On Tuesday, the Edmonton Oilers placed Taylor Hall and Benoit Pouliot on injured reserve. In his pre-game presser, Todd Nelson revealed that Pouliot was still day-to-day, but that Hall would be out for up to six weeks with what he repeatedly emphasized was a new injury in the same area.
There are probably three questions worth asking in light of this news.
First: Did Hall come back from injury too soon? Nelson emphasized repeatedly that this was a new bone injury; he used the word “new” four times and then added “different” for good measure. It is however in the same area and the Oilers don’t have a sterling track record when it comes to making sure players are healthy before reinserting them in the lineup. It’s suspicious, but without definite information on what the two injuries are and how they relate it isn’t more than that.
Second: What does this do to the Oilers the rest of the way? Edmonton isn’t a good team and they can be hard to watch at the best of times; the loss of Hall makes them significantly worse and far less entertaining. Jordan Eberle has stepped up already, but even so this is a massive blow and should come close to guaranteeing that the Oilers don’t make up the six points separating them from Carolina in 28th. It’s still going to be difficult to fall below Buffalo in 30th; the Oilers are four points up on the Sabres and Buffalo has a pile of pending free agents to deal away yet.
Third: What does this mean for Todd Nelson? Nelson’s been dealt a lousy hand in his NHL coaching debut, but he’s still managed to do good things over his 18 games behind the bench (as Robin Brownlee wrote earlier today). This makes his job much, much more difficult and if the Oilers are looking for an excuse to hire someone else it’s a decent bet that the record will give them that excuse.
The Oilers brought up Ryan Hamilton from Oklahoma City earlier today, and it’s a good bet that he draws in. We don’t know who he’ll be replacing, though both Luke Gazdic and Iiro Pakarinen were unimpressive against the Devils on Monday. Given that Pakarinen played five shifts in the third to Gazdic’s three, Gazdic seems the logical candidate for a night in the press box. If so, that will give the Oilers one line entirely composed of Barons players.
With Ben Scrivens injured, Viktor Fasth is likely to start which would mean that emergency call-up Richard Bachman will handle backup duties.
- Martin Marincin was quite good against the Devils on Monday; he looks a little awkward out there but his positioning’s good and his long reach means he typically has two good chances to break up an opposition rush, first with his stick and then with his body. Combine that with speed and mobility and he’s a pretty interesting player defensively. As he’ll need to clear waivers next fall, I fully expect that he’s playing for a job in Edmonton down the stretch here; if he doesn’t show the brass the things they want to see it’s a decent bet he’s dealt over the summer.
- One silver lining to Hall’s injury is that it opens up a spot on the top power play unit for Nail Yakupov. He certainly has the shot to take advantage in that role, as he did against New Jersey; if he can show well there it will go a long way toward compensating for his other sins.
- Where would the Oilers be right now if they’d been the team to acquire Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy? Would it have made a difference?
What They’re Saying
Tonight the New York Islanders host the Edmonton Oilers, who are on a road trip that included a win over the Devils last night in Newark. Of trivial note: an Isles win would be their eighth consecutive over the Oilers at home, dating back to 1999, when the Oilers were on-ice relevant and the Islanders were mired in the kind of hell the Oil currently finds itself.
Game day prediction: The Oilers played last night and are down two of their best players, the Islanders are a good team in a tight race for first in the Met, and New York out-shot Buffalo 31-10 in its last game. Let’s call it 3-1 for the Isles.
Obvious game day prediction: Viktor Fasth undoubtedly is aware both that the Islanders may be interested in goaltending help and that he’s a pending free agent. He plays well, turning aside 30-odd shots in the loss.
Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Justin Schultz will set Nail Yakupov up for the Oilers’ only goal, a power play marker.
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