by Lisa Brown on 10/29/11 at 03:30 PM ET
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has officially been told that he has played his last game of junior, but is still looking for his first point on the road. Friday night was a difficult game for the Oilers before it even began. The team hosted the Washington Capitals Thursday night, and then flew to Denver. The team arrived at the Denver airport early in the morning and then had to drive about an hour to the hotel. The equipment staff then had to bring the equipment to the arena to dry it out from the previous night’s game. All of this would have affected the players’ sleep cycles but then add in the added elevation.
There was no scoring through the first period and only a stick infraction call to Ladislav Smid. The second period saw two Oilers goals; Cam Barker with his first as an Oiler on the power play and Andy Sutton with a tip in goal.
The Oilers saw the end to their streak of successful penalty kills and Devan Dubnyk’s shutout attempt as Ryan O’Reilly got the Avs on the board. The Oilers did squeak in another goal thanks to the “Flow line” and Ryan Smyth.
Overall this was not the Oilers best defencive game which is somewhat surprising given their past string. Devan Dubnyk faced 41 shots on the night, turning away 40 but the Oilers only had 19. Dubnyk made some astounding saves but was definitely challenged after watching Nikolai Khabibulin from the bench the past few games.
The Oilers have travelled home to Edmonton for their last home game in weeks when the St. Louis Blues are in town on Sunday. If the goaltending and special team performance can remain this good, the Oilers will finally be playing the exciting hockey that fans have been waiting for. There are still several players looking for their first goal of the season, and perhaps there will be some line shuffling before too long. The Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle line has real chemistry and isn’t likely to be broken up, and the same can be said about the Smyth - Horcoff - Jones (flow line) but coach Tom Renney has to be willing to try things to get his team’s momentum up. When Renney said that it would be interesting to see how his team would respond without Nugent-Hopkins he meant just that, not that he needed to sit Nugent-Hopkins.
The Blues are now 5-5-0 after a 3-1 loss to the Flames Friday night, with a day’s rest for each team this one could be anyone’s game.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
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