- Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images
In opening game of Hockey Day in Canada, the Edmonton Oilers defeated the Ottawa Senators 4-3 in overtime. Taylor Hall scored the winner tapping a backhanded shot past Craig Anderson. The shots were very close in this game, 42 for Ottawa and 40 for Edmonton. Chipping in for the Oilers were Shawn Horcoff, Magnus Paajarvi and Ben Eager. Horcoff had 3 points tonight, including an assist on the game winner by Hall. Chris Phillips also celebrated his 1,000th game before the start of today’s game (today being his 1,001st game).
Trying to Showcase Trade Bait?
For most of the first two periods Tom Renney had the top line of the Oilers sitting on the bench, and many were wondering why. It’s possible that he was trying to showcase some of the Oilers players that could be on the Trade Block as the deadline draws closer. This included players such as Nikolai Khabibulin, who had a pretty spectacular performance stopping 39 of 42 shots, matched by an almost as spectacular showing by the Senators Anderson. Also getting an increase in play time were players like Horcoff, and Hemsky. In fact in the first period the only player that had less ice time than the top line was Eager. In the end it worked out for the Oilers and may have achieved the goal of highlighting some of the available talent that they have.
Sutton in, Barker out
After a couple of games out Andy Sutton drew back into the Oilers lineup today in Ottawa, with Cam Barker being the odd man out after a couple of rough showings the last couple of games. This again could be attributed at least partly to showcase Sutton for potential playoff teams looking to add size to the blue line. Tonight also marked the first goal of the season for one Magnus Paajarvi, who tapped in a rebound off a great play by Ales Hemsky who had a pretty good game (minus the awful giveaway in the Senators zone at the blue line). Paajarvi looked to the sky in relief right after scoring the goal as if to say “finally got one”, and had a very strong game the rest of the day including ringing one off the crossbar. The pairing of Paajarvi with Hemsky seems like it could be one that pays off for the Oilers if the way they played today is any indication, though I would prefer the Oilers have a different center for that line (and hopefully will when Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is healthy again).
The Oilers have a couple of days off as their next game is not until Wednesday when they return home for a rematch against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That game is the absolute earliest the Oilers could expect Nugent-Hopkins back, though they will likely keep him out longer in hopes that he can be fully healed before making his return. Personally I think they should shelf him for the rest of the season, or at least most of the season, let him heal and bulk up a little. The Oilers did a similar thing with Taylor Hall last season, though admittedly that was closer to the end of the season than it is with Nugent-Hopkins. Now looking towards the deadline there are a couple of players the Oilers could move, though it partially depends on what the Oilers decide to do with players like Lander and Petrell. Hordichuck has been used sparingly at best this season, Horcoff and Belanger aren’t producing as expected neither is Hemsky (though he can be partially attributed to his injuries). Rumors have mentioned Sam Gagner too but with his performance the last 5 games or so, I am discounting those as simply rumors. Not that I put a lot of stock in them even before his eight point game. Khabibulin could also be on the trade block as the aging net minder only has a few seasons at best left in him. Either way Steve Tambellini is likely to be one of the busier GM’s up to and on the Trade Deadline.
1. Nikolai Khabibulin – EDM
2. Milan Michalek – OTT
3. Taylor Hall – EDM