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Like Groundhog Day

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Robin Brownlee
2 months ago
You knew that it might be a long night for the Edmonton Oilers Wednesday when goaltender Stuart Skinner wiped out during the warm-up like a kid who’d forgotten to take off his skate guards and skidded into Carolina Hurricanes side of centre. 
Not long after, Darnell Nurse was badly cut when he took a puck that had rattled off the crossbar courtesy of a wrist shot by Philip Broberg right between the eyes. Nurse spent the early part of the game heavily bandaged and leaking blood with wadding shoved in both nostrils. Not a pretty sight.
That was just the precursor to a miserable night for the Oilers as the Canes settled things early, putting four pucks behind Stuart Skinner in the first 15 minutes on the way to a 6-3 win. The loss was the third straight on this four-game road swing, dropping the Oilers to 2-3-0 under Kris Knoblauch and 5-12-1 overall.
This defeat was yet another example – yes, you’ve heard this before – when the Oilers’ inability to play simple, fundamental defence and make basic plays was the difference. This was another case of this team struggling to find answers to questions they’ve been asked far too often this season. Last night, it was more of the same 18 games into the campaign. Slow learners, this group.

WHAT THEY SAY

Nov 22, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl (29) looks on after Carolina Hurricanes center Martin Necas (88) goal during the second period at PNC Arena.
It’s American Thanksgiving today as the Oilers make their way to Washington for a Friday matinee with the Capitals. Yesterday was more like Groundhog Day with a repeat of the same old, same old that has the Oilers struggling so mightily.
Did you hear one answer out of the Oilers’ dressing room post-game that leads you to believe this group of players is any closer to figuring things out than when the team sacked Jay Woodcroft and Dave Manson? I didn’t.
“We’re just not finding ways to get the job done at the end of the day,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “I thought Tampa, we played really well and didn’t find a way to win. Florida? Pretty even game. Same thing tonight. Obviously just a poor start and we’re trying to claw our way back. There’s not a lot to say.”
The Oilers have allowed 17 goals in the first three games of this swing. Last night, usually reliable Mattias Ekholm gave the puck away on an errant pass and got caught up the ice on the 2-0 goal. On the 5-1 goal by Martin Necas, four Oilers were standing around Calvin Pickard doing nothing but watching.
“We didn’t give ourselves any favors there and made it harder for us,” Knoblauch said. “I just see a lot of guys who are working hard and do care (but) are so worried about making mistakes Ultimately, it’s paralyzing us and holding us back and we’re just not playing with our instincts. We just have to get away from it.
“You see in the third period where we had nothing to lose, we just went out there and played a really simple game. We were fast and very direct, and we dictated a lot of the play, so we just have to do more of that.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

While frustration festers within a fan base that’s heard a lot of talk but not seen enough action, the exasperation of the players is obvious too. Evander Kane put it this way:
“I think we just have to focus on the next game,” he said. “It’s been redundant. It’s been, you know, the same kind of message after a lot of games, too many games this season.”

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