Can The Oilers Make A Run Before The All-Star Break?
I’m not exactly sure Oilers fans would be happy with a spirited third period two nights ago against a New Jersey Devils team that has struggled all season.
Despite being outplayed for 40 minutes Wednesday night, the Oilers came back to tie the Devils in the third period, ultimately falling in overtime. In looking for positives to take from the game, the Oilers gained a point, at least. They ended their four-game losing streak without a point, and Ales Hemsky lit the lamp with a power play goal, some encouraging signs for the Oilers if they can go on a run mid-season to get back into the playoff race. If they can’t stop penalties in overtime, like Corey Potter’s, they won’t be able to get back in the hunt. Sitting in last place in the Northwest Division with 36 points, they’re now 13 points out of the eighth seed in the Western Conference. In what seemed to be a good start to the season, the Oilers have fallen back to the same Oilers of the last few years. Underachieving, undercoached, and just underwhelming.
From all reports, practice Thursday morning was high-spirited and sets up for tonight’s game against the Ducks. The Ducks are pitiful as well, so it’s about time for the Oilers to get a convincing win here and get back on the winning track. It’s still early, mid-January, so the Oilers have plenty of time to get this ship right.
Injuries have plagued the Oilers for what seems like years. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins showed some encouraging signs, as he skated with Alex Plante on the ice to continue both players’ rehab. Nugent-Hopkins was elected to participate in the All-Star Weekend in Ottawa in February, but it’s uncertain if he will be able to do so.
"I think it would it would be awesome," Nugent-Hopkins added. "I didn't really know what to expect coming into the season, but it's a big honour for me."
Coach Tom Renney would obviously love to see his rookie star participating in the All-Star festivities because it’s a great accomplishment for a rookie to be selected to do so.
"Provided he's able to," Renney said, noting his rookie's recovery timeline. "Health is No. 1 for him, too, obviously. I've had the opportunity to watch a number of young guys go to that whole experience (NHL All-Star Weekend) and it's really good. It's wonderful to be recognized and to be part of those things. It's really good to rub shoulders with other great young players within your peer group."
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins hasn't played since the team's last win, a 4-3 win against the stacked Chicago Blackhawks. The talent on this team is there. It’s just a matter of being able to put together solid 60-minute efforts every night.