Evander Kane says ‘I’m good’ after missing game due to maintenance, insider suggests Oilers are trying to send winger a message

Photo credit:Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
3 months ago
After some early-season drama that saw the Oilers stumble out of the gate, waive veteran goaltender Jack Campbell, and make a coaching change, things have remained relatively calm in Edmonton.
The biggest story along the way was a 16-game winning streak spanning from the end of December to the end of January, helping the Oilers rocket up the Pacific Division standings and back into the playoff picture. There are others, too.
Connor McDavid continues to do Connor McDavid things, now nine assists shy of becoming the fourth player in league history to hit 100 in a season. Evan Bouchard has emerged as a force, while Zach Hyman just hit the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career over the weekend.
But this weekend has seen some of that early-season drama re-emerge following an embarrassing 6-3 loss to the Maple Leafs on Saturday night—one in which Evander Kane and Leon Draisaitl were spotted by the broadcast in animated conversation on the bench—and the Oilers blowing a 3-1 lead to fall 5-3 to the Senators 24 hours later.
The Oilers had Evander Kane out of the lineup for Sunday’s game in Ottawa, with Edmonton head coach Kris Knoblauch calling it a team-decided “maintenance day,” where they “felt for the long run, it was best for him to not play.”
Kane, who has 21 goals and 49 points in 67 games this season, spoke Tuesday ahead of the team’s game against the Winnipeg Jets. He is slotted to play on the Oilers’ third line alongside Ryan McLeod and Corey Perry. When asked about not being in the lineup Sunday, he offered short responses.
Question: Evander, how are you feeling? Just getting back in after having a maintenance game, or maintenance day?
Kane: I feel good, I feel good. Yeah.
Question: Is it just a build-up of things that sometimes you just have one game off, it gives you an extra few days of rest?
Kane: I guess so, yeah.
While Knoblauch’s comments ahead of Sunday’s game seemed to gloss over the removal of Kane, who is suspected to be dealing with some kind of an injury, others aren’t so convinced things are as described.
And on Monday’s edition of Sportsnet’s 32 Thoughts podcast, Elliotte Freidman said “there was a lot of conspiracy theory” around the removal of Kane from the lineup, adding that some of the reporters who were there “didn’t believe it.” He went on to ponder if the maintenance day was in relation to the fact that there was no response to the way the Leafs’ physical play against McDavid and Leon Drasiaitl, and the lack of response from the Oilers.
Friedman: Well look, there was a lot of conspiracy theory floating around the Oilers on Sunday night when Kane didn’t play. There was the scene of him on the bench with Draisaitl. I have to say, everyone’s opinion is different. To me, that didn’t look that bad. I have worse arguments with (Kevin) Bieksa on Saturday nights. That did not look as bad to me, but I freely admit people may not have liked that.
What I didn’t like on Saturday night was, you know, McDavid and Draisaitl really got pushed around, and one of the things Toronto has talked about this year is ‘we can’t be like that. If you push around our best players, we got to come at you with the pack mentality,’ like the two Florida teams are very much like that. The Panthers are definitely like that, and the Lightning are like that. If someone brushes their goalie, if Stamkos and Hedman are the closest guys, they’re going after people and everyone else does too. It’s like five of them coming at people. And there’s a lot of teams in the league with that mentality.
If I was the Oilers organization, I would not like how McDavid and Draisaitl were treated in Toronto. There’s nothing wrong with what the Maple Leafs did to them, they should try and rough them up, but it’s on yourselves to protect them. So when Kris Knoblauch came out before the Ottawa game on Sunday night and said Kane was out for maintenance, you could see in some of the tweets, it was like they’re calling it maintenance. You could tell the reporters who were there didn’t believe it. They cast doubt over it, and I had to say, I wondered about it too. Is this a healthy scratch here that they’re keeping quiet, seeing all the craziness that came out of (Flyers captain Sean) Couturier last week?
I wondered if the Oilers were just saying ‘you know what, we want to do something here, but we don’t want to pour gasoline on the fire.’ Now, I think there is an injury for Kane, too, potentially that maybe he could play through, but on back-to-back, they just said ‘you know what, we’d rather rest it.’
But there’s no question that that scratch, the day after McDavid and Draisaitl getting roughed up a bit, and Kane being a guy who can definitely do something about it, it had people wondering. We’ll see how it all plays out.
Look, they got goalie’d in Ottawa, they completely dominated the Senators, and Korpisalo just beat them. But the game in Toronto was really ugly. They had a good start, Samsonov held, then they got their butts kicked. That’s a showcase game. That’s a big game, on a big stage, and you never want to get your ass kicked like that. Especially, too, it’s a home game for McDavid, it’s some of the best players in the league. You never want to get embarrassed like that.
Then even though they did get goalie’d against Ottawa, they had a 3-1 lead. You’ve got to win that game. You cannot take your foot off the gas pedal and lose that game. We’ll see where this goes over the next few days. You wonder ‘Okay, we’re going to put a stop to this. We’ll clamp down, we’ll get our wins.’ But all of a sudden you’re looking at them after this weekend and saying ‘Okay, good teams stop this. Good teams end this quick.’ Let’s see if this ends, or see if it goes somewhere.
The Oilers take on the Jets on Tuesday night before the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks visit Rogers Place on Thursday and Saturday.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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