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Injuries on blue line ruin Oilers' chances

by Corey Masisak /
What happened?


RW Jordan Eberle
GOALS: 34 | ASST: 42 | PTS: 76
SOG: 180 | +/-: 4
G Devan Dubnyk
RECORD: 20-20-3
GAA: 2.67 | SVP: 0.914
C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
GOALS: 18 | ASST: 34 | PTS: 52
SOG: 134 | +/-: -2
Jordan Eberle
Oilers are third in the League on the power play at 20.6 percent.
Expectations were not high this season as the Oilers continued to rebuild, but injuries -- especially on the blue line -- hurt a young team's chances of succeeding. The defense corps was a question mark heading into the season, and having guys like Ryan Whitney, Andy Sutton and Tom Gilbert all miss significant time did not help the situation. The trio of Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall was a great story, but fellow high pick Magnus Paajarvi didn't take a similar step forward and an off year from Ales Hemsky limited the team's secondary scoring behind the phenoms.

How to fix it?

The Oilers will continue to preach patience, and there are several intriguing defense prospects who could reach the NHL level at some point next season. Edmonton has a few key free agents to sign -- UFA Ryan Smyth wants to return for another year, while RFAs Sam Gagner, Jeff Petry and Dubnyk will be priorities -- but that could leave enough cap space to add another quality defenseman either through free agency or in a trade.

Three reasons for hope:

1. Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins and Hall could be the best line in hockey very soon, and all three could develop into perennial All-Star level players.

2. Those guys were all expected to be great, so maybe the bigger story for the Oilers is the emergence of Petry. He leads the Oilers in average ice time, and has gotten even better as the season has progressed.

3. There is help for Petry coming -- 2011 first-round pick Oscar Klefbom is one of the top defense prospects in the sport and Martin Marincin isn't too shabby, either. Edmonton will also have a lottery pick in a draft flush with elite defense prospects, and someone like Ryan Murray might be skating next to Petry in the near future.

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