SUN Hockey Pool

Eberle leads by default

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:43 AM ET

DETROIT — He’s leading by default.

And even though those ahead of him have been knocked out of the lineup at the 42-point mark, Jordan Eberle is not concerned as he inches towards that target.

“I’ve already been injured, so I don’t have to worry about that,” Eberle said prior to Friday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings. “Hopefully I’ve been through my injury so I don’t have to go through it again.”

With 36 points in 55 games this season, Eberle went into the contest against the Wings as the Edmonton Oilers’ active leading scorer.

The three players above him in the team-scoring race are no longer in the lineup, having all suffered season-ending injuries. The latest coming to Sam Gagner, who was inadvertently cut on the hand by the skate blade of teammate Ryan Jones, who was hopping over the bench in a game against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

“It’s unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s part of the game,” Eberle said. “When you’re playing 82 games, someone is bound to get hurt. It’s a physical game, it’s fast and sometimes you’re going to get hurt.

“Sam’s was a freak accident and something I had never seen happen before. It really sucks.”

Prior to Gagner’s injury, the Oilers had lost the services of Ales Hemsky to a shoulder injury and Taylor Hall to a high ankle sprain.

The Oilers also traded away Dustin Penner to the Los Angeles Kings, who coincidently also had 42 points on the season going into his game Friday againt the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Obviously we’ve lost some pretty important guys that have a key role on our team,” said Eberle. “Obviously, for us, it’s a challenge and it’s one we’re looking forward to.

“If you look at the team right now, there is a lot of opportunity to give other teams a scare. We’re excited for the challenge and we’re approaching it day by day.”

The Oilers’ first-round pick — 22 overall — in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Eberle, 20, has had his own share of setbacks this season.

He suffered an ankle injury early in the new year, then had to have an emergency appendectomy while out of the lineup.

Eberle missed 13 games in his month of absence. Heading in against the Red Wings, he had six goals and seven assists in 18 games since his return.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge ahead of us,” Eberle said. “We understand that the only people that can change the way things are going are in this locker-room.”

For the most part, Eberle has been impressive in his rookie season.

However, he too has experienced his share of adversity and has struggled at times.

“I think that this is a young guy that has to learn what the length and width of the NHL season looks like. There is a lot of it,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

“The width of it is the size, strength and competence of the people you play against and the length of it is 82 games. Add the practice and the travel, that’s just the assimilation of being a pro player. There is a lot to figure out there.

“He had a little bit of a tough go, but let us not forget Magnus Paajarvi had four or five weeks where he was trying to figure it out. So this is not unusual. What makes it more difficult for Jordan, is that we’re down man power and things have fallen more on his shoulders.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


Videos

Photos