The morning after an important opening-night 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks the Oilers got some bad news.
Defenceman Adam Larsson is on LTIR, and out for at least a month. Dave Tippett confirmed Larsson’s appearance on the LTIR is connected to this blocked shot. He broke his right fibula and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. This happened in the first period and Larsson played the rest of the game. His final shift came at 57:46. His pain threshold reminds me of Jason Smith’s. Both are stay-at-home defenders, who play hard and play through pain.
I understand blocking shots has become an expected part of today’s NHL, but I’m still not the biggest fan of encouraging them. You have goalies with proper protection built to absorb pucks without injury, but I know it is pipedream to think we will see a reduction in blocked shots any time soon.
It is part of the game, and with the power of today’s shooters, it is inevitable that players, who regularly block shots, are going to take one in a vulnerable spot some time and break a bone.
Losing Larsson is a major blow to the Oilers. He is the top pair right D-man. He logged 22:19 of ice time last night while the other right defenders, Ethan Bear (15:33) and Matt Benning (11:47), played significantly less.
Kris Russell has played the right side in the past, but last night he played almost exclusively on the left side, except for 1:18 when he was paired with Darnell Nurse.
Dave Tippett likes the L-R combination, but will he stick with that or move Russell to the right side. He hinted about that today in his press conference.
Evan Bouchard was recalled today, while Ethan Bear was sent down.
This tweet from Puck Pedia accurately explains the reasoning behind that.
With Larsson injured, replacing Bouchard w/ Bear on Roster increases #Oilers LTIR Pool.
Now #Oilers $90K under Cap – gives LTIR Pool of $4,076,898 (Larsson's $4.167M less $90K cap Space).
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) October 3, 2019
You should expect Bear to be recalled before Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings.
Larsson’s injury is one of the worst for this team due to the lack of experienced right defenders behind him. I suspect you will see Matt Benning’s minutes climb. It would make sense to have him replace Larsson on the PK instead of Bear, Bouchard or Joel Persson. Benning has done it before.
Last night was only one game, and Tippett really wanted to win — He said as much post game. He played his top players a lot, and said that was due to them having two days off before Saturday. I wouldn’t read too much into TOI for some players. I don’t expect Benning to only play 12 minutes/game every night. He will likely be closer to 15 minutes or more. I could see him playing even more than that in the foreseeable future with Larsson out.
The Larsson injury will force the Oilers to play young defenders more than they wanted to early this season. It isn’t ideal, but it an opportunity for Bear to play more.
It is unlikely that Bouchard plays. Joel Persson is getting close to being activated and if he is activated and then Bouchard will be back in Bakersfield.
Bear will be in the lineup on Saturday. He played very well last night.
If Persson is healthy I wonder what Tippett does?
He could slide Bear up and play with Nurse and slot Persson in beside Oscar Klefbom, while Russell and Benning remain together. Or he could slide Benning up with Nurse, and play Bear with Russell.
Persson played exclusively with Klefbom prior to his injury so putting him with Klefbom makes the most sense to me.
If Persson isn’t ready, then Russell will play with Nurse and Manning likely draws in with Benning. Or will Tippett play Persson with Benning and ask one of them to play their off-side?
Those are the options, and none are ideal.
It is amazing how one injury can put a damper on a solid opening night victory for the Oilers, but that’s how quickly things can change in the NHL.
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