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Photo Credit: © Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Top of My Head

After getting waxed 6-0 by the Florida Panthers Thursday, the Edmonton Oilers put the brakes on an 0-5-2 skid with a 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames last night in what’s been a frustrating 4-11-2 stretch since the start of December. I’m stepping away from that string of misery, at least for handful of paragraphs, to accentuate the positive for a moment.

In the next week or so, we’ll get details about an outdoor alumni game between the Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens Feb. 4 at Saiker’s Acres in Sherwood Park – best known as site of the World’s Longest Hockey Game. It’s a fundraiser that is something of a throwback to the Habs and Oilers at the Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium Nov. 22, 2003.

Four Oilers who played on that frigid day 19 years ago will take part in the game, being played to raise funds for Breathing Space, an Alberta Lung & NWT facility being built for lung transplant patients. Glenn Anderson, Fernando Pisani and Georges Laraque will play, while Kevin Lowe will coach the Oilers alumni.

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Lucien Deblois, Richard Sevigny and Yvon Lambert, who played in 2003, are back and will join Mike Keane and Shawn Belle for the Habs. Kyle Brodziak, Jason Strudwick, Louie Debrusk and Sean Brown are among those who’ll join Anderson, Pisani and Laraque with the Oilers. The 10-man rosters will be announced next week. Teams will play three, 15-minute periods and the game will be called online by Jack Michaels and Bob Stauffer.

This is a limited viewing event with most of 200 available seats at Saiker’s Acres already sold, but the 5 p.m. game will be live-streamed on the Oilers’ website. As for fundraising, the EOCF will dedicate one of its 50/50 draws and the jerseys worn by the players will be auctioned online. You can get more information about the event, sponsorship opportunities or donating directly at the Alberta Lung & NWT website.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

GOING DEEP

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Bill Zito has made some smart moves since taking over as GM of the Panthers. Cam Lewis wrote an item about it Thursday. One of the things Zito has done is assemble the kind of scoring depth through four lines the Oilers haven’t been able to surround Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with so far.

After whitewashing the Oilers and beating Vancouver 2-1 in a shootout Friday, the Panthers led the NHL with 167 goals. When Florida faced the Oilers, they had seven players with at least 10 goals (six forwards plus defenceman Aaron Ekblad) and nine players with at least 20 points.

By comparison, the Oilers had just four players with 10 goals and five with at least 20 points. Zack Hyman, in both categories, didn’t play. Neither did Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has 26 points. Here’s the forward group Florida iced against the Oilers — listed as LW-C-RW and in order of line. Statistics include Friday games.

Carter Verhaeghe 14-19-33
Aleksander Barkov 17-15-32
Sam Reinhart 12-23-35

Jonathan Huberdeau 15-40-55
Sam Bennett 17-8-25
Anthony Duclair 17-15-32

Mason Marchment 2-9-11
Anton Lundell 9-15-24
Maxim Mamin 5-3-8

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Ryan Lomberg 4-7-11
Eetu Luostarinen 8-7-15
Owen Tippett 5-8-13

As of Saturday, Florida was at $40.5M on the cap for forwards while the Oilers were at $36.1M. Depth up front obviously isn’t the only area where Oilers are hurting — the goaltending has too often been lousy and the penalty killing is in the crapper — but there’s no question that Zito is getting a more balanced bang for his buck than Ken Holland.

HHTH RETURNS

After a two-year absence because of COVID, the Hockey Helps the Homeless tournament in support of The Mustard Seed and Jasper Place Wellness Centre is returning for its seventh edition on May 6 at the Terwillegar Rec Centre.

To date, HHTH has granted more than $1 million toward tackling homelessness in Edmonton thanks to a partnership with the Oilers Alumni and the generosity of fans, including Oilersnation, which raised funds with its 10th anniversary party a few years back. 

YOU SAID IT

Ryan

IAmByks Do fans still have to wear a mask at the game if they’re also wearing a paper bag on their head? Asking for an entire fanbase.

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Mike Dirsa

@mikedirsa If you are going to throw a jersey on the ice you better not ever go back wearing another one. I can respect the rage but don’t be a fraud. Quit for good not for your fifteen seconds of fame.

Aaron

@aasingleton17 Oilers Twitter:

Next time someone has the urge to toss a jersey on the ice, could they maybe consider just giving the jersey to a kid in attendance who doesn’t have one? It’s less embarrassing for the city and actually helps make someone’s day. 

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#LetsGoOilers

AND . . . 

Mikko Koskinen has taken a lot of criticism, and rightfully so this season, but after posting a 4.28 GAA and .855 save percentage in his previous seven outings (0-6-1), he was stellar last night with 44 saves. Flames win that game in a walk if he isn’t terrific.

Previously by Robin Brownlee