Hordichuk effective for Oilers

Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sores on Wild goaltender Josh Harding during a scrum in front of...

Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sores on Wild goaltender Josh Harding during a scrum in front of the Minnesota net Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. (Reuters)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:38 PM ET

Darcy Hordichuk had his guy.

The Edmonton winger, playing the 500th game of his NHL career, laid the groundwork for the Oilers’ landmark victory in Minnesota Friday with two momentum-changing first-period shifts.

Hordichuk had Minnesota’s Brad Staubitz in the palm of his hand, and in the penalty box for eight long minutes, by goading him into back-to-back double-minors.

“I think he was a little frustrated that he might have to square off in his own building and get embarrassed,” said Hordichuk, who changed the tone of the period, if not the game. “That’s what our line is looked upon to do. We just want to get in there and bang bodies. Sometimes you need that fourth line that can change it somehow.”

Hordichuk drilled Staubitz six minutes in, sending him face first into Theo Peckham’s helmet, and then caught him again later in the shift. Staubitz lost it, taking two for interference and two more for dropping the gloves and trying to get a shot in.

“I told him I’m at the end of my shift here, if you want to square off at the start of next shift,” said Hordichuk. “He said we’re going right now. One thing I’ve learned is you never fight when you’re tired.”

Fast forward seven minutes.

“After he took the four minutes I called him out and said OK, let’s square off. I wanted to let him know if he wanted to square off here’s his chance, and there was no response.

“But as soon as we bumped later in the shift I got a crosscheck in the face and he started punching me. I was shocked. I thought he didn’t want to go. We had a chance in the middle of the ice when we were both fresh.”

Edmonton scored on that four-minute power play to go up 2-0

Staubitz admits he didn’t handle things all that well.

“The first one he took a dive, but after that I was undisciplined I got selfish there, let the emotions get the best of me and put my team in a bad spot,” Staubitz said afterward. “I can’t be doing that.”

So far so good

Defenceman Ryan Whitney made it to the finish line in his first game back after missing five weeks with a knee injury.

He’s wondering who turned the speed up on the NHL.

“I didn’t feel very good, but I’m sure I’ll feel better in Friday’s game,” said Whitney, playing just his fifth game in the last 10 months. “It’s tough when guys are in mid-season swing. I had one practice with hitting. Things were just coming quick. I made a couple of rushed plays that I usually wouldn’t make. I have to be better, but it’ll come.”

Head coach Tom Renney, as much as he needs a guy like Whitney playing Whitney-like minutes, isn’t going to rush this.

“We all have to keep this thing in perspective,” he said. “He’s not going to play 24 minutes. He’s going to have to be patient with how he’s deployed. But we’re getting a pretty darn good hockey player in our lineup. It certainly helps fortify your look.”

Road warriors

The old Kids Aren’t Scoring On The Road angle dried up in a hurry. The trio of Taylor Hall (4), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (5) and Jordan Eberle (6) have 15 points in the first three games of this trip.

“It’s good to get that road game going,” said Hall. “And splitting up our line has kind of benefited the team. As far as that talk (ineffective on the road), it’s good to get some confidence and maybe shut people up a little bit.”

Right back at it

The Oilers play in Denver Saturday evening, their second back-to-back game on this trip. They’ve played back to back four times this season and are a relatively decent 2-2, beating Nashville and Colorado and losing to Detroit. “We need to strike early,” said Renney. “And stick with the game plan.”

“It’s funny,” added Hall. “But sometimes you actually feel better in the second game.”

Plante re-potted

The Oilers sent defenceman Alex Plante to Oklahoma City after his brief call-up. With Edmonton’s defence struggling to stay healthy, the calls to Oklahoma have been fast and furious. The Oilers have already dressed 11 different blueliners in 22 games this year, raiding the poor Barons for all the help they can get.

“We’ve been playing musical chairs with D partners there, especially with what’s going on up here,” said Plante.

Yet the Barons are 12-5 and contending for their division lead.

“As a team, not just defence, we’re playing pretty tight defensively, everybody is buying in to working hard. Everything is just kind of rolling down there.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


Videos

Photos