EDMONTON - LOS ANGELES — Ryan Whitney could not have scripted a season as strange as this one.
The Edmonton Oilers defenceman is having one of the strongest campaigns of his career, yet it took a scoring change and some hard lobbying from the team’s public relation department to finally collect his first goal of the year.
“It’s a little bit of a relief to finally get one,” said Whitney. “It’s unfortunate it came in a losing effort.
“It was one of those shots that had eyes and was able to get through. But at this point, I would have taken anything.”
Whitney had not scored since April 11.
Former Winnipeg Jets defenceman Teppo Numminen holds the record for most assists (32) without a goal to start the season.
The goal gave him 25 points on the season, putting him on pace to break his career high of 59 set as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007. Whitney scored a career-high 14 goals that season.
“That’s a lot of hockey without him scoring,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “It begs the question as to why he doesn’t shoot the puck more?
“There isn’t anybody on our team that has the puck on his stick more than he has. It’s not that he doesn’t get a lot touches in the offensive zone, but I think he’s a very unselfish player that can deliver a lot more pucks to the net.”
Whitney snapped a 31-game goalless drought with his marker in the Oilers 2-1 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.
The goal was originally credited to Whitney, who fired a shot from the point that made its way past a screened Antero Niittymaki in the Sharks net.
However, before the game was over, the goal was credited to Dustin Penner who had set up shop in front of the net.
The official scorekeepers claimed the puck had gone in off Penner’s stick.
Then, the next day, after some lobbying from the Oilers PR staff, the goal was given back to Whitney.
“I think everybody was happy for him except for me,” deadpanned Penner.
“I didn’t celebrate after the goal, but apparently there were four different angles that showed the puck touched me.”
Last year between Edmonton and Anaheim, the Boston native scored seven goals and added 32 assists.
Acquired in a trade from the Anaheim Ducks for Lubomir Visnovsky last season, Whitney has excelled on the Oilers’ blue-line this year.
As well as leading the team in scoring Whitney currently has a team-high, plus-13 rating.
“He was really upset when they took the goal away from him after the game. I don’t know, I thought hockey was supposed to be a team game,” smiled Oilers defenceman Ladislav Smid, who’s gone over 50 games without a goal. “But I’m happy that they eventually gave it to him.”