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The Progress Report: Exciting Times

by Travis Knee / Edmonton Oilers
What a difference a couple of weeks can make. A look at the Oilers in mid January revealed a team on the ropes, ravaged with injuries and piling up loses at a rate that no NHL team would care to see. It was a depressing time in Oil Country with fans at Rexall Place certainly feeling the effects of the difficult stretch.

Fast forward to last night’s historic performance and the roof was all but off Rexall Place. The energy in the building was infectious, the action on the ice fast-paced and exciting to watch. It was a testament to the talent and results this team is truly capable of when playing at their best.

The Oilers have been playing good hockey going back to the week heading into the All-Star break. With three wins in their last four games, and having taken seven of a possible eight points, the life is certainly back in the locker room, on the ice and in the stands.

“We’ve been playing good hockey, putting in the work and getting big contributions from a number of guys,” said head coach Tom Renney.
The Oilers are finally healthy and ready to start racking up some points.

There are all of a sudden a number of positives to hang your hat on if you follow the Oilers. First off, the team’s health is definitely something to get excited about moving into the final 30 games of the season.

The Oilers welcomed back Cam Barker who scored a goal in his return to the lineup last night. With Tom Gilbert and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also very close to joining the party, the Oilers will have their full roster in place, giving Tom Renney more options to play with.

“As we continue to get healthy we just have more weapons to use, guys like Whitney and Barker moving the puck up the ice makes a big difference,” explained Renney.

Also not to be lost in the recent excitement is the play of Devan Dubnyk. A fourth straight start in net last night produced a 43 save performance by Dubnyk for the win. The young netminder has been rock solid during this stretch and should be given credit for getting these ‘winning ways’ started with the 44 save effort he put in on January 23 to beat San Jose 2-1. Since that game the Oilers seemed to have regained the confidence that saw them start the season so strong.

“I’m seeing the puck well and the guys are really playing well in front of me, it’s fun when you get rewarded with some wins,” said Dubnyk.

With a GAA of 2.88 and a .911 SV% on the season, Dubnyk is starting to post ‘starting goalie’ type numbers. The ability for Dubnyk to be counted on in consecutive games like this will go a long way in helping to build the future of this hockey club.
Gagner's historic night sends fans at Rexall Place into a frenzy.

As is the case in any season, it’s always great to have those games that just seem to define everything that the team has been working so hard to achieve, last night was certainly that game.

Sam Gagner’s record tying eight-point night coupled with Hall and Eberle’s four-point efforts and Dubnyk’s 43 saves gave a clear display of the very bright future this young team has in front of it.

With the trade deadline in the NHL fast approaching, there may well be some significant changes to the Oilers lineup on the way. Some veteran players may move on to other teams to help further the youth movement that will surely define the turnaround of this proud franchise. Until that time though, it is always fun to sit back and enjoy the product as it is right now, exciting!
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