Oil Kings holding on

CRASH CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

"D" could have spelled disaster. Or stand for decimated.

Injuries have, uh, depleted, the Edmonton Oil Kings back end as they've made a playoff run down the stretch in the WHL east.

The top duo of Adrian Van de Mosselar (broken leg, out for the season) and Mark Pysyk (concussion) went down as the Oil Kings hit a stretch of mostly road games.

SHOT IN THE FACE

Then Jesse Pearson was lost for the season during an ugly incident last Saturday in Moose Jaw when a third-period shot shot struck the rookie in the face.

But the defence hasn't wilted with the extra ice time and added pressure.

"They are getting valuable minutes," said head coach Steve Pleau of his D-men. "Guys like (Keiran) Friesen and (Henrik) Tervonen," Pleau said of two rookies gaining experience under fire. "Even a veteran like (Drew) Nichol, it's been great for him."

You always hope for players to step up in situations like this.

"One of the most improved guys is Tyler Hlookoff. I thought he, along with (Brandon) Lockerby, was probably our best D last week," said Pleau. "That's great to see in an 18-year-old that was a healthy scratch for a few games in a row there. He kept himself in it and had the opportunity to jump back in, and he's played very well."

The Kings got three points out of a doubleheader visit to Prince George two weekends ago, and came home from Swift Current (Friday) and Moose Jaw (Saturday) with two points after a pair of overtime losses.

They have been getting some consistent scoring up front, a problem during some stretches this season.

"I think we've got a solid three lines at this point," said Pleau, who doesn't do a lot of mix-and-matching.

Often, it's a third man he'll match up with a pair. This is where the injuries have hurt. Clayton Cumiskey is an energy guy Pleau will move from line to line.

"We've had Cumiskey on defence because of the injuries, but hopefully, if Mark (Pysyk) plays (tonight), that allows us to move (Cumiskey) back up front."

ON THE WING

Cumiskey had been on the wing with top scorers Brenden Dowd and Tomas Vincour.

"And that line's been good," said Pleau. "And I like Michael Burns's game quite a bit the last few games. So he's been playing with (Brent) Raedeke and (Jeff) Lee.

Now it's the home rematch with Swift Current. No chance the already-in Broncos will be cruising.

"They're battling with Medicine Hat, they're battling for home ice (in the playoffs)," Pleau said. "They've got a lot to play for."

DAVID.CAMERON@SUNMEDIA.CA


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