Secondary scorers showing up for Edmonton Oilers
David Perron among those not named Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who’s been contributing offensively
NEW YORK — Obviously, there are many components of success that are either regularly missing from the Edmonton Oilers’ collective game or only available in spurts.
One item on the long list is balanced scoring, not merely relying on the speed and skill of the Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Taylor Hall-Jordan Eberle trio to carry that payload. That means steadier production from the Sam Gagner-David Perron-Nail Yakupov line, for one.
On Monday night in Buffalo, the Oilers’ three goals came from defencemen Jeff Petry and Justin Schultz and third-line checker Matt Hendricks, as it happened.
But the Gagner line, particularly Perron, was central to the pretty goals by Petry, which opened the scoring 32 seconds into the game, and Schultz, who tied the game 2-2 with a ripper of a wrist shot at 16:45 of the second period.
Perron set up both Petry and Schultz, creating space in the middle then dishing the puck to the pinching defenceman, who finished.
Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins has been preaching going hard to the net all season and has reinforced it on this road trip, running practice drills to reinforce just that message.
On Monday night, he repeated the message, and it was heard if not necessarily adhered to completely in a game in which the Oilers took a cluster of penalties, turned the puck over and gave up odd-man rushes on their own power plays.
“I think he said it every intermission, every time he could, every TV timeout, whatever,” Perron said. “No turnovers, no penalties, middle-lane drive.
“Those are exactly the things that when we do that, we’re going to be successful. There are times when we have a three-on-two, four-on-three or whatever and everyone kind of falls out of the play.
“It’s the middle-lane drive that’s going to create the space. It’s obviously not the guy that’s sometimes going to get the goal, assist. But he’s the one that creates the whole play and that’s what we need.”
That guy was Perron on the Petry and Schultz goals, without a doubt.
Perron, 25, is a realist. He knows the playoffs are not an option for the Oilers this season, but he also knows he still needs to work to establish the foundation of a game that will eventually take him and his team there.
“We’ve got to start building the right way of playing so that next year, when we come back, we go right back in it (to the system) when the season starts,” said Perron, who scored his second career hat-trick against Vancouver last week, lifting him to an NHL career-high 22 goals this season.
Perron’s 41 points (19 assists) place him fourth in team scoring behind Hall (54 points), Eberle (45) and Nugent-Hopkins (42).
“It’s not oh, we just see how it goes in the first 10 games of the year,” Perron said.
“I felt like earlier in the year, there was too much, oh, it’s only five games, it’s only six games. Well, it’s too good of a league. You can’t just go two wins and eight losses in the first 10 games. Unless you go the rest of the year having a really good year.
“That can’t happen. We need to be ready to go right from the start next year. (We need) to set up our style right away, and I feel the last two, three games, that’s exactly how we need to play.”
What had Perron expected when he was shipped to the Oilers from the St. Louis Blues in exchange for winger Magnus Paajarvi and a second-round draft pick in the 2014 NHL draft? For the team; and for himself?
“For the team, it was to make the playoffs this year and, obviously, it’s not going to this year, looks like,” Perron said. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t reach all your goals in one year, you have to remember why you had them in mind and that you have to set up for the next year. It’s just like in life. You expect to have this job or this car or whatever at that age. You won’t always get it, but if you keep it in mind and you work for it, you’ll probably end up getting what you want.”
Perron has been part of this sort of process before, having been part of a young core in St. Louis that emerged to become a Cup contender. Does he see the parallel?
“Yes, there’s always stuff to improve with a young team like this,” Perron said. “They (the likes of Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Justin Schultz) got to be leaders pretty much the first and second years after they got here.
“There’s a lot to learn still, but at the same time, we’ve got to build on the little things. With the skill that’s in here, if we do it the right way, we’re going to get so many chances.”
The Oilers get their next chance to practise what Eakins preaches on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, when they play the Rangers. They finish off the four-game road trip on Friday night in Newark, N.J. when they play the Devils.
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