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Photo Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Top of My Head

Even with his penchant for producing highlight reel goals, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers can’t make every puck he puts in the net a masterpiece. What McDavid settled for instead against the Chicago Blackhawks last night was a mere mortal snipe that got the Oilers started on the way to a 5-2 win.

McDavid banged in a rebound to put the Oilers up 1-0, extending his season scoring streak to 17 games, then got a helper on Tyson Barrie’s 2-0 power-play goal. Social media buzz material it wasn’t, but a valuable two points it was as the Oilers built a 4-0 lead and never looked back.

Last night’s bit of business leaves McDavid a mere 34 games back of Wayne Gretzky’s 51-game points streak to start a season (1983-84), but the numbers that matter most have the Oilers sitting at 13-4-0 atop the Pacific Division. And if you’re looking for a truly rare number, McDavid drew three penalties in this game. Yes, three.

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“I liked that we won,” said McDavid, getting to the bottom line.

“We capitalized on some chances,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We have up some chances but (Stuart) Skinner was sharp early. I think that was good for him to just jump in the game . . . we were kind of off and running.”

Fresh from a 46-save performance in Thursday’s 2-1 shootout win over Winnipeg, Skinner took care of the rest with a 4-1 lead through 20 minutes. With starter Mike Smith on the shelf for a while yet, Skinner looked locked in again, closing the deal with 28 saves.

“He’s been playing phenomenal,” Kailer Yamamoto, who scored a shorthanded goal and likely had his best game of the season, said of Skinner. “He’s been a brick wall back there for us.”

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THAT’LL LEAVE A MARK

Sep 26, 2021; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Philip Broberg (86) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Philip Broberg got the call when it was determined Darnell Nurse would be lost for two to three weeks with a busted finger, but it’s going to be up to everybody on the Oilers’ blueline to take up the slack that comes with the absence of a player who plays so many important minutes. Of lesser concern in terms of minutes, but still a factor, the loss of Slater Koekkoek resulted in the call up of William Lagesson.

Not only has Nurse been durable, playing in 307 consecutive regular season games and eight more in playoffs since the start of the 2017-18 season, he’s averaged 22:15, 23:49, 23:27, 25:38 and 26:06 per season in that span. While Nurse has struggled at times this season, this is a big bite out of the group Tippett has to work with.

While Broberg played considerable minutes in Bakersfield, he’s a rookie. Evan Bouchard played in just his 38th NHL game against Chicago last night. At the opposite end of the experience spectrum, veteran Duncan Keith is 38 and faced Chicago averaging 20:16 a game. Sure, Keith used to be a minute-muncher like Nurse is now, but at this point in his career how much more ice time can he be expected to take on? Keith played 25:06.

“The opportunity is great for everyone,” said Bouchard, applying the spin you’d expect. “He (Nurse) is the leader on the back end there, one of the leaders, so we all kind of have to step up in our own way and fill those minutes for him until he gets back.”

The good news is the schedule is light – five games in the next 14 days. Broberg, paired with Cody Ceci, played 14:24 and got his first NHL point with an assist on Ryan McLeod’s 4-0 goal.

ABOUT ETHAN

Hindsight and Twitter being what they are, it’s no surprise the loss of Nurse prompted a mention of Ethan Bear, who was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for Warren Foegele, on Friday.

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A lot of people didn’t want to see Bear traded, and there’s no question he’s been relatively productive for the Canes with 1-5-6 going into action against Los Angeles last night, but I’m surprised how little he’s played.

While Bear has been paired primarily with Jaccob Slavin, who leads all Carolina D-men in ice time at 23:31, he is averaging just 18:27 – fifth on the blueline. Brett Pesce sits second at 21:08 followed by Brady Skjei at 20:11.

AND . . . 

Back on the ice for the first time since his interview with Rick Westhead of TSN on Oct. 27, former Blackhawk Kyle Beach scored two goals for the TecArt Black Dragons of the German Oberliga in an 8-2 win over the Hannover Scorpions Friday.

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Previously by Robin Brownlee