If you listen to some media, local or not, this may have been the last time the Phoenix Coyotes jersey appeared on Rexall Place Ice. No, the new arena will not be ready for next year, the deal with Glendale looks to be on very shakey ground. There were several Jets jerseys in the crowd, so it seems that many people are following this ordeal quite closely.
There were green autographed pucks for sale at Rexall, proceeds going to charity, some green in the crowd and of course there was green beer, lot's of green beer to be had by Oilers' fans. I may not be Irish, and only half Scottish, but I had some high hopes for luck in this game. I think I had some as Paajarvi scored the lone goal for the Oilers. A win might have been fun, but let's not get greedy or selfish at this point in this season right?
The latest Oiler rookie was to wear number 56. There have been a lot of 80s and 90s numbers in the NHL lately with many players opting to use their year of birth. Teemu Hartikainen had been wearing a traditional goalie number, 35 in Oklahoma City. Of course, 35 is taken on the current Oilers' roster, so 56 it was. What's interesting is the number of 50s now. Jeff Petry is wearing 58 and Chris VandeVelde is wearing 54. Sportsnet was quick to point out that not many NHLers wear numbers in the 50s, so to suddenly have three is interesting.
The first period started out with several Oilers power plays. Rostislav Klesla was called for tripping on Jordan Eberle and shortly after that penalty expired Lee Stempniak was called for elbowing. The Yotes successfully killed those first two penalties, then had a power play of their own when Ryan Jones was called for slashing with 8 minutes left in the period. The Oilers may have had the man advantage, but that certainly didn't translate into a shot advantage at the same time. The Oilers had just a single shot in their first power play, and none in their second despite leading the Coyotes in shots on the rest of the period.
Michal Rozsival took a holding penalty, and before that could expire Alexandre Giroux was called for slashing. The Oilers successfully killed off the penalty and looked to be heading into the second period with even scoring. It was not to be however. With 47 seconds remaining in the period Stempniak put the Coyotes on the board. The Oilers lead the Coyotes in shots, 10 to 8.
The second period was all Phoenix in terms of penalties and scoring. The Coyotes were caught with too many men on the ice nearly six minutes in, Radim Vrabata served the penalty. This was followed by Ray Whitney's hi-sticking call on Magnus Paajarvi, there was no blood and no serious injury to Paajarvi's face so Whitney served his two minutes. Whitney must have been looking for revenge after that penalty, he took a shot on Nikolai Khabibulin while taking the goaltender down. Khabby made the initial save, but then slid back into the net. The puck was under Khabibulin's leg, which crossed the goal line. The initial call was for a goal, but this one went under a lengthy review. It was determined to be a goal, infuriating Oilers' coach Tom Renney, and making it a 2-0 Coyotes game.
The Coyotes would take one more penalty on the period, Brett MacLean for tripping. The Oilers were unable to score on their third power play of the period. Shots on net were even for both teams, 7 through the second period.
The third period started with Andrew Cogliano taking a slashing penalty. At the same time, Eric Belanger took a cross checking penalty. Neither team scored during 4 on 4 play. Liam Reddox took the next penalty, this one for slashing as well. The Oilers successfully killed the Reddox penalty. Andrew Cogliano soon after had an excellent breakaway and scoring opportunity that was slashed away by Keith Yandle. A penalty shot was called, the 65th of this NHL season. Cogliano may have shot from too far out as Ilya Bryzgalov was able to stick with him and anticipate the shot, no goal.
Eric Belanger took a holding penalty with nearly six minutes expired in the final frame. On the ensuing penalty, magic happened. Magnus Paajarvi scored a power play goal, his 11th of the season, and Teemu Hartikainen scored his first NHL point as an assist on the goal, Linus Omark had the second assist. Mikkel Boedker took a boarding penalty soon after.
Poor Omark, the Oilers had had several calls in their favour, but Omark ended up being called for unsportsmanlike conduct - diving after a trip behind the net. Renney was once again irate, but the call was made. The Yotes' power play had barely begun before Radim Vrbata rang one off the post and in the net. The Coyotes once again had a two goal lead, 3-1 Yotes.
That would be it for penalties and scoring. The Oilers once again lead in shots on net by a huge margin, 19 to 2. There you have it folks, the Oilers drop another one at home, and another to the Phoenix Coyotes taking only one victory on the season against this western rival.
So how about the Hartikainen kid? What a great game for him, you should not have thought this was his first NHL game. I think that we can consider pencilling this guy into the lineup for next season, perhaps along with that Larsson guy. I'm sure that all fans would have liked to have seen Harty score in his first NHL outing, but I think fans will be happy with an assist. Hartikainen made hits, stood in front of the net and made some smart hockey plays. He anticipated shots and moved himself to screen Bryzgalov. Perhaps it was the few days that Hartikainen had to get used to his new teammates, but he looked comfortable out there. Expect to see number 56 in Saturday's lineup as well. In an interview with Gene Principe following the game Hartikainen had this to say about his first NHL game "I can play better of course, but it's a good start." So what does he hope to accomplish in his call-up? "I hope I can prove I can play in this league." Good answers, and something that will hopefully give some more excitement to Oilers's fans everywhere.
Alex Giroux didn't look any different from the last times we have seen him in Oilers' silks. It was still a good call to bring up this AHL veteran as it is a least a player that is familiar with the remaining healthy Oilers, Giroux didn't have any luck scoring on the night, but who did besides Paajarvi? That's right.
The Oilers went 52% overall for faceoffs. Chris VandeVelde was 3 for 4, winning each faceoff cleanly. If it looked as though VV was a little tired or slow, it's probably because he was. This was the centreman's third game in as many days. He along with the other two call-ups finished their game in Michigan last night, flew in Katz's private jet to Edmonton and made it to their hotel at 2am. I have little doubt that there may have been some trouble sleeping for at least one of them, this was a first NHL game for as Neal says "Chris to the Double V as he’s known on the streets." VandeVelde has had some good numbers in the faceoff dot with OKC so far this season and looks as though he is off to a great start with the Oilers.
The other call-up was of course Ryan O`Marra, the Irish connection of the year. I thought for sure after Patrick O`Sullivan had scored for the Oilers two years ago on St. Patrick's Day that for sure the next Irishman would do the same. Nope, not quite. O'Marra had a bad night in the dot, going 3-11 for his faceoffs taken. Again, O'Marra had just flown in to join this injured Oilers team. Saturday night against the Avalanche might give us a better indication of what O'Marra can do with this opportunity.
Liam Reddox showed a lot of hustle on the game, he doesn't always play like a little guy and it's nice to see.
The Oilers were fairly effective in the special teams department, allowing just one power play goal for 4 penalties. Scoring just one power play goal for 9 power plays... Let's just hope that the Oilers can work on that. It was great to see so many rookies getting power play time, but with the given line-up, there wasn't that many other options are there?
So, that will do it for this edition of St. Patrick's Day Oilers' hockey. Next up is the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. Can this Oilers team beat them? We'll soon see.
The Copper & Blue Oilers Three Stars:
★★★ - Liam Reddox
★★ - Teemu Hartikainen
★ - Magnus Paajarvi