SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers battle through injury voodoo

Oilers forward Taylor Hall lies on the ground after being hit by Flames defenceman Cory Sarich at...

Oilers forward Taylor Hall lies on the ground after being hit by Flames defenceman Cory Sarich at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., March 16, 2012. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:02 PM ET

EDMONTON - Injuries are part of the game, there is no avoiding the inevitable bruises and breaks that come from 82 nights of high speed full contact hockey.

Curses are another story.

Voodoo and black magic and whatever else that’s been raining down on the Edmonton Oilers for too many years to count shouldn’t be part of anything.

But as another season winds down, and another laundry list of maladies ranging from horrific (Taylor Fedun’s crushed femur) to bizarre (Tom Renney’s friendly fire concussion) grows longer, it’s become patently obvious that we are not alone.

At least the Oilers aren’t. They’re totally haunted.

There is too much evidence to ignore.

“We’ve had some strange ones,” said Jordan Eberle, who drove himself to the hospital in the middle of last season, on a sprained ankle, for an emergency appendectomy. “We’ve definitely had some bad luck. Maybe we’ve had a few more injuries than some other teams, but if you keep thinking you’re cursed, it’s not going to get better.”

Hard to imagine it getting worse.

This is a team that in the past has lost players to ulcerative colitis, mononucleosis and two separate waves of swine flu in the same season. A team that saw its captain break the same leg twice in the same year. A team that missed 530 man games to injury in an 82-game season.

This year’s poster child is Taylor Hall. Despite being targetted since he was a kid, Hall had never been injured. Ever.

Two years with the Oilers and he’s had a broken ankle, needs shoulder surgery and is shaking off a concussion.

Oh yeah, and he had his face stepped on during a pre-game skate, making it to TMZ when the photo of his freshly-stitched head went viral.

Then there’s Ben Eager. Injured before he even played a regular season game for Edmonton. He was concussed. By a teammate. At the Joey Moss Cup.

Darcy Hordichuk? Five seconds into the first shift of his third game as an Oiler, he injured his knee and was gone for a month.

Head coaches never get hurt, but somebody stuck a pin in the voodoo doll’s head, right where the puck hit Tom Renney in practice, and he was out for two weeks.

“It’s weird, it has to be some kind of Oiler cloud above us,” said Ladislav Smid, who has bone from a cadaver fused into his neck to repair a spine injury. “But there’s nothing you can do about it, you just have to battle through it. It seems like it always happens to us. Every year. It’s hard, we’ve lost some key guys, but it can’t be an excuse.”

Need more proof?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? The guy who played 149 of 157 games in Junior? The guy who skates pretty well? Yeah, well, his was pretty much a low-speed, single-vehicle accident. Just kind of fell down with nobody around him and slid into the boards, missing 19 games with the subsequent shoulder injury.

Cam Barker? He didn’t even really know what happened. Took his skate off at the end of a game and what do you know, he needed ankle surgery.

Enter Alex Plante. But not for long. In the first game of his call-up he had to be helped off the ice after getting his face smashed into the glass in Vancouver. Needed three weeks to recover.

Theo Peckham, like Renney, fell victim to an errant puck in practice and missed 12 games to facial injuries.

“It’s been tough in that way, a lot of fluke injuries,” said Sam Gagner, who missed the end of last season after severing tendons in his hand, while sitting on the bench. “It’s tough to rationalize those and say it happens to every team.

“But when we’ve been healthy we’ve played pretty well for the most part. That’s what we have to build on.”

Because you can’t change luck.

“If you start trying to avoid injuries or thinking about them too much, then you’re not playing as hard and you’re not going into the tough areas,” said Eberle. “And that can be pretty contagious, too.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

@SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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