The good news is the Edmonton Oilers have done reasonably well without Taylor Hall on their road trip, winning two of the four games they’ve played heading into Nashville on Tuesday. The better news is they might not have to get along without their dynamic left winger much longer.
Word today is Hall, who suffered a sprained ligament in his right knee crashing into a goalpost in a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Nov. 1, was scheduled to skate at Rexall Place. In addition to that, Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, who is with the team in Music City, strongly suggested Hall would be back in the line-up as early as Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.
A return against the Coyotes would put Hall right at the two-week mark in terms of recovery from the injury, which was the best-case scenario offered before the Oilers headed out on the road. If that’s the case, Hall with have missed just six games – the Oilers host Ottawa Thursday in their first game back.
What a difference a couple of days makes. After losing Hall in the loss to the Canucks and then losing 4-1 in Philadelphia and 5-2 in Boston, the Oilers were languishing at 4-8-1. A 3-2 win in Buffalo and a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers has them at 6-8-1 as they face the Predators. Now, promising news on Hall’s recovery.
THIS AND THAT
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall the Oilers playing a more complete game from top to bottom than they did against the Rangers Sunday. Didn’t see many flaws in the effort and it came against a pretty decent team, albeit on playing the second of back-to-back games, not the sad-sack Sabres, who faced a 52-shot onslaught by the Oilers.
- Aside from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has been the best Oiler forward in a half-dozen games, the guy who caught my eye in New York was Benoit Pouliot. I mentioned Pouliot’s lack of production on Twitter Monday – I don’t expect him to be a 20-goal and 50-point guy but he needs more than good underlying numbers – and he responded with a goal and an assist.
- I like how hard Pouliot is on the puck, something he came billed as providing. He wins board battles. He moves well. He’s looked good enough since being moved up with RNH and Jordan Eberle in place of Hall that some people are wondering if it might be worth leaving him there even when Hall is back. I’m not sure Dallas Eakins will do that, but it’s worth considering.
- Jason Gregor touched on Nail Yakupov’s improved play in an item he wrote today and I fully concur. As noted, Yakupov has upped his shot rate in recent games and now has 37 shots in 15 games. Right now, Yakupov is the proverbial case of a guy who is not being rewarded for doing things right. His shooting percentage sits at 5.4 after seasons of 21.0 and 9.0. He won’t be stuck at two goals long if this keeps up.
- I’ve called Mark Arcobello an AHL player more than once, and you probably have, too. I’m not sure we’ve seen enough yet to come off that assessment, but he’s played some good hockey on the trip and that’s been timely, to say the least. He’s a 4-2-6 through 15 games.
WHILE I’M AT IT
. . . If I’m Eakins, I stay with the hot hand and play Viktor Fasth against the Predators. Until he gives up the crease with a sub-par performance, it sends the wrong message to take it from him just to get Ben Scrivens in. The Oilers have days off until back-to-back games against New Jersey and Chicago, so there’s no need to go on anything other than merit.
. . . David Perron didn’t skate with the Oilers today. Eakins is calling it a maintenance day. The way Perron is moving, that maintenance obviously involves the hip issue he’s been battling.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.