Winning end to Edmonton Oilers trip ‘significant’
Victorious final two of six-game NHL roadie ‘ended up being the best’ tilts despite rash of injuries
EDMONTON - The precipice was looming as the Edmonton Oilers stumbled through the early portion of their six-game road trip. They were in desperate need of better goaltending, more cohesive play. More of everything.
So returning to Edmonton with back-to-back wins was certainly something they could hang their helmets on given it was starting to look like the club was not going to find a team they would be capable of conquering.
“During the middle of the trip, things were not looking good. It kind of felt like the world was coming to an end,” said goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who didn’t start two of the games because of his struggles.
In his three starts since, however, he has pushed his goals-against average from 5.43 to 4.01 and was on the job for the 3-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators as well as Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens.
“It would have been nice to come out (of the trip) with maybe seven points, but to be able to finish like that was significant,” Dubnyk said. “When you pull out a couple of wins like that, it just puts you in a much better spot. There are a lot of games to play here.”
There’s also a lot of ground to make up. The Oilers are 3-6-1 with a home game on Thursday against the Washington Capitals followed by weekend road games against the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings.
“We would have liked to have had a better start to the trip, but we responded well the last couple of games, which is nice to see,” forward David Perron said, “Dubnyk has played really well the last few games, too, which is good.”
The Capitals were waiting in Edmonton for the Oilers, who would have touched down well past two in the morning. Head coach Dallas Eakins said he had to give the players Wednesday off on the heels of the 11-day trip, which is the longest on this season’s calendar.
He also understands now that the teams out west do have to contend with some travel challenges. There were times when he was working for the Toronto Maple Leafs that he’d hear the grumbling and just roll his eyes.
“You’d see the teams out west always whining about the schedule, and I’d think, ‘Shut up. Just play’,” Eakins said. “But it’s tough. Now we’re going to play one game, then go to the other coast for a couple.”
Only six of the Oilers’ first 19 games this season are on home ice, so there’s no shortage of travel in the early going. Factor in the injuries that have hit the lineup and the trip could have easily been a winless excursion.
Taylor Hall is out for a month after leaving the game against the Senators with a sprained left knee, Ryan Smyth left the same game with a groin injury, and Jesse Joensuu flew home after the game in Washington with a back injury.
“You have your fingers crossed, and you’re hopeful it’s going to bring your team together if you can get some wins,” Eakins said. “Obviously, it didn’t start very good, but I’m encouraged that it ended well — right when we would be at our lowest point physically with all the wear and tear.
“And with all the injuries that have come up, you’d think that our last two games would have been the worst. They ended up being the best.”
Oilers appoint new vice-president of communications
Tim Shipton has joined the oilers as the team’s new vice-president of communications, replacing Steve Hogle, who left the NHL club in September to become president of the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades.
Shipton comes to the Oilers from the Alberta Enterprise Group, where he had been president since 2007. He will oversee the team’s in-house media production.
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