Oilers surviving injuries

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:34 PM ET

In past seasons, when Edmonton lost a key ingredient or two for any length of time, the team would be in smoking ruins before the returning veteran even had a chance to save the day.

The Oilers ship would have already hit the iceberg and there was nothing a rehabilitated Shawn Horcoff or Ales Hemsky could do but watch the water rise.

“I’ve been in that situation a lot in the past few years and it’s not a good situation to be in,” said Horcoff, who hopes it won’t be neck-deep again when he returns from a knee injury in about five weeks. “You want to play meaningful games, absolutely. The guys are doing a good job, they just have to find that next level to try and get some points.”

The Oilers are an infinitely different team now than they were in previous seasons, when losing a forward or two left them powerless to fight back. They’ve played straight-up hockey on the road against three solid teams, which is reason for all kinds of optimism, but they’ve also lost five of the last six with a long, tough road trip looming on the horizon.

Those meaningful games they’re hoping to play in March are still at risk.

“They’re playing good but we have to get some wins,” said Horcoff, who was on the ice for a few minutes in skates and a track suit Monday, more to keep his hands sharp than to test the knee. “They’re in every game and they’ve had opportunities and chances to win all of them. They’re going through a tough stretch where they’re playing some tough teams in some tough buildings, but it’s a results-driven business and we have to get some wins, We’re still a ways out of the playoffs, and we’re close to last.

“But we’re not so far that we don’t have a chance. If we can put a string together, who knows? There’s still plenty of hockey left and plenty of points out there. I think everybody in here knows that we do have the type of talent in here that if we get on a bit of a roll we can get right back in it.”

There should be a bit of a boost Tuesday night when Hemsky makes his return after missing 10 games with a groin injury. The Oilers, who were 4-4-2 in his absence (2-4-1 when Hemsky and Horcoff were both out), hope he’s enough to tip the scale back in their favour.

“Missing him hurts your offensive production,” said Andrew Cogliano, who’s slated to centre a line with Hemsky and Dustin Penner. “He’s a big part of our team. With him out we did a good job of competing and playing a good team game. We really feel the last three games we could have won, and those were pretty good teams. He’ll give us the offensive punch that we need.

“It’s a good confidence boost for us. I remember in the past that when he comes back from injury he comes back on a mission. Hopefully he can do that this time.”

With Edmonton last in the West, it’s still not a great situation, but this is no sinking ship that Hemsky’s returning to.

“I think they’re doing a great job, playing exciting hockey,” said Hemsky. “They lost some games, but tight games, we didn’t lose those games like before, 6-0, 7-0. We are in the game every game. The guys are battling really hard and Khabby is playing great. It’s really exciting.

“Everybody said we had a lot of young, up-and-coming talent and they showed it in the first half of the season. It’s great to be part of it.”

Follow me at Twitter.com/TYCHKOWSKI

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca


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