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Evander Kane returns to the lineup tonight after missing 31 games with a lacerated wrist. Kane’s wrist was cut open when Patrick Maroon accidentally skated across it. His wrist is still swollen, mainly from scar tissue, but it has healed quite well, he told me yesterday. The biggest challenge will be mobility, but at this point there is little chance of re-injury. Unless of course another player skates across his wrist. But Kane has got a special “padded bandage” made that will protect him from that.
It will take 12-24 months to fully heal. And by heal we are talking about getting all the feeling and sensation back in his wrist. Nerves will regenerate on average 1.2mm per day, and right now there will still be some numbness. There is no guarantee that will go away, but usually it will over time. It can take up to two years in some cases.
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As he returns to the ice the biggest challenges will be range of motion, mobility, strength and pain threshold. Will a well-placed slash hurt? “Maybe,” laughed Kane. “But slashes can hurt in the right spot even when you aren’t returning from an injury.”
The challenge, like most players returning from an injury, will be how it feels during games. Kane can shoot in practice, but no one is trying to impede his shot. How will it feel when he’s about to take a shot, and a defender gets a stick on his stick or hands. Will it hurt? Will he have the strength to follow through with enough velocity? Kane mentioned he was doing many different strength tests before getting cleared, but he admitted nothing can accurately mirror game situations.
“I’ve been itching to get back for the past three weeks,” said Kane. “If it was the Stanley Cup Final, I would have played a few weeks ago. Obviously, it is something you don’t want to play around with, and you want to make sure it is strong, and I feel it is. The shooting is where it needs to be to be successful. I can’t give you a number (percentage wise), but it feels good,” Kane said.
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Most players need a few games to get caught up after missing 10 weeks. Last year, Kane played no NHL games and only five AHL games between December 11-18th, before making his Oilers debut on January 29th. He scored in his first game, but admitted he didn’t feel good until game four. He wasn’t coming off a major wrist injury though, so I’d temper expectations. He’ll be hard-pressed to match the 22 goals in 43 regular season games and 13 goals in 15 playoff games he scored last season.
But the Oilers don’t need him to be that productive. It would be great, of course, but scoring isn’t an issue in Edmonton. If Kane chips in offensively and is sound defensively it should be a smooth return.

IMPROVED 5×5 DEFENCE…

Oct 7, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defensemen Darnell Nurse (25) takes a shot in front of Seattle Kraken forward Daniel Strong (91) during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
The Oilers have long battled trying to become a consistently sound defensive team 5×5. When Jay Woodcroft arrived last season, the players bought into the changes he implemented and in their final 38 games they finished with the sixth-best goal against/game at 5×5 in the league.
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In their first 35 games this season they struggled limiting goals, but since Christmas they’ve found similar success to last season 5×5. The Oilers have only allowed 16 goals at 5×5 in their last 10 games, which has them tied with Carolina for sixth best in the league.
What changed?
The Oilers’ biggest weakness through the first 35 games was the five-star giveaways. They gifted too many goals, and I asked Ceci if that was discussed amongst the group. “We had a sit down as a team and we talked about that (huge giveaways) and how we let points slip away,” said Ceci. “We agreed to focus on improving that. We also looked at our division and saw how tight it was. It is a dog fight and we discussed how we can’t be giving away points down the stretch.”
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Head coach Jay Woodcroft discussed what he’s seen his team do to reduce their goals against recently.
“We are preparing to check to win games,” said Woodcroft. “Learning how to win games in ways other than just outscoring our mistakes and put value and emphasis on those areas. It’s not that we don’t talk about them, but we are just executing at a higher level.”
I think that is fair. When the Oilers were “gifting” goals, I didn’t see it as a system issue. When a D-man serves up a pizza to an opposing forward, or a forward doesn’t get the puck out that isn’t a system flaw. It is an execution concern.
Woodcroft added some more context to what he believes has led to the turnaround.
“There is a collective understanding of what it takes to win when it counts and that is a team-wide emphasis on playing the game the right way. A team-wide emphasis on checking for chances. A team-wide emphasis on eliminating freebie goals against. I look at our goals against and it’s not where we want it to be, but it is going in the right direction. We score enough. It (goals against) is the area we have to get under control, and it is going in the right direction post-Christmas, but we have to continue going that way.”
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I followed up by asking if they made any specific tweaks defensively since Christmas, specifically more of an emphasis on the third forward staying high in the offensive zone.
“If you look at rush chances against, that type of stuff, I don’t think we give up too much, but have we had a good third guy high in the past 10 games? Yes, we have, and that is part of it, but I don’t think we were bleeding in that direction beforehand.  We have eliminated some of the large errors that were costing us, and one of the side things of playing the game the right way is having the puck more and when the other team doesn’t have it as much, it is harder for them to score.”
The best news for the Oilers is the entire team has improved 5×5 since Christmas.
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Player
GP
TOI
SF%
GF
GA
GF%
xGF%
10
130:22
50.91
11
4
73.33
44.93
8
93:19
66.33
8
3
72.73
69.98
10
149:19
57.31
10
4
71.43
59.91
10
117:22
52.38
11
5
68.75
46.37
3
33:40
70.59
2
1
66.67
69.74
10
146:07
58.22
10
5
66.67
61.34
10
192:42
48.02
9
5
64.29
46.21
8
103:22
48.76
7
4
63.64
48.04
10
146:45
57.63
10
6
62.5
62.3
10
98:43
50
5
3
62.5
54.47
8
122:48
53.42
6
4
60
51.98
10
160:10
52.27
7
5
58.33
52.36
10
145:06
51.95
7
5
58.33
51.36
10
130:37
42.86
7
5
58.33
41.2
10
154:22
42.6
8
6
57.14
38.59
10
112:46
53.57
4
3
57.14
53.75
8
93:58
51.96
2
2
50
54.87
10
118:54
51.11
4
5
44.44
53.8
9
82:13
48.24
1
2
33.33
50.37
Only two players have been outscored 5×5, and both McLeod and Ryan are only -1 in GF-GA. And while the team is outscoring the opposition 26-16 at 5×5 the past 10 games, they’ve had massive contributions from the Kostin-RNH-Janmark line.
*Minor= minor penalties taken
PDR= Penalties drawn
Player
TOI
G
A
PTS
Shots
Minor
PDR
Hits
146:45
4
5
9
28
2
3
8
117:22
7
0
7
16
4
8
27
130:37
1
5
6
14
0
1
3
130:22
1
5
6
11
2
2
9
149:19
1
4
5
25
4
3
9
122:48
3
1
4
14
2
1
10
103:22
1
3
4
5
1
5
2
118:54
2
1
3
14
0
0
8
98:43
2
1
3
11
3
5
9
145:06
1
2
3
13
2
0
9
192:42
1
2
3
26
4
1
19
93:19
0
3
3
8
0
0
2
146:07
0
3
3
8
2
0
12
112:46
2
0
2
17
4
2
16
160:10
0
2
2
19
0
0
13
93:58
0
1
1
6
0
0
10
33:40
0
1
1
3
2
1
4
154:22
0
0
0
13
1
1
19
82:13
0
0
0
6
0
1
5
Kostin is not only leading the Oilers with seven goals (5×5) in this stretch, he also leads in penalties drawn and hits. His line has really stepped up with nine 5×5 goals in 10 games. That is more than McDavid, Draisaitl and Hyman combined. The Oilers are tied for fourth-most goals 5×5 since Christmas, which is a nice improvement over their first 35 games, but I’m more impressed by the 16 goals they’ve allowed.
The Kraken lead the NHL in 5×5 goals. They’ve scored a ridiculous 46 since Christmas (11 games), and the Oilers can’t afford to fall asleep for 11 minutes like they did two weeks ago in Edmonton.
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GDB PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Draisaitl – McDavid – Hyman
Kostin – RNH – Janmark
Kane – McLeod – Foegele
Holloway – Ryan
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Barrie
Broberg – Bouchard
Desharnais
Campbell
Those were the lines the Oilers ran yesterday in practice. Jesse Puljujarvi will sit out as the Oilers will dress seven D-men. Foegele and Ryan have already been healthy scratches, not due to noticeably poor play, so Puljujarvi will be taking his “turn.” Jack Campbell has won his last four starts, while Stuart Skinner will get a few more days of practice before returning after being away from the team for six days for the birth of his son.
Kraken
Burakovsky – Beniers – Eberle
Donato – Wennberg – McCann
Tolvanen – Gourde – Bjorkstrand
Tanev – Geekie – Sprong
Larsson – Dunn
Oleksiak – Schultz
Soucy – Borgen
Jones
Martin Jones is 5-0 in 2023 with a sparkling .926Sv% and 1.86 GAA. He’s also had two shutouts. The Kraken returned home from Chicago Saturday night, then lost to Tampa Bay yesterday afternoon before flying to Edmonton. Can Edmonton benefit from this scheduling advantage?
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TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers extend their winning streak to four and even their home record v. the Pacific division to 4-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Kostin-RNH-Janmark lines remains hot and score again 5×5.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan McLeod scores his first career goal v. the Kraken.