by Lisa McRitchie on 10/14/11 at 02:30 AM ET
Oilers Lose 2-1 to Wild in Shootout
January 16th, 2007 was the last time the Oilers won in St. Paul Minnesota. Coincidentally, Ryan Smyth was in the Oilers lineup and perhaps the mullet’s return to St. Paul as an Oiler could have turned things around for the club. Oilers fans will have to wait until next time, but in the meantime a shootout loss is a respectable resolution to this game. Well, unless like me you were fine with ties and don’t care much for this third point business.
The Oilers were off to a great start this Thursday evening, despite the long gap between the first and second game of the season. While teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins have played five games already, the Oilers and Jets were playing only their second game of the season. This just means more back to back games later.
Overall, the team looked better defensively at times and was down to six penalties through 65 minutes of play. That may not seem impressive, but the Oilers took nine through the same amount of time on Sunday night. There were still far too many turnovers, and much work to be done to pull this team together.
Ryan Smyth was the lone goal scorer for the Oilers in the first period and Matt Cullen for the Wild in the second. Both teams traded opportunities, but no one was able to find the back of the net. For the Oilers, a lot of that was due to the first star of the game Nikolai Khabibulin. As shocking as it may seem to read that, Khabibulin did his job quite well and kept his team in the game especially turning away 34 shots on goal.
There was another injury update for the Oilers however, but not a good one. Ales Hemsky left the Oilers bench before the conclusion of the first period, and did not return. Sportsnet’s crews looked for footage for a possible collision, or instance where Hemsky may have injured himself but to no avail. At this point, it sounds as though it is repetitive injury issues. Hemsky played with shoulder injuries for quite some time, and this may be residual pain, or the right winger may have developed something chronic.
The shootout wasn’t anything extraordinary, but the Oilers’ Eberle was the only scorer. Anton Lander, Taylor Hall and Shawn Horcoff were all denied by Nicklas Bäckström. For the Wild, Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi were the goal scorers while Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu were denied by Khabi.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins continues to struggle with one dimension of his game, faceoffs. The rookie centreman continues to make smart plays and display great vision, but went 1 for 8 on faceoffs while every other centreman did better than 50%. Shawn Horcoff won 59%, Eric Belanger 53% and Anton Lander 67%. Despite those poor stats, don’t look for Nugent-Hopkins to be sent to Red Deer anytime soon.
With Hemsky’s absence from the game, coach Tom Renney was forced to shuffle lines, and for a time Anton Lander and Ryan Jones found themselves on the first line. A move from the fourth to the first line for Lander was quite impressive, but Lander deserved it as well as a few more games.
With Ben Eager, Ryan Whitney and Sam Gagner listed now as day to day, but Ales Hesmky potentially added to the list of injured Oilers, Renney will have some options on who to send down and when. Lander could potentially be the player sent to Oklahoma City, but Linus Omark may be another possibility. Omark was benched for this game, after some poor decisions in Sunday night’s game, spurring more trade speculation.
Renney has said that he will use whatever coaching tools are at his disposal including sending players to the AHL, or making them sit in the pressbox. Omark is well loved in Sweden, and by many Oilers fans, but there are still some places where Omark needs to improve himself, namely his defencive play; Omark was not out of the lineup for missing on his shootout attempt.
There could very well still be a place for Omark with the Oilers in the coming years, but it will take some effort from this left winger and more game experience, something he will earn through smart play and a good attitude.
Following the game, Renney gave a short update on Hemsky’s injury; “He’s got a sore shoulder and a diagnosis will be taken care of in the morning. We certainly can’t comment on speculation. “ Certainly Renney can’t but, that’s where writers and fans come in. Thankfully, Renney elaborated a little. “This isn’t fatal. He’ll come back and he’ll play and things will be fine. It’s just one of those things. He’s not afraid of anything and when you put yourself in harm’s way as opposed to find yourself in harm’s way harm comes. And that happens to Hemmer but you have to love that he’s ready to compete and that’s huge for our veteran players to do that because they’re the first players to get called out if they don’t. And certainly we don’t have to worry about that with Hemmer. “
Of course we knew that Hemsky’s tender shoulder is not fatal, but with the next Oilers game being Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, the coaching staff will want to have a full bench and likely not want to risk having a player who many not play the entire game in the lineup. However, since I’ve said that, he’ll probably be just fine.
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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.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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