SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' blue-line thins out

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

LOS ANGELES -- And then there were five.

It's not time to panic just yet, but one more injury and you can feel free to freak out.

Having just lost two of their best puck-moving defencemen in a span of nine days, the once-flush Edmonton Oilers have suddenly become wafer-thin on defence.

Lubomir Visnovsky is done for the season and Denis Grebeshkov is out at least two weeks - and possibly a lot longer - with a high ankle sprain after being slew-footed into the end boards by Montreal's Tomas Plekanec. The foul netted Plekanec a two-game suspension yesterday, which helps Montreal's next two opponents - Colorado and Vancouver - more than it helps the Oilers, who are down to just five NHL D-men on the roster.

They'll call up Theo Peckham for their four-game road trip and cross their fingers nobody else gets hurt.

"All you can do is go out there and keep playing," said D-man Tom Gilbert. "You're not going to go out there and try not to get injured, that's when you're probably more vulnerable to getting hurt. As for the added minutes, it's just playing smarter, having shorter shifts."

It's no secret that Edmonton's defence helps carry the offence (four of the Oilers' top-seven point-getters are defencemen), but with Visnovsky and Grebeshkov out, replaced by Peckham and Jason Strudwick, the blue-line just got a lot more blue collar.

"We're going to miss Lubo, we're going to miss Grebber," said Ladislav Smid.

They soldiered on OK against the Canadiens in a 7-2 win Wednesday, employing a conservative style Sheldon Souray says they'll have to get used to.

"We weren't trying to make all-world plays," he said. "Just make simple plays and it's effective. We can play an effective game just getting it up to the forwards. We were just shooting pucks on the net and sometimes it's ugly but it's effective. Guys are going to have to eat more minutes up and play more consistent.

"And don't get hurt."


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