Game 19: Oilers @ Coyotes: Tough It Out
Compared to other teams, the Oilers have been fairly lucky when it comes to dealing with injuries. Over the past few seasons their top players have all remained reasonably healthy with longer term injuries mainly being bottom six and third pairing players. Right now Edmonton is dealing with some highly significant injuries, specifically through their blueline.
Darnell Nurse, Slater Koekkoek, and now Duncan Keith are all out for the Oilers. The Oilers entire left side that they begun the season with are all out. That is...less than ideal, as is the new likely defense pairings:
Teams deal with injuries and need to rely on a strong team structure in order to overcome their problems. The Penguins were able to string together some decent games with the likes of Crosby, Malkin, Letang and more out. Dealing with injuries cannot be an excuse for this team. Tough it out, go out there and win some hockey games.
Back to back situations are always tough but hopefully because the Oilers failed to play much of a game against the Stars they will be fresh and ready to face off against a Coyotes team that is also dealing with injuries; their biggest injury being the fact that they are the Arizona Coyotes.
Carter Hutton, Andrew Ladd, Nick Schmaltz, Dmitri Jaskin, Christian Fischer, Johan Larsson, and Jay Beagle are all out for Arizona. Down the middle the Coyotes will be running Hayton, Boyd, Jenik, and Dzingel. This is an ugly roster but still the Yotes have managed to quadruple their wins in the last 4 games and are now 4-13-2 on the season. Much of this is off of the back of Scott Wedgewood who have an impressive 0.940SV% in 6 games. The Oilers will need to challenge him far better than they did Oettinger and the Stars.
There are some bright spots on the roster. Ryan McLeod continues to get better and better with every game and is looking like a real option for the third line centre role. McLeod has looked far more confident than he did at any point last season. Watching him play a few key differences stand out. The first is simply his aggressiveness. Since the first time we saw McLeod in training camp, his speed has been NHL calibre, however when we saw him match up against NHL level defenses that wasn't good enough and he stayed on the perimeter of play. At 6'2 and over 200lbs McLeod isn't just hanging around the edges of play and isn't afraid to use his skating to try and push past players. In tandem with that, we are seeing McLeod go to the tougher areas. Two of the goals he has scored this season have been as a result of pushing his way to the front of the net. Next I would like to start seeing McLeod teeing up his linemates more and earning some assists but it's great to see another young player developing before our eyes.
Despite the end result and his below 0.900SV%, I wouldn't place any of the blame from the last game on Stuart Skinner. Two of the goals scored were on the powerplay with one occuring right after one expired. The Oilers penalty kill which has normally been elite was absolutely brutal as a number of players failed to clear the zone on what should have been simple plays and looked out of sync all night.
Speaking of out of sync, I know that Tippett was trying to get something going but the amount of line juggling he did in that game was unreasonable and a bad call. Perlini with McDavid and Draisaitl?! Please never again. The Red Wings and Buffalo games were pretty bad showings by the Oilers but the game against the Stars was the worst performance we have seen from the Oilers all year. Luckily this team has bounced back after a bad performance with a strong one every time and against an injury filled Yotes roster, Edmonton should come out on top.
Quick notes on the injuries:
- Keith is reportedly only day to day and will miss the Coyotes game for certain but potentially could be ready by the time the Oilers face the Golden Knights on Saturday. Keith has been a mixed bag this season but regardless the lineup is better with him in it than without.
- No specific updates on Nurse. Nurse was going to miss 2-3 weeks with a broken finger and right now I'm going to guess the earliest we see him would be Saturday December 5th against the LA Kings at home.
- Mike Smith is completely off the board at this point. The nearly 40 year old netminder does not need surgery but the team is keeping tight lipped about what is ailing him and I don't think we should expect to see Smith until right before or right after Christmas.