The Oilers are taking on the Phoenix Coyotes this afternoon without one of their most dynamic young stars. Hall is out for 2 games after laying a dangerous hit on Cal Clutterbuck and getting a call from NHL Disciplinarian Brendan Shannahan.
This does not bode well for the Oilers as Hall was one of the few players consistently contributing to the offense. The Oilers have more often than not struggled to produce shots on net and Hall is more capable than most of the team at creating those chances. His loss will be difficult on the team but over just a two game stretch it isnt impossible to make up for it with good performances by other players.
Ryan Jones returns to the lineup today and brings with him precious offense from the bottom 6. There are other more prominent Oiler bloggers who dont particularly care for Ryan Jones but I’ve always liked what he brings to the team. He’s fast, he plays the PK, and he scores goals without getting lots of ice time. For a team that cant score 5×5 he brings something that Ben Eager, Hartikainen, and Paajarvi just dont provide: Offense.
Eye injuries are a scary thing though. Any loss of vision at all can kill a player’s confidence and effectiveness. I dont know the extent to Jones’ vision loss if any at all. Nobody seems to talk about that the way they did with Manny Malhotra. That could be a good sign there isnt any, but the Oilers are notorious for glossing over any injuries when asked about them.
The Coyotes come in to town as a team that is playing some good Hockey. They are 6-2-2 in their last ten while the Oilers are 2-5-3 in that same time. The Yotes are getting consistent offense from several members of their squad and good offense from both OEL and Yandle. Shane Doan hasnt been particularly productive but Shawn Horcoff could tell you he does other things on the ice to get noticed out there. He isnt too shy to hit a guy without the puck right in the numbers or put an elbow in someone’s jaw.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Offense by committee
Taylor Hall is gone for this game plus one more. The Oilers need to respond with good games from everybody in the top 9. Hall adds a spark that probably cant be counted on from other players for much longer than the 2 games he will be out. There are other very talented players on the team. They need to step up. RNH and Eberle shouldnt NEED Hall, maybe his absence will force them to take matters into their own hands.
2) Late Game Meltdowns
The Oilers have been close in the games they lost for sometimes 55 minutes before it all just unravels. Whether its Khabi or Dubnyk letting a back breaker in or the defense just blowing a late assignment the Oilers seem to come apart late in the 3rd period. Maybe this is a by-product of having such a young team, but the coaching staff needs to address this problem. If the Oilers want to play meaningful games in March then it means not blowing points in February.
3) Scoring from the D
Justin Schultz is adding offense from the backend. The list of Oilers D who are doing just that ends right there. Whitney is in and out of the lineup. Smid scores maybe 3 times a year over 82 games, Peckham is barely an NHLer and is known for his fists more than his hands. Fistric is another player who adds more grit than goals, and Schultz the Elder is an event free player. That just leaves Petry as the guy expected to add something from the back. Petry skates the puck out of the offensive zone fairly well can sometimes be seen down as low as the crease but nothing is going in. As far as a Defense corps goes the Oilers just arent adding enough offense. The Oilers wont be able to get much done in the Offensive zone the only 1 of 6 defensemen scoring.
Puck drops at 1:38 PM Mountain time on Sportsnet. Game On!