Edmonton Oilers need points — and soon — on homestand before nine-game NHL road trip
Blue and Orange could use some sort of prescription to sort out offensive ills and try to chalk up more wins
EDMONTON - When do the Edmonton Oilers get the Chicago Blackhawks on their playlist?
February 25 at the Madhouse on Madison. Not soon enough.
The ’Hawks have been the one NHL team the offensively challenged Oilers have had no trouble scoring against. Last season, they scored 24 goals against them in four games. Sam Gagner had his eight-point night here against Chicago on Feb. 2, 2012. Jordan Eberle collected 12 points against them in the four games they faced off in 2011-12, Taylor Hall 10, Gagner nine. Corey Crawford gave up 14 goals on 88 shots in the ’Hawks net.
“I know the Oilers did a number on them last year, but right now, does anybody really want to play Chicago, the way they’re going?” said one NHL pro scout, assessing the Blackhawks’ 10-0-3 record.
Hey, the Oilers need some prescription for their offensive ails — they’ve scored 12 even-strength goals, 14 on the power play and two short-handed. Two goals were empty netters through the 13 games.
What the Oilers need is the Blackhawks on their five-game homestand, where they have to win at least three of the next four (Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix) at Rexall Place to have some breathing room before their torture-test nine-game road trip over 17 days that starts in Chicago and ends in Denver on March 12. The stops: Chicago, Dallas, St. Louis, Minnesota, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, Chicago again, then Colorado. The trip includes two back-to-backs. Dallas and St. Louis, and Detroit and Nashville.
The only Oilers win in the last seven games was in Columbus on Sunday. They managed five points out of the possible 14 and scored 12 goals in that stretch. On the season, Gagner and Hall have three goals that weren’t scored on power plays, Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov two each, Jordan Eberle and Lennart Petrell one. There hasn’t been one multiple-goal game by anybody. Never mind a hat-trick, a two-goal game.
Not one Oilers defenceman other than Justin Schultz (four on the PP) has scored.
It’s not as though Hall and Eberle are keeping their guns holstered — Hall has 49 shots, Eberle 41. That’s 90 shots and only six goals to show for them.
Hall can’t work any harder, but almost nothing is going in — he’s got a shooting percentage of 6.1 per cent. Eberle hasn’t scored in eight games and has a 7.3 shooting percentage. With Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, their line had 18 shots that hit the net, and another six that were either wide or blocked. They were a threat all night long, but Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen slammed the door after allowing Hall’s shot off his glove in the first period.
“The goals are going to come. We’re not worried,” Eberle said. “Last year, it was exactly the same thing with Hallsy and myself, and once we started scoring, they came in bunches.
“The fact we’re still in the hunt for a playoff spot and we’re not scoring is amazing. Team defence is laid down first, and I think we have that.”
Fact is, the Oilers played an industrious game against the Stars, but Dallas beats them like a rented mule either at Rexall Place or in Texas.
They’ve played hard on about 10 of their 13 games and sport a 5-5-3 record. They’re treading water, but they can go under pretty quickly unless they get at least six of the next eight points at home. They’ve only won two of their six here — against Colorado 4-1 and Los Angeles 2-1 — and they’ve lost in overtime to Vancouver and Dallas.
“We played well against Dallas but at the end of the day,” said Eberle, “it demands points in the standings. We have to focus on this homestand. You don’t want to look at the big picture but we have to. We need points because we’re going on that long road trip.”
Oilers coach Ralph Krueger prefers to deal in smaller time frames with his players.
“We’re trying to keep the picture small, going in three-game segments, trying to win best-of-threes, and not look beyond that,” Krueger said. “But it’s very important after this loss to look at the next four games at home. We need points. We have to start winning.”
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