There is no denying that things haven’t been going quite as planned for the Oilers recently. It’s been a struggle over the past few weeks as the losses are starting to pile up. Following the team's 4-2 setback to the Phoenix Coyotes last night, the team is now in jeopardy of falling to fourth place in the Northwest division. The Calgary Flames have caught the Oilers with 31 points on the season, a far cry from the strong start that had the Oilers leading the division.
It is important in times such as this to look for some positives to hold on to. This is the age of parity in the NHL and the Oilers despite their recent play are only four points behind the eighth place San Jose Sharks for the final western conference playoff spot. They play those same Sharks this Saturday night with a chance to close that gap even further.
Another positive progression that is taking place for this team is that they are finally getting healthy again. The Oilers have battled their share of injuries this season. Players such as: Ryan Whitney
, Cam Barker
, Ales Hemsky
, Andy Sutton
and Sam Gagner
have all missed time with injuries at some point in the year.
|Potter's return should help the powerplay |
More recently the Oilers have seen the return of key players including Taylor Hall
, Ben Eager
and Corey Potter
. Eager returned to the lineup on December 7th and has since added a couple goals, his first two in an Oilers uniform. Eager adds an element of size and physicality to a lineup that can greatly benefit from it.
“It’s always great to score of course, said Eager, but I just try to do my job and help out where I can.”
Last night’s game against Phoenix marked the return to action of both Corey Potter
and Taylor Hall
. The injection of these two into the lineup brings a lot of depth and offensive skill to an Oilers team that can surely use both.
Potter was a pleasant surprise to start the season with eight points in 16 games. He was a big factor on the powerplay and gave the Oilers another key puck-moving defenceman. An ankle injury sidelined Potter for 12 games but his return to the lineup should help provide a boost to a team in need of just that.
“It feels good, it feels strong and I’m ready to get out there and help the team win,” said Potter.
The return of Taylor Hall
of course brings the bulk of the excitement. The young star has been out since Nov. 28 with a shoulder injury. The injury came at a terrible time for both Hall and the Oilers as he had been playing very well prior to the injury.
|Hall's 2 goals Thursday night show just how valuable he is. |
Hall brings a certain game-changing element to this team. His speed and goal scoring abilities are certainly something the Oilers have missed in the time he’s been out.
“I’m excited to get back out there, seven games for me felt like an eternity and I want to get out there and help the guys as much as I can,” said Hall.Taylor Hall
certainly showed Oilers fans just how valuable he is with his performance last night against the Coyotes. Hall scored the Oiler’s only two goals in his first game back and looked like he didn’t miss a step.
Hall now has 20 points in 23 games this season and will be instrumental in any chances the Edmonton Oilers have of making the playoffs this season. He rounds out a lineup full of young and talented players that are still learning to win on a nightly basis in the National Hockey League.
“It’s definitely a learning process, one that we hope is progressing every year,” said Tom Renney.
The wins may not be coming with much regularity lately but there are still some positives to keep in mind. With the exception of Cam Barker
, the Oilers are healthy and can start putting together the combinations they hope will start turning things around. Oilers fans haven’t really gotten to see exactly what this team looks like when all the pieces are in place, but things are finally getting close.
Author: Travis Knee | edmontonoilers.com