Tonight, Connor McDavid returns to the ice for his first game since breaking his clavicle on Tuesday, November 3rd. While he rehabbed his shoulder the Oilers picked up 33 points in 37 games going 14-18-5. The area the Oilers struggled the most without McDavid was on the PP.
In the 13 games McDavid dressed the Oilers were 10-for-45 on the PP (22.5%), but they were only 14 of 100 (14%) without him. McDavid only had three powerplay points, so the PP wasn’t running through him, yet it is obvious his absence hurt the man advantage.
Jordan Eberle led the Oilers in PP scoring the past two seasons, and I’m curious to see how he and McDavid will work together on the PP and five-on-five.
Tonight is the first game Eberle and McDavid will both be in the lineup at the same time. Eberle thinks the game very well, and he and McDavid would seem like a natural fit. It might take some time to generate chemistry, but I’m not surprised head coach Todd McLellan has Eberle and McDavid on a line with Benoit Pouliot.
McDavid’s return has the Nation once again giddy with excitement and for a few games it will dull the pain of knowing your team will miss the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season. Brandon Davidson, Oscar Klefbom and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are still injured, so the Oilers and their fans will have to wait another month before they have an opportunity to see their complete roster on the ice.
Davidson is very close to returning, Klefbom is at the very least another 10 days away while RNH’s broken hand will keep him out another month. It is very likely the Oilers will not play one game this season with their full lineup.
McDavid should give the Oilers’ offence a much-needed boost. In the 37 games without McDavid the Oilers scored only 2.2 goals per game, the second lowest in the NHL behind Vancouver’s 2.18. The Oilers desperately need some secondary scoring.
Taylor Hall scored 32 points in McDavid’s absence, while Leon Draisaitl tallied 30 in 37 games and Teddy Purcell scored 25. Eberle had 22 points, RNH had 19 (in 34 games), Pouliot had 15 (28 games) and Nail Yakupov had four in 15 games.
Hall’s line has carried the Oilers offensively for the past three months, and McLellan is hopeful McDavid can give the Oilers two consistent scoring lines.
McDavid’s return pushes Anton Lander out of the lineup, and it might take an injury for him to get back in. Matt Hendricks will centre the fourth line with Lauri Korpikoski and Iiro Pakarinen.
Justin Schultz (illness) didn’t take the morning skate and he will be a game time decision. If he can’t go Darnell Nurse will be paired with Adam Clendening while Eric Gryba will skate with Griffin Reinhart. Reinhart was very good against Nashville and he’ll need another strong effort to remain in the lineup when Davidson returns, likely in Ottawa on Thursday.
Cam Talbot starts, and unless he suffers an injury this month I see him starting every game but two this month.
- McDavid couldn’t have picked a better opponent to play against in his first game in 91 days. The Blue Jackets are 30th in GAA at 3.16, and they’ve allowed four or more goals in 22 of their 51 games. In case you are wondering, the Oilers have allowed four+ goals in 20 of their 50 games.
- 109 of the 171 games that went to OT this year were decided in OT
(63.7%), which is a huge increase from last season when, during
four-on-four action, 84 of the 186 games (45.2%) were settled in OT. The
NHL wanted fewer shootouts and so far it has worked.
- With 60% of the NHL season completed it is interesting to note that five of the eight playoff spots in the Western Conference are currently occupied by teams who didn’t make the post season last year: Dallas, Los Angeles, Arizona, San Jose and Colorado. I don’t envision Arizona being able to hold off Anaheim, and Colorado will be in a battle with Nashville and Minnesota, but the other three should return to the playoffs.
- The Blue Jackets can’t stay out of the penalty box on the road. They’ve been shorthanded 117 times in 27 road games. The Vancouver Canucks are next with 97 PK situations on the road. The Oilers need to take advantage of the Blue Jackets’ undisciplined play tonight. Comparatively, the Oilers have been shorthanded only 75 times in 26 games.
- The Oilers won’t officially activate McDavid until after 3 p.m. due to salary cap implications. When they do, Rob Klinkhammer will most likely be re-assigned to Bakersfield because he doesn’t require waivers having already been waived in the last 30 days.
- Today on my radio show (2-6 p.m. on TSN 1260) we will auction off a signed white McDavid jersey and a pair of tickets (Executive Terrace, Oilers attack twice) for tonight’s game with all the money going towards Alzheimer’s research. You can call 780.444.1260 or text a bid to 101260 starting at 2 p.m. Bidding will end at 5:30 p.m.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Alright, yeah, yeah, it’s cold.
Ok, it’s not that bad. I’m being dramatic.
We kicked off this three-games-in-three-cities-in-two-provinces-in-four-days road trip on Monday morning with a 10 a.m. flight out of Columbus. Two hours later, we were on the ground in beautiful Fargo, N.D., so I can check it off the list of places I’ve actually been to that I never thought I would ever visit.
And 25 minutes later, after Blue Jackets Air got herself a healthy refueling, we were back in the air and en route to Edmonton, Alberta. I’ve been here before, kind of sort of, if you count the airport (which I do, kind of sort of) when I was trying to get to Vancouver as soon as possible for vacation.
The first thing I noticed on the bus ride from the airport to the hotel was “holy $#!%, the river is frozen solid.” And not just “we might be able to play a game of hockey here” solid, but like, you could possibly land an airplane on it.
I should have been wearing a sign that said “I’m American” because it was pretty obvious I’m not from around here. But I’m happy to report that I’m a fan of Edmonton. It’s perfectly Canadian.
Like when I went outside to take a photo of Rexall Place and a nice gentleman asked me: “Hey there bahd, are the Oilers still on the ice?”
“I have no idea. Maybe?”
“Alright thanks, bahd – cheers!”
Just like I dreamt it.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers lost McDavid’s first NHL game, but they celebrate his return to the lineup with a 4-1 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Eberle scores. He has 7-9-16 in 14 career games vs. the Blue Jackets and he picks up his eighth career goal vs. CBJ tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Three of Clendening’s five NHL points have come on the PP. He scored a point in his first NHL game with Chicago. He tallied an assist in his second game with Vancouver and Pittsburgh. He makes another quick impression picking up an assist in his first game with the Oilers.
NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!
Celebrate the volunteer, parent, coach or organizer who keeps the game going and asks for nothing in return.
Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero.