game toot into the porcelain, Edmonton’s power play has sunk to 29th in the NHL, book-ending nicely with the penalty killing, which is 30th.
THE WAY I SEE IT
— The Oilers will likely make an announcement about Whitney’s surgery after tomorrow’s morning skate in preparation for tomorrow night’s game with the Minnesota Wild.
Like I said, the Oilers wouldn’t confirm anything about surgery, but it makes absolutely no sense to have Whitney fly all the way to Charlotte to see the specialist-surgeon who has already worked on him, ship him home and then send him back to go under the knife.
— The Oilers would be in bigger trouble than they’re in now on the back end if rookie Jeff Petry hadn’t stepped in as impressively as he has since getting the call from Oklahoma City Dec. 27.
Petry, 23, played 23:25 against the Ducks and looked as solid as the Canadian dollar. Before Whitney was injured, he had a lot of good things to say about the kid, and we’re seeing some of those attributes now. Too bad for the Oilers we won’t see them together, at least not for the balance of this season.
— Speculation is Shawn Horcoff is just about ready to go after sitting out 17 games with a sprained MCL in his right knee. He is close and will skate again tomorrow, but my information is Horcoff hasn’t been medically cleared to play and likely won’t be ready against Minnesota. Best bet is Thursday against Dallas.
WHILE I’M AT IT . . .
— With Horcoff and Jordan Eberle due back this week, the Oilers need to make a decision up front. If the Oilers look at sending Linus Omark back to OKC instead of making a call between J.F. Jacques and Zack Stortini, they’re making a mistake.
I don’t know why, exactly, coach Tom Renney has lost confidence in Stortini, but if I had a vote, he’d be staying and Jacques would be on his way to the AHL. In any case, I want a longer look at Omark.
— Magnus Paajarvi played his backside off against the Ducks in what was easily his best game with the Oilers. Sam Gagner also showed a pulse after a tough stretch and Omark was on the go all night. I don’t know about the long-term viability of this trio as a line, but they likely bought another game together with Sunday’s showing..
— I’m underwhelmed with Ales Hemsky 10 games into his return from a tweaked groin in terms of his effect on the power play. He’s been very good 5-on-5, but he hasn’t been the catalyst I thought he would be with a man-advantage.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.