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Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

A Foothold?

“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” That old axiom is obvious enough, and it’s also tried and true. The complication, history tells us, is that it’s easier said than done. That was the challenge facing the Edmonton Oilers when they headed out on this four-game road trip standing eye-high in a hole.

When you’re in the dirt like the Oilers are, it doesn’t matter how you accomplish it — the bigger picture takes a backseat — only that you stop digging. Through their first two games on this swing through the Eastern Conference, the Oilers have finally put down the shovel with two wins — a 3-2 overtime victory over the New Jersey Devils on the heels of a 2-1 OT win over the New York Islanders in Brooklyn Tuesday.

Neither game was anything resembling a masterpiece or even a steady, consistent effort from start to finish. Not close. It matters not. Had the Oilers turned in a couple of those but failed to come away with their first back-to-back wins of the season, we’d be talking about a pair of starkly hollow consolation prizes — not to mention firing the coach, moaning about the GM and trading away chunks of the roster.

Instead, we’re talking today about an Oiler outfit that’s 6-8-1 as they head into Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers Saturday afternoon. The Oilers still have their share of issues and shortcomings, and it’s too early to say they’ve found a foothold and are ready to start climbing, but they’ve put down the shovel and given themselves a chance as they head into MSG and then onto Washington.

HERE AND NOW

Nov 9, 2017; Newark, NJ, USA; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal by left wing Milan Lucic (27) during the third period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine the consternation, and rightfully so, if the Oilers were headed to Broadway at 4-10-1. The bitching about lack of depth on right wing, the moves GM Peter Chiarelli made and didn’t make this off-season and ongoing issues with lack of scoring and uneven special teams would be at full crescendo with the team all but dead in the water in terms of making the playoffs.

Those concerns and shortcomings are legit and remain, but I’d rather be lamenting them after watching the handiwork of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in back-to-back overtime sessions than with a post-season berth just short of out-of-the-question. Folks around here did that for a decade before last season’s jump to 103 points. First things first. Stay in the race — which is not to be mistaken for everything is OK.

“It’s huge,” said Draisaitl, who buried a feed from McDavid behind Cory Schneider for the winner in the three-on-three session. “Obviously, we dug ourselves a hole and now is the time to get back out of it. I think that it was another pretty solid effort throughout our whole lineup. Every line contributed and that’s how you win on the road.”

“You need one and you’ve got to put two together,” said McLellan, who didn’t like the start by the Oilers but watched his team hang in, battle back then win it. “We’ve done that now. Rest and play against another good team. The margin of winning and losing right now is such a fine line for our team . . . we need everybody playing at the best of their ability until things start going our way a little bit in and around the net.”

THE WAY I SEE IT

It goes without saying there’s work to do. Edmonton’s power play went 0-for-2 against the Devils and has too often been a black hole this season (although the beleaguered PK managed to hold New Jersey scoreless in four attempts). The Oilers remain dead-last in scoring with 35 goals in 15 games. The defence remains thin while awaiting the return of Andrej Sekera. On and on . . .

Like I said earlier, those big picture concerns are real and will remain no matter what happens against the Rangers and Capitals to wrap up this road swing. That said, the Oilers have four points from the first two games and could come home with six or, dare to dream, eight points. Wouldn’t that be something? At the very least, they’ve stopped digging.

ENTER JESSE

As expected, the Oilers have recalled Jesse Puljujarvi from the Bakersfield Condors of the AHL. The question now, is: where on the depleted right side will McLellan choose to insert the Finnish sophomore? Does he go straight in for Anton Slepyshev?

Puljujarvi, 19, reports having scored 1-4-5 in 10 games with the Condors. The move comes with the Oilers having placed Slepyshev on injured reserve. Slepyshev, who scored the 1-1 goal against the Devils, has been battling a groin injury.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • freelancer

    The team is getting closer to .500 but winning like they have is not sustainable. Team has managed to creep into OT on the back of Cam Talbot and then rely on McDavid and Draisaitl. Need to start closing on games in regulation.

  • Yakupov scores his fifth of the season. “WE NEVER SHOULD HAVE LET HIM GO!!” – Oilers fans.

    The fact is, we’re three points out of the wildcard. We could easily be third in the division come December. The entire league is tighter than perhaps ever before (I mean, an expansion team is currently 2nd in the Pacific ) and it will require constant work by all parties….but there’s hope still.

  • tileguy

    Robin, your honest opinion please. Is calling up JP now a good move, or is it just based on hope? Isn’t calling up somebody from the farm that is putting the puck in the net a more prudent move?

  • Hemmercules

    I thought Rattie might get recalled. I hope JP can bring something to the table playing with NHL players.

    Sigh…….another afternoon game. Oil are cursed in those ones. Lets hope they do better on the road than at home.

  • Heschultzhescores

    Was I the only one wondering why Malone was out there for the last minute of such an important game? It didn’t cost us, but if it had it would have been bone-headed.

    • jultz=2cups!😂😂

      Lol. Why are you trying to get mad about a hypothetical situation that didn’t happen? Too funny! TM clearly trusted Malone to be out there and it paid off. Good coaching I figure. You guys are never happy tho. 😂

        • jultz=2cups!😂😂

          Lol. But it wasn’t a dumb mistake. Nothing happened!! You’re just trying to make stuff up to get mad about… you need to relax and just enjoy the win bud.

  • Rebuilds30

    I saw on a Montreal site where there is talk the Oilers and Habs could be discussing a Max Pacioretty for Jesse Puljujarvi trade, other pieces may be in play.

  • The Whispererer

    Based ONLY on the names that have been rumoured to be available, the only JP trade i would consider is straight up for Mitch Marner. I would do it reluctantly, knowing that i could be beating myself up in a year or two if JP turns out to be the monster we expected him to become.

    • cmandev77

      JP for Marner…hmm interesting. I would do it. Marner has the potential to be a great 2 way player (he was amazing in juniors) and would look magnificent beside McDavid. JP has size on his size and is a work in progress. But he offers a lot of the same things Marner has, just not the North American ice experience…hmm this would be tough. I don’t see Toronto doing it though as they are pretty set at forward. I see them trading Marner for defensive help.

  • madjam

    Jesse adds size and speed to lineup , and also can play on first/ second power play unit , with a reasonable defensive game . The quality of players he played with on the Condors was quite poor . He should do better here than with the Condors . He could fit 1-3rd line RW .

  • Anton CP

    10 out of 15 games played so far are against Eastern Conference, that’s quite a bit.

    The Oilers fare better against west (3-2) so hopefully they will have a better record after these long eastern stretch. However from now until New Year that the Oilers will be on the road for 13 out of next 25 games with a stretch of 5 games in 9 days on the road. The NHL scheduling is a joke, the Oilers will be playing against division rivals 12 times in the final 22 games (only 3 in the first 20 games).

    • jultz=2cups!😂😂

      What exactly is your point? Are you saying the league is out to get the oilers? By making them play road games? Lol. I’m sure every team plays road games. Doesn’t a computer generate the schedule anyways?