LOS ANGELES - Didn’t seem like all that long ago the Edmonton Oilers were fully healthy for the first time all season.
Then their coach got plunked in the head with a puck and the bodies started falling again.
Nowhere have they been hit harder than the back end.
In calling up Bryan Rodney from Oklahoma City, after Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry, Ladislav Smid and Corey Potter went down in a span of four games, the Oilers dressed their 13th defenceman of the season.
“It’s crazy, it seems like it comes in bunches,” said defenceman Nick Schultz, who hasn’t missed a game this season, despite injury waves that gutted both of his teams. “We had the same thing in Minnesota. It was all defencemen hurt. It was basically just myself there for a while.
“Then a bunch of forwards got hurt. It seems like it goes to one position all at the same time for whatever reason.”
Fortunately there are only two games left in the season. But the veteran blueliners can expect to see a lot of work in both of them.
“It’s tough, you lose some key guys who play some big minutes for your team,” said Schultz. “You’re going to be relied on and counted on a little bit more and as a player you have to take that opportunity and know that you have to go out there and get the job done. Especially with some younger guys coming up, for the older guys we’re going to be looked upon to play and do the job out there.”
WILD AT HEART
He hasn’t been hurt this season, but having spent 10 years in Minnesota, Schultz can’t help but feel some very deep sympathy pains for the Wild.
They were flying high early in the season, but their epic fail in the second half has been painful to watch.
“I don’t think we had the depth to sustain what we’d been doing and it kind of snowballed,” he said, adding injuries just wiped the Wild off the map. “It’s too bad because we had a good thing going there for a while.
“I have a lot of close friends there, guys you care about who you’ve played with and have battled with for a lot of years. You’re rooting for them.”
LIFE’S A BEACH
There is a big difference between a fishbowl and the ocean.
Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll, four years after moving from Edmonton to Los Angeles, know this better than anyone.
“It’s different, that’s for sure, than being in Edmonton,” said Greene, who spent three seasons under the hockey microscope before a 2008 trade to LA gave him a little breathing room.
“There’s good and bad to (both places). I think Edmonton and the Canadian media attention is good, it keeps the onus on you, keeps you sharp every game because you know it’s a big deal.
“At the same time it’s nice to be able to have a tough night and not see it for the next three days.”
If Stoll misses anything about Edmonton, it’s how fans live and die with the team. He says the 2006 Stanley Cup run will always be one of the most memorable summers of his career.
“Just the passion that everybody has for the team, win or lose,” he said. “In tough times, I’m not going to say it’s negative, but they care, and that’s great. And then the good times are unbelievable times, with everybody behind you.”
DUBNYK TAKES UNION JOB
Some goalies are wound so tightly they won’t even do interviews on game day.
Then there’s Devan Dubnyk, who still hasn’t solidified his role as a full time starter (although he’s pretty darn close), volunteering to be the Oilers player rep heading into CBA negotiations with the NHL.
“I was interested in it,” said the 25-year-old, who takes over from Shawn Horcoff. “My agent is Mike Liut, who’s very educated when it comes to that stuff, so I have him to tap into as well. It’s an important year and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Dubnyk, who was 18 and just finishing high school during the last lockout, understands the position can be a bit of a lightning rod if there’s a work stoppage.
It’s an ambitious undertaking for a young, relatively unproven player.
“I talked to Horc a little bit about that, it was a little bit of my concern. I’m just trying to become a starting goalie and establish myself as a player in the league. I just wanted to make sure it was OK that I was going to be talking on behalf of everybody.”
RODNEY UP FOR KINGS
Bryan Rodney had been waiting a long time for that call, and he still wasn’t really ready for it.
“I got a phone call late Sunday night saying something had happened to Corey Potter,” said the Oklahoma City Barons defenceman, who joined the Oilers in Los Angeles after Potter came down with concussion symptoms.
“It was a bit of a sleepless night, but full of excitement.”
It’s been an especially long road for the 27-year-old, who was acquired in the Feb. 16 trade for Ryan O’Marra. He was undrafted out of the OHL, so he went the East Coast route, spending two and a half years with the Charlotte Checkers, Columbia Inferno and Elmira Jackals, followed by five years spent mostly in the AHL.
“It wasn’t the easiest road, or the most travelled road that most players take to the NHL, but that was the way I had to do it. It’s a bit of cliche, but I wouldn’t change any of it because it’s made me the player I am today.”