January 18, 2012
Oilers resemble Star Trek red shirts
By ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
ST. LOUIS - The Edmonton Oilers had nice dinner on Wednesday evening. There were no injuries.
For a hockey team that can’t fluff a pillow without getting hurt, it is welcome news that nobody was accidentally stabbed in the chest with a fork.
A sign that the pointy finger of misfortune has finished poking them in the eye? Probably not. But to go through an entire meal, heck, an entire day, without seeing one of their best players writhing in pain is a great moral victory for a snake-bitten franchise desperately short of real ones.
“It’s been a difficult time,” said defenceman Corey Potter, whose skate blade carved a deep, 30-stitch cut across the forehead of sophomore winger Taylor Hall in the latest malady to strike the fast-sinking Oilers. “We have our top five guys out right now.”
Six, if you include Hall (doubtful for Thursday in St. Louis), but who’s counting?
It’s like the entire team is made up of those guys in the red shirts on Star Trek who get killed 30 seconds after touching down on a new and hostile planet.
Hall’s injury marked the second time in two months an Oiler was injured in the pregame warmup (Andy Sutton’s groin gave out moments before a game in November, leaving Edmonton with just five healthy defencemen).
Last year Sam Gagner had his season ended while sitting on the bench (his hand slashed open by Ryan Jones skate blade).
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ shoulder injury was a single-vehicle accident; he simply wiped out and fell funny. Jordan Eberle’s wasn’t much different.
Cam Barker isn’t sure what happened, he just wound up with a ruptured ankle tendon after the Boston game.
The only thing missing is a pancake injury.
No wonder they were crying “Uncle” after last game.
“We haven’t played with a full lineup all year, we were missing Hemsky and Whitney right from the start,” Shawn Horcoff said of two guys who are happy if their ironman streaks reach double digits. “We haven’t played with even close to a full lineup, and it’s our impact players. It’s been frustrating.”
From setting a franchise record for man-games lost to injury (521) two seasons ago, to losing Hall, Gagner, Hemsky, Eberle, Horcoff and Whitney last year to the current list of casualties — Barker, Whitney, Tom Gilbert, Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, Hall and Eric Belanger — it’s been a world of hurt for the Red Cross Kids.
“I just hope when times turn for us and things go well, the injury bug goes the other way,” said Horcoff. “I hope we’re paying the piper here.”
In the meantime, head coach Tom Renney is left with a roster full of guys playing more minutes than they should, or playing in a league they shouldn’t.
“Pretty much,” he said of his depth perception. “But they’re working their guts out. They have to stay with it. It’s amazing what you can do when everybody shoulders in against the odds. We’ll just keep going. We’ve got hockey to play and points to take and were going to go after them.”
Feeling cursed, or, worse yet, sorry for themselves, isn’t going to help.
“We’re not thinking that way at all,” said Renney “That’s just the way life is. These are the cards were dealt and we have to sit at the table and play.”
And in some cases, injuries aren’t entirely to blame for the way they’ve been folding lately. If you’re good enough to go up 2-0 on the last-place team in the NHL, you’re good enough to close the deal.
“Allowing a goal with .8 left on the clock,” said Ladislav Smid. “That shouldn’t happen.”
Neither should taking a penalty on something as simple as pulling your goalie.
“The injuries are bad luck, but it’s no excuse,” said Smid. “It doesn’t matter. Every team goes through some injuries. Other guys have to be leaders on and off the ice, take charge. There’s no reason we should be losing games; we have good depth on the team.”