EDMONTON - Taylor Hall figured it was only a matter of time before the Edmonton Oilers had an offensive outburst.
As it turns out the Oilers winger was on to something, as his club poured in five goals in the first period Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
“We’re talking about the right things, we think we’re doing the right things in practice and eventually it’s just going to come,” Hall said prior to the game. “Our goalies have been great, they’ve bailed us out at key times and it’s time for us forwards to do our part and chip in.
“Hopefully in the next five or six games we can really have a good offensive outburst and set the tone for the rest of the season.”
Hall had gone into the game on a nine-game scoring slump. However that was snapped when he buried a rebound after Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford kicked a Ryan Nugent-Hopkins shot right to him at the side of the net.
It was the Oilers fourth goal of the period as Ales Hemsky, Ryan Jones and Ryan Smyth had scored earlier to chase Blackhawks starting goaltender Ray Emery from the net.
Jordan Eberle added a fifth for the Oilers in the frame.
MAN AT WORK
Tom Gilbert has already logged more minutes per game this season than he has in his entire career.
But with three regular blue-liners out of the lineup, the workload isn’t getting any lighter for the Oilers defenceman.
“Thursday night was the most minutes I’ve played all season but (Saturday) I feel good, your body gets used to it,” said Gilbert. “It’s good, if you make a mistake you’re going right back out there again and you get a chance to make up for it, do something better than you did in your last shift, that’s the advantage of playing a lot of minutes.”
Heading into the season there were high expectations on Gilbert. But with Ryan Whitney not ready to play at the start of the season, then going down four games into his return, the Oilers have relied more heavily on Gilbert than first expected.
“I think he’s handled it well,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I think the last little while it’s kind of tapered off for him as has our game, we’re spending too much time in our own end and not attacking enough. We’re not playing as much as we’d like to in the other team’s zone, forcing them to defend. I think the more we can do that, the better it is for all of our defencemen, not just Tommy.
“But I can appreciate his role and the importance that it increases now.”
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Tom Renney wasn’t about to let goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin dwell on a bad outing.
So despite giving up three goals on seven shots in a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday, the Oilers went back with the veteran Saturday against the Blackhawks.
“He’s been great for us and he had a tough night the other night,” said Renney. “(Devan) Dubnyk’s ready to go, there’s no question of that, he’ll certainly get his opportunities, but we’re going with Nik.
“We want to keep him going. He’s been great, so we just want to keep him going.”
Unlike most of his starts this season, Khabibulin got plenty of support Saturday as the Oilers pumped in five in the first period alone against the Blackhawks.
The Oilers lost a pair of defenceman in Thursday’s loss to the Senators, but for a while, it appeared as though Jeff Petry may also have picked up a serious injury.
Petry was hit in the hand by a shot in the third period and headed to the bench holding his left hand. At first glance the injury appeared to be worse than it actually was as Petry was back in the lineup Saturday.
“It hit me right on the palm pretty much,” Petry said. “It was pretty stiff after the game, it’s a lot better now and the swelling has gone down.”
Petry didn’t have any difficulties handling or shooting the puck two days after being hit.
“At the time, it hit the wrong spot and it went numb, I couldn’t squeeze my hand,” he said. “It hit right where the thumb connects. I’ve got hit there before, but it was never to the point where I couldn’t squeeze my stick.
“It was just for a moment that I couldn’t really do anything. It was not fun trying to battle the puck out of the zone.”