E.L.P.H. - exciting last place hockey or S.H.I.T. - so hopeless it's tragic, which was it going to be? Yes, the playoff bound team could also have made their way to Rexall place, there were indeed three options, but the first two were more likely.
Ryan Whitney, arguably the Oilers' best player this season was announced on Wednesday to be out due to a right ankle injury. Some speculate that Whitney might be out for months. It seems that the injury bug has struck the Oilers once again this season. This may help to unite Oilers fans though. This may be what it takes to draw the search for the playoffs and the lottery or bust camps may once again be able to find comfort in the shared pain that is an injury riddled Oilers' hockey season.
Linus Omark was also missing from the Oilers' lineup, but that wasn't due to injury or illness. No, his absence was due to his performance in Tuesday night's game. I'm glad the Oilers didn't just send him down, but are instead letting him watch the game from the press box with his injured or ill teammates. Hopefully the different vantage point will offer a whole new perspective on the Oilers' team and overall game. Joining Omark in the press box were JF Jacques (healthy scratch), Jim Vandermeer (ankle), and Shawn Horcoff (knee). Jim Vandermeer was seen in a cast earlier in the day on Thursday. Usually a sprain does not require a cast. Joanne Ireland of the Edmonton Journal tweeted that Vandermeer will be seeing a specialist in Charlotte, and that surgery is a possibility.
The first period went, well not quite the way the Oilers would like to start a game. Ladislav Smid nearly stopped and cleared a shot, but sadly a battle in front of the net ended with the Avs up by one, three minutes in. David Jones from the point with a solid pass earned an assist in the goal by Paul Stastny. That's right, the Oilers were soon down by two, but not for long. Nope, before you knew it Tomas Fleischmann made it three. It's hard to say just what the Oilers were doing right or wrong with the puck during the first 20 minutes as they didn't seem to have puck control for very long. Maybe it was the flashing red light on the wrong end of the rink that had me thinking that, the shot disparity was only 3. The Avalanche had 11 shots on net while the Oilers had 8.
It was at this point that I had to leave the house and meet my friend at the pub. I knew that it would be difficult to have a good look at the game with this Robin Williams want to be, but I hope I got the important parts. Why am I going on and on about this? I had to hear so often that Kevin Shattenkirk has the best hockey name in the business. It's not that I necessarily don't agree, but I think that the name would be funnier if it was the name of your high school science teacher or someone you work with. It did add a little enjoyment to my game watching experience though, and I promised I would mention it.
You know what happened during the second period? The playoff bound hockey team showed up! No, seriously. Behind by three goals, the Oilers had good puck control, made clear passes, and charged the net at times. Ales Hemsky took a hit that made a few stomachs turn. Wait, just mine? I hate seeing Hemsky take any hits to or around his head area. I hate it even more when he skates away with his head at an odd angle. Maybe another Hemsky scare is all it took to get even more life to the rest of the team. The first Oiler to score was Taylor Hall, which was not a surprise as he did have some decent chances in the first period. Hall seemed the most determined to score, and it came at the right time. The player who wanted to score nearly as much as Hall did was Andrew Cogliano. With his closest attempt the puck did find the back of the net, but rather the front of John Michael Liles' face. Once the ice was cleaned and Liles safely in the locker room for stitches the play continued. The Oilers did finish the second period still behind by a couple, but the players and fans had hope. No, not HOPE as Omark was in press box, maybe it was still HOPE if you count in Ryan O'Marra though.
A quick goal by Ales Hemsky made this a game. The fans were seen cheering and waving their hands and the "Let's Go Oilers" chants were taken up a notch or two in volume. What happened next is something any Andrew Cogliano fan was elated to see. After assisting Ales Hemsky, Cogliano (who has wheels in case you forgot) found the front of the net, and while the Avalanche were more focused on Hemsky, Hemsky passes to Cogs who roofs with a beauty wrist shot. This tied the game mid way through the third and would be the end of the scoring in regulation, but certainly not due to lack of effort. Dustin Penner had a good chance, but was denied. If Penner can make the confident plays, with speed, like what he reminded us he is capable of, he is bound to score at least once or twice.
Overtime didn't solve anything. Each team received a penalty; Ladislav Smid for the Oilers and Daniel Winnik for the Avalanche. So, another shootout, but the Oilers have a point and I think all Oilers fans can be happy about that.
There were many positives from the game. What could have been a tragic, embarassing loss turned out to be a very highly entertaining game. The Oilers didn't give up when down by three, no they battled and came back. The Oilers somehow pulled together their defensive game even without veterans Whitney and Vandermeer. Devan Dubnyk found the focus he needed after seeing his team fall behind.
Other positives, Oilers lost due to injury from this game? ZERO! That's right, all Oilers who started the game finished it. This is progress.