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Patrick Russell Jersey

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This in, a great quote from Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett, answering questions at today’s press scrum from the Journal’s Jim Matheson about why Kris Russell missed part of Wednesday night’s game against Colorado and what his injury status is.

Said Tippett: “Russell just took a bad cut on his ear last night and was sore today. I think he’ll be available to play on Saturday. He’s a tough little guy. I don’t know if you’ve ever had your ear sewed up before but that’s one of the worst spots. His ears hurt bad, and I remember I felt for him seeing him lying on the table last night, they were sewing him up and half of his ear hanging off there. So we decided to give him the day off. He earned a day off today.”

My take
There’s faction of Edmonton fans who don’t think Kris Russell is a quality NHL defender, but another faction who appreciate what he brings, an absolute determination to thwart any and all Grade A chances for opposition attackers in the defensive slot, as well as a useful package of talents when it comes to preventing said chances.
Russell will twist, battle, dart, dive, block, hack, stab and sprawl to prevent an opposition slot shot. His dark defensive arts were all on display during one brief thrilling moment for the Oilers in their loss to the Avs, Edmonton’s successful five minutes penalty kill in the second period.
That PK was a masterpiece, with Russell, Ethan Bear and Oscar Klefbom playing the lead roles. In that heroic five minutes, Edmonton constantly disrupted the Avs attack, clearing the defensive zone 10 times, including four times on the five-on-three portion of the kill.
To name names for a moment, in the three minutes of the five-on-four portion of the kill, Klefbom had one clearance, Patrick Russell had one, Markus Granlund and Jujhar Khaira combined on one, Bear and Patrick Russell combined on one, Klefbom, Leon Draisaitl and Kris Russell combined on one, Kris Russell, and Josh Archibald and Klefbom combined on one.
In the five-on-three portion, Klefbom forced a zone exit, Bear had one d-zone clearance, Archibald skated the puck out of the d-zone once, Sheahan blocked a shot, and Russell and Klefbom combined on a d-zone clearance.
After the five minute penalty was up over, however, the Oilers struggled to get it out of their own zone. They looked utterly spent. The puck came into the slot and Russell dove to block it. Avs winger Vladislav Kamenev snapped a dangerous shot, with Russell blocking the follow though of Kamenev’s stick with the side of his head, injuring his ear.
That Russell got banged up was no surprise, as he’s constantly risking his health to block bodies and shots. But neither was his returning to the game a shocker. As Tippett put it: “He’s a tough little guy.”
Russell was a major point producer in major junior hockey, and he had some OK offensive years mid-NHL career in Calgary. But in Edmonton his speciality has been in the defensive slot. In his first three years with the OIlers he was routinely asked to play on the right side, his off-wing, which limited his ability to clear the zone and move the puck. This year the left shot player has been on his natural left wide. He’s still a cautious puck mover but he’s playing the same smart, courageous and effective defensive hockey, where his primary focus is limiting slot shots.
At the Cult of Hockey we track the major mistakes inside or outside the slot that directly lead to Grade A chances against the Oilers at even strength. In his time here, Russell has always made the least or second least number of such mistakes for d-men playing tough minutes. In 2016-17, only Andrej Sekera made fewer such mistakes on Grade A chances against. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, Russell made the fewest, and he’s again making the fewest rate of such mistake this year. This year he’s played somewhat fewer minutes in a Top 4 role, but when he has been on the ice, he’s been as stingy as ever. The man will never be confused with Cale Makar on the attack, but he can still flat out defend. He’s no all-star, but that kind of effort can help a team win, as did with the Oilers in 2016-17 and is now doing again.

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Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse is off to a strong start to his season. He’s on pace to approach 40 points for the second straight season while sitting second on the team in ice time per game at a little under 23 minutes per night. Suffice it to say, he’s certainly positioning himself well to land a long-term deal at a considerable raise from his current $3.2M AAV this summer when he’ll be a restricted free agent with salary-arbitration eligibility.

With that in mind, Postmedia’s David Staples argues that Edmonton GM Ken Holland should be looking to get a deal done now over waiting until the offseason where the price tag could potentially jump higher. There is a sizable list of potential comparable players and they all point to an AAV around the $6M mark, depending on the term of the deal. The Oilers already have over $57.5M committed to just 10 players for next season already but given how important Nurse is to their back end, Holland should have no qualms about adding another big ticket contract to their books.

Elsewhere out West:

Blackhawks blueliner Duncan Keith will miss Saturday’s game against Colorado due to a groin injury, head coach Jeremy Colliton told reporters, including Charlie Roumeliotis of NBC Sports Chicago. He has been skipping practices lately for maintenance purposes but it appears the team will give him at least one game off to see if that helps. To replace him on the roster, the team announced (via Twitter) the recall of blueliner Ian McCoshen from AHL Rockford while winger Matthew Highmore has been sent back to the IceHogs.
Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov sustained an upper-body injury early in today’s game against Anaheim, the team announced (Twitter link). There is no timetable yet for how long he might miss. In the short term, expect Carl Dahlstrom, a waiver claim from Chicago before the season started, to draw back into the lineup.

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Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid scored on Calgary’s Brian Elliott on his first NHL penalty shot Oct. 16, 2016, early in his second season, but he’s gone 0-for-3 since.

He’s had the last three Oiler penalty shots: here against New York Islanders goalie Christopher Gibson and the Carolina Hurricanes’ James Reimer, and in Pittsburgh, where Penguins ‘tender Matt Murray stopped him.

The puck bounced crazily on McDavid’s penalty shot at 1:48 of the third period Tuesday after Hurricanes defenceman Brett Pesce stuck his glove on a loose puck in the crease when it was unnecessary because Reimer was in position to save it anyway. On the shot, Reimer — who was beaten by Leon Draisaitl on one when he played in Florida Feb. 12, 2018 — breathed a sigh of relief when McDavid lost the puck.

“I must have intimidated him. I really scared him. Probably saw half the net and didn’t know what to do, surprised him,” joked Reimer. “I wasn’t expecting that, that’s for sure. Luckily that happened.”

The Oilers have scored on only five of their last 15 penalty shots, and you’d be surprised with two of the successful ones: Marc Pouliot in 2007 and Andrew Miller in 2015. Taylor Hall, Draisaitl and McDavid have the others.

Edmonton Oilers winger Zack Kassian. IAN KUCERAK / POSTMEDIA

ORNERY IS JUST FINE
Oilers winger Zack Kassian may have taken some heat for his first-period penalty when he bowled over Martin Necas with 10 seconds left and Ryan Dzingel scored six seconds later on the power play to make it 3-0 for Carolina, but getting the only penalty for his goalmouth tussle with Reimer in the third was bogus.

When Sebastian Aho scored on the ensuing power play, Kassian cleared his throat and got a misconduct after leaving the box.

But this is why we like Kassian. His temperature rises. The Oilers could use more of what he brings, frankly.

And his two goals against the ‘Canes were, as usual, 5-on-5. He has 11 goals, all even-strength, the same number of five-on-five tallies as McDavid. All 21 of Kassian’s points are even-strength, too.

LOTS OF EMPTY SEATS
Overlooked in Oilers’ 6-3 loss to Carolina was the announced attendance of 16,175 at Rogers Place, and there were actually fewer people than that in the building.

That’s more than 2,000 under capacity at Rogers Place, and the lowest crowd count in maybe 15 years. They had a run of 549 straight sell-outs over 13 years (131 regular-season and playoffs at Rogers Place since it opened in 2016) until that ended Nov. 16 in Game 3 of the current season when the Philadelphia Flyers visited Rogers Place.

The economy isn’t good, Carolina’s not a great draw even if they made the conference finals last season, and it was a Tuesday, before Christmas, the fourth game of a homestand.

Never mind only making the playoffs once since 2006. But the Oilers have hit critical mass like so many other teams. While you can buy pretty cheap sell-off tickets online, prices for food and drink are way too high for a family.

SHORTENING BENCH?
The Oilers were chasing the game in the third period against Carolina, down 3-1 to start it, but it was still strange that Kris Russell played only three shifts and 2:32 in the last frame while his third-pairing partner Caleb Jones got seven and a half minutes in the third.

Russell finished with 11:48 of ice time and Jones 16:17. True, they were looking for some offence and Jones might provide more, but did Russell get hurt and they were holding him back?

This ’n’ that: Plus/minus is often misleading because it’s not always your fault when a goal’s scored and you’re on the ice, but Oscar Klefbom is going through a horrible stretch. He’s minus-15 in his last seven games and is minus-20 on the season. Part of that is his rotating set of partners — Joel Persson, Caleb Jones, Adam Larsson and others — but one of the game’s best two-way defenders is really struggling … In the last eight games, the Oilers have been outscored 20-8 even-strength. They are feasting off their power play (31 goals of 100 total goals) but if that ever goes cold, look out … James Neal had that incredible first month with 11 October goals but he has three in 19 games since. He’s minus-17 on the season because he has just four even-strength goals and six even-strength points. Hey, we knew he would cool off, right? … Louie DeBrusk is still ill so Drew Remenda once again was Kevin Quinn’s colour commentator for the Oilers-Hurricanes game. With the recent death of his mother Gina, Gene Principe didn’t work as Oilers TV host Tuesday and won’t Thursday in Minnesota. Sean Reynolds came in from Winnipeg for the Carolina home game and is also doing the broadcast for the Wild tilt … Mr. Game 7 Justin Williams continues to skate with retired Carolina goalie Cam Ward in Raleigh and hasn’t shut the door on a return in the New Year, even though he’ll really be chasing a train that’s left the station. “He’s pretty tight-lipped and he’s skating, which is obviously a sign, but the next month will be the tell-tale sign, I guess,” said the Canes’ Jordin Martinook … Rod Brind’Amour’s son Skyler, the Oilers’ sixth-round pick in 2017, is in his first year of college hockey at Quinnipiac. He has six points in 15 games, good for a freshman who doesn’t get to play much. “He’s definitely progressing and he’s enjoyed his time here. He’s been treated excellently by the Oilers. At every camp, he’s raved about it,” said Brind’Amour.

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This in from Bob Stauffer of the Oilers, the team’s line-up against the Minnesota Wild:

Nygard-McDavid-Kassian

Draisaitl-RNH-Chiasson

Neal-Haas-Gagner

Khaira -Sheahan-Archibald

Nurse-Bear

Klefbom-Larsson

Russell-Jones

Smith

My take
There’s no shortage of Edmonton Oilers players right now with plenty to prove right now.

Mike Smith. Since his huge game against Pittsburgh in early November, Smith has started seven games and won just two of them. His save percentage is .865. That’s not a save percentage that will keep you in the NHL for long.
James Neal. In his first 16 games of the year, Neal pounded 25 Grade A scoring chance shots on net and pumped in 11 goals. In his last 17 games, Neal has just 13 Grade A shots on net and just three goals. The Oilers power play is best when he’s out there so perhaps he can get back his touch on that unit. He’s got the hands and hockey IQ to do it, that’s for sure.
Oscar Klefbom. Klefbom has been riding a rollercoaster in terms of his defensive play this year. He tends to go through stretches where he gets beat on-on-one, and he’s in that phase right now. To start the year, Klefbom was leaking Grade A chances against at even strength, with 24 major mistakes on Grade chances in 11 games. He cut that to just 19 major mistakes in his next 11 games, a more acceptable rate against tough competition. But in his last 12 games, Klefbom has utterly crashed, making 32 such major mistakes at even strength. Not good. Not even close to good. Of course, all players will go into defensive slumps but it’s a killer with Klef simply because he’s so important to the Oilers. When he pulls out of this defensive slump — and he will pull out of it — expect the entire team to step up. One issue for him has been his revolving door of defensive partners, but he should have some comfort playing again with his old partner Adam Larsson, who has stepped up his own play in recent games.
The penalty kill gang of Riley Sheahan, Josh Archibald, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jujhar Khaira and Leon Draisaitl had an off game against Carolina, but has been solid all year. The players need to be solid in this crucial next run of games. Edmonton also had 18 wins after 33 games last year, but fell off a cliff from mid-December to early January, essentially wiping out all the good they had done up until that point. If Edmonton’s PK gang is strong in the next month that is unlikely to happen again, at least if the team gets OK goaltending.
Joakim Nygard gets another chance with Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian, who are flying high right now. Nygard has the speed and skill to keep up, but does he have the confidence and the hockey IQ? I think this line has a chance for some real success, which would allow the Oilers to keep a second line with Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Leon Draisaitl’s attacking, scoring and defensive play have fallen off. He’s staying out too long on shifts, desperate to make something happen. I’d like to see him simplify his game, play the centre spot on the second line and focus only on his own play in the defensive zone. If he gets the job done there and keeps his shifts to 50 seconds — two things he’s capable of doing — the offence will come. Does that make sense to you as well?
Caleb Jones is getting yet another cup of coffee in the NHL. He’s got everything he needs to make it as an NHLer, decent size, strong skils with the puck, and NHL-plus skating ability. Now he just needs to have the confidence, smarts and drive to actually play his “A” game at this level. It’s never an easy thing for a player to figure out his role in the NHL — just how much he should do and when he should back off and play it safe — but Jones got this equation right in his last game, and did so in many games last year. Can he put together a run of games where it all adds up? My bet is he can. But he, too, has something big to prove right now.
At the Cult
STAPLES: Franchise value of Oilers has gone up by $405 million since Katz took over team, Forbes reports

McCURDY: Player grades as Oilers lose to Hurricanes

McCURDY: Tippett scrambing for answers during rough patch

STAPLES: Caleb Jones up, Joel Persson down

STAPLES: Can these Oilers avoid the ugly collapse of 2018-19?

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This in from the Edmonton Oilers’ practice, news that Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are both on the ice and practicing with their regular lines. Jack Michaels of the Oilers reported this:

Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian

Khaira-RNH-Gagner

Nygard-Haas-Chiasson

Granlund-Sheahan-Archibald

Jack Michaels

@EdmontonJack
Practice lines—

Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian
Khaira-RNH-Gagner
Nygard-Haas-Chiasson
Granlund-Sheahan-Archibald

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My take
These are indeed glad tidings for the Oilers. This year Edmonton has four classes of forwards, with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in a class of their own as arguably the NHL’s two best players, then Zack Kassian and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins being solid top line attackers, then James Neal being a brilliant power play guy but so-so even strength player, then everybody else, all of them looking OK on defence at even strength and especially on the penalty kill, but generally not providing much on the attack. So to have Kassian and RNH back is huge for this particular team.
At even strength, the team struggles to score, but that is especially the case when the top line of McDavid, Draisaitl and Kassian aren’t united. McDavid and Draisaitl have developed such immense on-ice chemistry that even someone like me — who has long advocated that they play on their own lines — has to admit that having them together is the right strategy for right now.
For his part, Kassian has been the perfect complementary player this year for McDavid and Draisaitl. He’s both a nasty police officer, who can go bad cop in a second if things turn ugly on the ice, and a skilled player, who has the strength and skill to cycle the puck well with Draisaitl.
RNH came into the year craving some chemistry of his own with a linemate or two. He’s yet to find that, though things have gone OK with James Neal and him. Neal is now out of this line-up, so perhaps he’s a bit banged up. If we hear more, we’ll update.
Sam Gagner and Jujhar Khaira were solid against the Kings with Draisaitl, mainly because Draisaitl and Khaira were so effective on a heavy, heavy forecheck. Gagner and RNH are both smart and skilled players. Perhaps they can make a few plays, while Khaira keeps up and adds an element of physical force and protection.
Oscar Klefbom was also not on the ice for practice, with Reid Wilkins of CHED speculating that both he and Neal were getting maintenance days.
Shocking stat of the day
P.S. After 31 games last year, the Oilers had 17 wins and 14 losses for 36 points, 87 goals for, 91 goals against. This year, Edmonton has 18 wins and 13 losses, 39 points, 93 goals for, 89 goals against. What went so wrong last year? Kris Russell and Oscar Klefbom got knocked out with major injuries and the Oilers lacked defensive depth.

At the Cult
STAPLES: Player grades: Koskinen leads way in victory over Kings

McCURDY: Time for Oilers to take charge on home ice

McCURDY: Game 21-30 review — Oilers treading water at best

LEAVINS: Player grades from head-scratching loss to Senators

STAPLES: Oilers likely to be outbid on Taylor Hall, Friedman says

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Die San Jose tun sich in der NHL weiterhin schwer. Beim 1:5 auswärts gegen die Florida Panthers kassiert das Team mit dem Schweizer Timo Meier im 32. Saisonspiel bereits die 17. Niederlage.

abspielen
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Für San Jose war es die vierte Niederlage in Folge. Damit sind die Kalifornier derzeit ausserhalb der Playoff-Ränge klassiert.

Gegen Florida, das erneut ohne den überzähligen Denis Malgin antrat, kassierte San Jose drei der fünf Gegentore in Unterzahl. Der Appenzeller Stürmer Meier blieb ohne Skorerpunkt und beendete die Partie mit einer Minus-1-Bilanz.

Eine Niederlage setzte es auch für Gaëtan Haas und die Edmonton Oilers ab. Die Kanadier unterlagen zuhause den von Ralph Krueger gecoachten Buffalo Sabres 2:3 nach Verlängerung, nachdem sie nach elf Minuten 0:2 in Rückstand geraten waren. Der Jurassier Haas erhielt bei der Aufholjagd Auslauf im Powerplay und steuerte in der 36. Minute einen Assist beim Tor von Joakim Nygard zum 2:2-Ausgleich bei. Für Haas war es der sechste Skorerpunkt in der NHL.

Edmonton Oilers

@EdmontonOilers
A tip AND a tie.

Love a good 2-for-1 deal. @JoakimNygard | #LetsGoOilers

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Der Assist von Gaëtan Haas mit der Backhand zurück zur blauen Linie.

Als einziger Schweizer verliess in der Nacht auf Montag Luca Sbisa das Eis als Sieger. Der Zuger Verteidiger gewann mit den Winnipeg Jets das Heimspiel gegen die Anaheim Ducks 3:2. Der Kanadier Mark Scheifele trug mit seinen zwei Toren entscheidend zum dritten Heimsieg in Folge von Winnipeg bei.

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watson Eishockey auf Instagram
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EDMONTON — The Edmonton Oilers opened their season at 7-1, with their best player — Leon Draisaitl — performing like a man possessed.

Today, they are 18-11-4, after dropping a 6-3 decision to the Carolina Hurricanes on a frigid Tuesday night in Northern Alberta.

Today, Draisaitl is neither their best player nor does he possess anything other than some of the worst body language you’ll ever see, and a nightly minus rating. He has been a minus player in eight straight games now, and has still somehow managed to stuff 53 points and a minus-3 on the same seasonal stat line.

The Oilers, meanwhile, harvested just three points from a homestand that featured visits from the Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Buffalo Sabres and Hurricanes. Over its past seven games Edmonton is 2-4-1.

They team is trying to stay positive, which we get. But with each mounting loss, positive sounds more and more like denial.

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“Liked how we battled back. Thought our game was pretty good overall five-on-five,” said captain Connor McDavid. “Tonight our specialty teams weren’t where they need to be. It cost us.”

Carolina ate the NHL’s second-best penalty kill for supper on Tuesday, scoring three times. Obviously, that’s a rare slip for a unit that’s been dominant.

Somehow, despite playing just over .500 hockey over their last 25 games, the Oilers awake on Wednesday morning tied for first place in the Pacific. It has become, after another loss in which they mustered 25, maybe 30 minutes of inspired hockey, a bit of a mirage.

You know how winning teams find a new hero every day? Well, Edmonton is at the opposite end of that spectrum today. Something different is going wrong every night now.

“The two things that were different about this game,” said head coach Dave Tippett, “is that our penalty kill has been pretty good and it got bit, and our goaltending has been pretty good and it got bit tonight. You add those two up and it is not usually a good winning formula.”

Mikko Koskinen was average in goal, victimized by a Hurricanes power play that was clinical, then insulted by a Dougie Hamilton fake-dump-in-slapper from centre ice for the sixth goal.

“We did come back. Made it 3-3,” pointed out McDavid. “I thought our work ethic was there, we battled back from a big hole but couldn’t close it.

“We need to find a way to start better, but I thought overall part of our game was pretty good.”

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We’ll disagree, though we get how the captain is trying to emit the right message here. We’re not halfway into the season, and Edmonton really has not slumped until now. It’s no time to panic, but instead to dig in and right the ship.

There are some holes in the roof, however, for a team that is right in the thick of the playoff race with miles of track left to cover.

The facts are, this team isn’t good enough five-on-five, and not deep enough to win games when McDavid and Draisaitl aren’t otherworldly. McDavid had three assists against Carolina and the other 17 Oilers skaters could not muster another goal by themselves.

The power play is No. 1 in the league, which helps a ton. Without it, however, the Oilers are severely challenged to get to three goals in 60 minutes of hockey.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has five goals this season. They need more out of him, plain and simple. And the fact that depth forwards Josh Archibald, Riley Sheahan, Markus Granlund, Patrick Russell, Gaetan Haas, Alex Chiasson and Joakim Nygard share a grand total of 12 goals between seven players tells you all you need to know about the potency of Edmonton’s depth forwards.

Look, most of the predictors didn’t even think this was a playoff team. So the fact they are challenged in some areas was to be expected.

The Oilers had a fast start, and it’s a good thing. Because now they look like the team we thought they were, and the battle to stay Top 8 out West is on.

It’s no time to panic. Just time to play better.

The finish line is still a long way out.

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It’s time for the hockey world to recognize Leon Draisaitl as one of the NHL’s elite stars. Hidden behind the glow of teammate Connor McDavid, Draisaitl has quietly emerged as one of the league’s best over the past two seasons. He has rolled an incredible 2018-19 into a start in 2019-20 that’s poised to set some huge numbers.

Draisaitl has 41 points through 21 games this season. Let that fact sink in for a moment. His league-leading 41 points checks in at a jaw-dropping 1.95 points-per-game pace. Using some fancy math, we can forecast that he is on pace to tally nearly 160 points should his torrid scoring rate continue. Even factoring in an extended scoring slump or reduced pace, Draisaitl looks like a lock for another 100+ point season.

Are you surprised to see Draisaitl leading the league in points? You shouldn’t be, but that’s a familiar reaction considering how under the radar he flew last season despite scoring 50 goals. How crazy is it that he wasn’t named to the first or second all-star lineup at the end of last season after posting 50 goals and 55 assists? It’s been easy to overlook Draisaitl’s accomplishments when fellow teammate McDavid is routinely making headlines.

Via the National Post, Oilers forward Zack Kassian may have summed things up the best when discussing McDavid and Draisaitl.

“They’re wired differently. They’re the elite of the elite. Edmonton is spoiled to get to watch these two guys every night.”

The Oilers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to their offensive talent. Most teams would be thrilled to have one player in the category of McDavid or Draisaitl, let alone both who can make opponents look silly on a nightly basis. Try to shut down one player and the other will burn you.

With Draisaitl and McDavid sitting atop the league in points scored, are the two worried about a scoring race? Hardly. The two both maintain a humble attitude that makes their achievements look like another day at the office. To say the two are grounded would be an understatement.

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It’s time for Draisaitl to receive the same level of praise as McDavid. At 24, Draisaitl already has a 50-goal season to his name and appears to be well on his way to back-to-back 100+ point seasons. That’s an incredible accomplishment that shouldn’t be swept under the rug because his teammate is just as talented.

These types of columns almost always end with a “Can this continue?” type of question. It’s a fair question when you see a player putting up points seemingly at will and taking the league by storm. With Draisaitl, his approach to the game makes answering that question a bit more difficult. Where other players have a fairly similar style each game, Draisaitl appears to have a way of adapting to the situation better than most. He can play physical or he can play with finesse. He can play a quick style or grind and wear opponents down. That ability to pick apart opponents has fueled his rapid scoring pace.

You can make a strong argument that Draisaitl is a top-5 or top-10 player in the NHL. It’s time for fans and the hockey media to start recognizing him as such.

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Edmonton Oilers defenceman left Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after being hit in the head with a puck.

Edmonton Oilers

@EdmontonOilers
#Oilers d-man Matt Benning will not return to tonight’s game.

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The play happened in the first period when Josh Levio took a shot that hit Benning in the back of the helmet.

He was slow to get up and was taken to the locker room.

Benning will be reassessed on Monday.

The 25-year-old was playing in his first game after missing five with a concussion.

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EDMONTON — Sometimes it takes an ugly game like this one to get out of a slump.

“Mucky, ugly, chip-it, ping pong hockey,” was how Edmonton Oilers head coach Dave Tippett described a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Friday. “But, we got the two points, so we move on. That’s all I can say about it.”

They could have let people into the rink for free Friday, and made more money charging them an exit fee. After watching the Arizona Coyotes pass them for first place in the Pacific, the Oilers outdid hockey’s most boring team with a 20-shot night that reclaimed the division lead.

“We got away from things the last few games,” said winger Josh Archibald, who skated next to Connor McDavid with Zack Kassian injured. “We wanted to get back to our identity: playing as five, up and down the ice. It was a good win for us.”

If the Oilers, who lost 5-2 on Wednesday to the 29th place Ottawa Senators, hadn’t found a way to pry a victory out of this snooze-fest on Friday, a nice, cool Edmonton weekend would have been spent in crisis. The Oilers had lost three of four heading into the night.

They’ve developed a reputation as a team that plays well against the top clubs and falls asleep against basement teams like Detroit, Ottawa and L.A. They’ve also watched their goals against rise steadily since their 7-1 start, and only the night before Edmonton lost its first-place perch in the Pacific, a roost they had held since the first couple days of the season.

“After last game we talked a lot about defending first,” said Adam Larsson, who always plays a lot (22:52) in tight games like this one. “When we defend first, we’re creating a lot more offence too. This team started in the right end today, with the defending mindset. It won us the game.”

OK, we get the part about the stout defensive play. But the bit about creating more offence? We’re going to take Larsson to task on that a bit.

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Edmonton scored both their goals on the powerplay and managed just 20 shots on goal on the night — 10 in the final 20 minutes. The Oilers managed just 15 even strength shots on goal all evening long.

“They get a lucky one off (Drew Doughty’s) foot on the power play,” lamented Kings coach Todd McLellan, “and then they pick us apart for one too. But after that, we kept that team to 15 even-strength shots, and a lot of it was from the outside.

“So we’re happy with the effort, we’re disappointed in the result.”

McLellan is already getting used to that refrain. He’s got his team playing hard, but there just isn’t enough talent here to win on most nights. They’re now 2-11-1 on the road and just opened a stretch of eight of nine away from SoCal.

This game was exactly what the doctor ordered for Edmonton, a night where they could grind out a close win, just to prove to themselves that they can rely on their defensive play when times get tough. Missing top-six forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kassian, it wasn’t a night to paint a Monet, but rather to chip two points out of a block of granite.

“With our lineup the way it is right now, we’re trying to grind out some points,” Tippett said. “We gave some people some minutes who are more grind mode and who dig in. You look at Larsson or Kris Russell’s minutes or Riley Sheahan — we knew we needed a tight hard-checking game just to get us back set in the right direction and we got that tonight.”

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Playing well defensively — despite having one Kings goal disallowed on a video review for offside — will quell the issues with five-on-five offence, which was almost nil Friday. Beating a team well below them in the standings was another box that needed to get checked in this town.

“So far this year we’ve done a pretty good job of rising to the challenge of big games,” said Alex Chiasson, who had one of the two Oilers powerplay goals. “But at the same time, this league’s too hard, teams are too good. It doesn’t matter where (an opponent) is in the standings, this group has to learn that we may not feel our best as a team or personally, but we have to find ways to keep the game in front of us. Keep the game close.”

Close. Dull.

Tight. Boring.

They all meant the same thing for Edmonton on Friday: two points.