Todd McLellan and Peter Chiarelli might have to wait until next season to see their team healthy. The Oilers are three games away from having Connor McDavid back, followed soon after by Oscar Klefbom, but when they return Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will not be dressed.
The first pick in 2011 suffered a hand injury during last night’s 4-2 win in Florida, and during his post-game press conference Todd McLellan announced it would be long-term.
At the start of the season McLellan said they wouldn’t discuss day-to-day injuries, and if one was long-term Chiarelli would address it, so the fact McLellan said it was serious right after the game illustrates he will be out at least six weeks, and possibly longer if he requires surgery.
The Oilers parade to the infirmary seemingly never ends.
Nugent-Hopkins’ injury ruined a solid performance by the Oilers. Their top line returned to their scoring ways, Cam Talbot was strong in goal and their PK was perfect. The Oilers have only allowed a PP goal in one of their last eight games, but the one game was terrible allowing three Arizona PP goals on four chances.
Last night’s victory was subdued because of Nugent-Hopkins injury.
Anton Lander will return to the lineup tonight, and either he or Matt Hendricks will be centering the second line. Injuries are part of the game, but no one has been hit harder than the Oilers this season. They are first in man games lost, and first in games lost to top-end players.
The only sliver of good news is they only have three more games until McDavid returns to replace RNH.
The Oilers didn’t skate this morning, so we won’t know what the lines will look like until warmup. We know Lander will be back and Anders Nilsson will start in goal, but I suspect McLellan will experiment with many different line combos between lines #2, #3 and #4.
I’m guessing he will keep the Hall/Draisaitl/Purcell trio together and hope they can carry the offence, while he experiments with different line combos through the other three lines. Hendricks replaced Nugent-Hopkins last night, so he could keep him there and slide Lander into the fourth line, but based on what he has done in previous games I think we will see a bit of a McBlender tonight.
The D pairings should remain the same.
- Nugent-Hopkins was the latest victim of being injured by a needless shot block. The shot-blocking culture in hockey is ridiculous. Too many players are injured and I don’t understand why coaches and GMs continue to push players to do it. It has become the supposed new way to gauge commitment and desire, and it is simply asinine.
The goalies have the best padding in the history of pro sports, yet coaches are always preaching get in the shooting lanes. Why? Let the goalies do their job. The other issue is how often players get down on one knee or hunched over and take the shot off a hand or another low-protected area. They are in such a rush to get in “the shooting lane” that often they put themselves in a vulnerable position and end up being injured. There used to be a few guys who blocked shots per team, and they knew how to do it, but in the last decade everyone is expected to do it, and I believe it hinders the game more than helps it.
RNH didn’t need to block that shot. The Panthers D-man was not in a dangerous scoring area, but too many in the hockey would frown upon RNH if he didn’t do his best to get in the way. I’d rather see him playing than missing the rest of the game by blocking a shot from the outside. I applaud his willingness to stand in the lane, but at some point coaches need to realize the risk isn’t worth the reward.
On top of injuring players, shot blocking takes away the excitement of scoring chances. I’m not suggesting the league ban shot-blocking — it would be too difficult to oversee — but coaches need to stop force-feeding it down the throat of players. It is not helping the game, and it results in too many needless injuries.
- It is impossible to argue that Lander has been anything but an offensive disappointment this season, with only two assists in 45 games. He has not added much offensively, but we shouldn’t equate his lack of production to the Oilers place in the standings. He is the fourth line centre, and obviously he should be generating more offence, but production from your fourth line C isn’t a necessity for success. I want to be clear: I’m not making excuses for Lander, he’s struggled offensively, but his role/production is not among the top five or six issues in my books for this team.
Boyd Gordon has 0-2-2 in 41 games and takes the second most faceoffs on the Coyotes. They are third in the Pacific.
Marcus Kruger has 0-1-1 for the Blackhawks. He plays 13:17/game and the Hawks are in first place in the western conference.
Kyle Brodziak has 2-1-3 for the Blues and plays almost 12 minutes/game.
It would help if he could produce something, but too often in Edmonton people focus on the fourth line. The defence is the number one, two and three area of concern, and it must be addressed before any significant improvement is made. Lander’s production, albeit disappointing, should not be used as a main reason for the struggles of the Oilers.
- Hall of Famer, former NHL head coach and current skills coach Adam Oates will join me at 2:20 MST on TSN1260 to discuss powerplay formations, the “in shooting lanes” philosophy and how coaches view/use analytics. Tune in on radio or here online.
- Stat that might only interest me: Coming into this season Jordan Eberle had never scored a goal versus Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey or the New York Rangers. In a span of 13 games he played all four of them and scored against each of them.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
On one hand, the situation is one where you can get comfortable a touch, isn’t it? The Edmonton Oilers come to the Amalie on the flip-side of back-to-back games, having defeated the Florida Panthers last night. The Oilers are in the pits of the Pacific Division; they have two games in-hand on the Lightning and have only 43 points on the season. They’re without Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who they lost to injury in last night’s game, and their goal differential is minus-21 (115 goals scored, 136 goals allowed)… Oh, they’re also a top candidate to once again vie for a high draft selection in June.
Yeah, sounds like something to get comfortable with, yeah? No. Trap game, or very potentially one.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Second game in two nights with no RNH and the backup goalie. All arrows point to a loss, but Oilers stun us with a 3-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle and Hall ended lengthy goal droughts last night, and Leon Draisaitl does the same tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Nilsson has lost his last four starts and his SV% in his last six starts was: .871, .867, .828, .850, .853 and .893, and he allowed 24 goals. The big Swede stands on his head and stops 31 of 33 shots.
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THE NATION SKI TRIP
This is going to be the event of the year and we’re inviting you and all of your scandalous buddies to join us. If I was to make a recommendation I would suggest that you don’t wait to buy your tickets. This event will sell quickly, and procrastination will do nothing but leave you missing out on a hell of a party.