Oilers players and coaches voiced words of empathy and encouragement on Thursday for Adam Larsson, who'll miss six-to-eight weeks with a broken right fibula
EDMONTON, AB - After a deafening start to their 2019-20 NHL season on Wednesday, it was a muted morning for the Oilers at today's optional skate.
The excitement from last night's Home Opener was dampened by the emerging news of defenceman Adam Larsson expecting to miss the next six-to-eight weeks with a fractured right fibula and being placed on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) after taking a shot to the foot in the first period of their 3-2 come-from-behind victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
The injury is a big blow for the Oilers defensive corps, with the 26-year-old Swede coming off a formative summer and a strong IIHF World Championship campaign with the goal of rectifying what he admitted was a down season in '18-19.
"For any player, the first game of the year is tough," Oilers Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "But Adam was looking for a bounce-back year, he was good in Camp, and he was in great spirits. It's disappointing to see, but he'll get better quick hopefully and jump right back in."
Speaking from experience, Oscar Klefbom knows his former defensive partner and fellow countryman's plight after being forced to miss 20 games and two months in similar fashion last season after blocking a shot and suffering a broken finger against the Colorado Avalanche in December of 2018.
"It's obviously really tough. I know how it is missing a lot of games, especially in important times," Klefbom said. "Obviously, we've been talking about having a good start to this season and we did. We played a solid game. But we're going to miss him for sure. I have a lot of confidence in the D-core overall, so we're going to figure it out. He's a very important player for us."
Larsson showed no hesitation stepping in front of goaltender Mike Smith to block a point shot from Canucks rookie Quinn Hughes with his club pinned down in the defensive zone in the final minutes of Wednesday's opening frame before finishing the night with 22:19 of ice time and three more blocked shots.
"The guy is a workhorse just from the short time I've been here," Smith, who posted 31 saves on 33 shots in his Oilers debut last night, said of his defenceman.
"He's talked about as being that warrior on your team that guys look up to. He's out there last night, not at 100 percent, and still battling for his team. When one of your big guns go down, especially on defence, it's kind of a blow to our team but I'm sure guys will get an opportunity to fill in and make up for his absence."
Oilers General Manager and President of Hockey Operations Ken Holland immediately took steps to fill the gap in the club's top six left by Larsson, assigning defenceman Ethan Bear to Bakersfield and recalling defenceman Evan Bouchard as a safety valve with defenceman Joel Persson still questionable for Saturday's tilt against the Los Angeles Kings after only recently being cleared for practice and contact.
"Injuries happen to everyone," Tippett said. "We went into the season with Sheahan out, and everyone's going to have injuries. You just have to deal with them, and we talk about it all the time - injuries aren't an excuse for not winning. Somebody else has got to take that spot and get the job done, so we want to be a good team all the way through.
"Every game is different from a coaching standpoint. You go through ship-by-ship and try to manoeuvre your way around and find a way to win. That's what we'll continue to do."