EDMONTON - It's not often, with a point-per-game player, that the numbers don't add up.
But Jordan Eberle’s ice time remains a bit of a mystery in Edmonton, as head coach Tom Renney continues to pull back the reins on his hungry young thoroughbreds.
Despite leading the Oilers in scoring, at home and on the road, Eberle ranks seventh in even-strength ice time. He’s 11th in NHL scoring, but a distant 30th in ice time among the league’s top 30 point getters.
Renney is aware of the numbers, and isn’t making any apologies. He would like the 1 million unofficial assistant coaches in Edmonton to know that he’ll move the kids along at his own pace, and that the suggestion box is closed.
“It’s the body of work,” he said. “It’s pretty easy to take pot shots over the course of the season about what we’re doing and not doing, but you have to recognize that it’s the growth of a team that we’re worried about here.
“Sometimes I might be a little protective of how I deploy those kids, but the operative word is kids. These are going to be men playing in the Edmonton Oilers organization in the not too distant future and I want to make sure they make it that far.”
Renney says he’ll start giving his franchise players ice time at the end of penalty kills and more four-on-four work in an effort to increase their ice down the stretch.
But he’s not letting go of the reins.
“We’re working off my timetable, thank you very much, and we’ll continue to.”
With the season lost, Edmonton will spend much of the stretch drive deciding whether Devan Dubnyk can shoulder the load as a full-on starter.
“He’ll get enough starts for us to be able to nail down,” said Renney. “I’m going to see on this.”
The first test is Wednesday in a rematch with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’ll be his first start after Nikolai Khabibulin, who’s being showcased between now and the trade deadline, played the last two games.
“I want to see how Devan responds to being out again and coming back in,” said Renney. “I think that’s really important. It’s certainly important for us moving forward if I’m going to draw any kind of conclusion on whether or not a guy can come in under tough circumstances. This is a pretty good opportunity to judge that.”
The rest of the positions will be experimented with, too. It’s not exactly a 27-game training camp, but with no hope for the playoffs, there’s more room for evaluation.
“We’re going to judge some people along the way here in terms of who they might best play with, where they might stack up on the depth chart and to some degree, whether they’re here,” said Renney. “All that being said, we still want to go after wins. We want to make sure we’re true to everybody.”
NO NUGENT-HOPKINS YET
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who re-injured his shoulder on the second game of Edmonton’s three-game swing, isn’t practising yet. Given that two of Nugent-Hopkins’s last three starts ended in shoulder injuries, the Oilers aren’t taking any chances.
“I don’t know if he’s day-to-day but I don’t think it’s anything like it was the first time at all, quite honestly,” said Renney, who watched the rookie go down in just his second game back after missing a month. “We’re going to be careful here. I’m going to be the prudent one with when he comes back into play.”