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Mikko Koskinen made 35 saves as the Edmonton Oilers held on for a 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings Friday night at Rogers Place.

Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl scored on the power play when his cross-ice pass deflected in off Kings defenceman Drew Doughty’s skate.

“It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day, nobody is going to ask if it’s pretty or not,” Draisaitl said after the game.

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“It’s two points for us and that’s really all that matters.”

LISTEN BELOW: Oilers coach Dave Tippett speaks after Edmonton’s 2-1 win over Los Angeles

The Kings celebrated a rebound goal by Blake Lizotte a few minutes later, but the Oilers successfully challenged the play for offside and kept their lead.

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“I watched it on the bench. It was close, but we felt confident about it,” Oilers head coach Dave Tippett said of the decision to challenge the play.

“[Assistant coach Glen Gulutzan] says to me he thinks we should challenge it. I have a look at it and I’ll take his recommendation,” Tippett said, adding the initial suggestion came from Oilers video coach Jeremy Coupal.
“I knew it was close,” Lizotte said. “When you drag your foot, you’re not sure where the line is exactly.

“I knew it was going to be close. Even when I scored, I thought, ‘OK, they’re going to review it.’ Sure enough, it was a centimetre or two. It was real close.”

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The Oilers had another power play later in the first period. Edmonton captain Connor McDavid set up Alex Chiasson for a tap-in to make it 2-0.

“That’s been the story lately, so we’ve got to figure it out how not to fall behind,” Kings captain Anze Kopitar said. “Essentially, you get the first goal and play with the lead (and) it’s a lot more fun.

“It’s way better. And we’re going to have to figure it out.”

READ MORE: Senators win over Oilers again in Edmonton

The Kings’ Austin Wagner had two point-blank chances in the final six minutes of the second period, but both times he was turned away by Koskinen.

READ MORE: Edmonton Oilers Patrick Russell still searching for first NHL goal

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Los Angeles netminder Jonathan Quick kept the Kings within two with big saves on Draisaitl and James Neal in the third.

“If you look at our five-on-five game tonight, we were probably the better team — creating more chances — but the game consists of the special teams, and special teams nowadays are a huge part of the games, and we lost it tonight,” Kopitar said of the Kings.

The Kings’ Michael Amadio finally solved Koskinen with 6:28 to go, sliding the puck in after a scramble in front.

The Kings pulled Quick with 1:45 to go. Koskinen made a final glove save on a goal-mouth deflection by Los Angeles forward Jeff Carter with five seconds left.

LISTEN BELOW: Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen speaks after backstopping Edmonton to a 2-1 over the Kings

“Usually that happens when they pull the goalie,” Koskinen said. “They get a little more pressure and shots to the net, but they didn’t get anything too dangerous, so I’m happy for the win.”

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“We just said, ‘Let’s give Kosk a chance to redeem himself,’ because we’ve done the same for [Mike Smith] a couple times and actually got really good games out of him, so that’s what we were looking for tonight and Kosk came in and played a heck of a game for us,” Tippett said.
LISTEN BELOW: Oilers forward Alex Chiasson speaks after Edmonton’s Friday night win over the Kings

The Oilers (18-10-3) will host Buffalo Sunday night.

–With files from 630 CHED’s Brenden Escott and Scott Johnston

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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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Sam Gagner has been working hard to try and reestablish solid footing in the NHL during his second stint with the Edmonton Oilers.

The former sixth overall pick was back in the lineup Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, playing his third consecutive contest after three straight games in the press box as a healthy scratch.

Gagner, 30, started the contest centring the Oilers second line between Alex Chiasson and James Neal in place of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who missed his third straight game with a hand injury.

“Sam’s a smart guy, he understands the game and understands what his capabilities are,” said Oilers head coach Dave Tippett. “I’ve had some good conversations with him way back to when I had him in Arizona. He’s a utility player, he’s smart enough to play in a lot of situations and that’s what you’re going to see; he’s going to go up and down the lineup.”

Acquired from the Vancouver Canucks last season, who had loaned him to the Toronto Marlies after a demotion to the AHL, Gagner was expected to begin the season on the Oilers roster out of training camp.

Yet, he was sent to the Bakersfield Condors to start the year where he had four points in four games before being recalled three weeks into the season. Going in against the Canucks, Gagner had a goal and four points in 11 games with the Oilers.

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Le défenseur des Oilers Ethan Bear (74) et Kyle Okposo (21) des Sabres de Buffalo, pendant le match du 8 décembre 2019.

PHOTO : THE CANADIAN PRESS / JASON FRANSON

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Publié le 11 décembre 2019
Enfant, alors qu’il grandissait dans la nation Ochapowace, dans le sud de la Saskatchewan, Ethan Bear, défenseur des Oilers de la LNH, idolâtrait Carey Price, Jonathan Cheechoo et Jordin Tootoo.

Aujourd’hui, après seulement quelques mois de carrière dans la Ligue nationale de hockey (LNH), la recrue de 22 ans jouit d’une reconnaissance semblable. Son chandail se taille une place dans les gradins parmi les supporteurs des Oilers lors des matchs à domicile.

C’est cool, reconnaît Bear. On en rêve quand on est jeune, et maintenant que je suis là, je vais rester concentré et m’assurer que je suis toujours prêt pour les gars.

Outre le succès de son équipe en début de saison – l’équipe est en tête de la division Pacifique – le jeu régulier de Bear sur la ligne bleue fait plaisir chez les Oilers et lui a valu l’éloge de l’entraîneur-chef Dave Tippett.

Ethan Bear a été repêché au cinquième tour, 124e au total en 2015, la même année que Connor McDavid.

Lors de la saison 2017-18, il a été rappelé par les Oilers pour 18 matchs, mais l’an dernier, il a passé toute la saison avec les Condors de Bakersfield de l’American Hockey League (AHL).

Son ascension fulgurante ne surprend pas son partenaire défensif Darnell Nurse.

Il a très bien compris la situation, soutient-il, impressionné par le sang-froid de Bear dans les situations sous pression.

Des chandails de Bear et McDavid dans un magasin d’articles de sport.
Les chandails d’Ethan Bear sont très populaires, selon le gérant du magasin United Sport & Cycle à Edmonton.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MIN DHARIWAL

Tous les soirs, il vient et il est à l’aise. Il ne fait que jouer. Il ne pense pas, il joue et c’est amusant de jouer avec lui, confie Darnell Nurse.

Très inspirant
Le jeu de Bear est un sujet de conversation constant chez les joueurs des Tomahawks du nord de l’Alberta à la fin de leur entraînement à l’Enoch Recreation Centre, juste à l’ouest d’Edmonton.

L’équipe de hockey Junior A du Grand Métro est composée de joueurs de moins de 20 ans majoritairement autochtones.

Je pense que c’est très inspirant, a déclaré Quinton Courteoreille, un attaquant qui a grandi à Fort McMurray. Ethan Bear a eu un impact énorme sur la collectivité, souligne-t-il.

Je vis avec mes cousins et chacun d’entre eux a un chandail de Bear. Ils se sont entraînés avec lui l’été dernier à Kelowna. Ils ont eu la chance de le rencontrer. Ils ont dit que c’était une expérience géniale et que c’était un type bien.

Un chandail à la mode
Chez United Sport & Cycle dans le sud d’Edmonton, le magasinage de Noël bat son plein.

À l’étage, une machine à coudre tourne à plein régime pour produire trois nouveaux chandails des Oilers portant le nom et le numéro 74 de Bear. Ils seront ensuite amenés à l’étage des ventes où ils seront accrochés à côté de ceux de Connor McDavid et Leon Draisaitl.

Nous avons du mal à garder le chandail de Bear en stock. On a accru la production pour essayer de le garder sur l’étagère, le gérant Kelly Hodgson, qui a ajouté que la vente de chandails peut parfois être difficile.

Une couturière coud un chandail de Bear.
Une couturière travaille d’arrache-pied pour fournir assez de chandails d’Ethan Bear.

PHOTO : RADIO-CANADA / MIN DHARIWAL

Restez loin des drogues et de l’alcool
Bear se dit flatté par le soutien.

Malgré tout le battage médiatique et ses succès en début de saison, le défenseur affirme qu’il vient à la patinoire chaque jour pour faire son travail, sur la glace et à l’extérieur.

Si je peux être un modèle et quelqu’un qui peut simplement donner l’exemple et qu’ils peuvent m’admirer, je prends cela au sérieux, souligne Bear.

J’espère qu’ils verront ce que j’ai fait et qu’ils comprendront qu’il faut travailler dur et rester concentré et, en tant qu’athlète, [il faut] manger sainement et éviter les drogues et l’alcool.

Avec les informations de Min Dhariwal de CBC

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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.

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Forty years ago Monday, the Winnipeg Jets beat Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers 7-3 to claim the Avco Cup on the final day of the existence of the World Hockey Association.

For Kent Nilsson, it’s all just a blur.

“I can’t remember too much,” Nilsson said with a laugh on the phone from Sweden. “Probably got drunk. We had a good time.”

Nilsson was in his early 20s and in his second season with the Jets back in 1979, when the team turned a third-place finish in the regular season into a second consecutive championship.

They beat the Quebec Nordiques in four straight games in the semifinal and topped the Oilers 4-2 in the final to give the Avco Cup and eternal home in Winnipeg.

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The final game was at the old Winnipeg Arena and the next season, the Jets entered the NHL and the team was broken up.

Nilsson went to the Atlanta Flames and on to a stellar career in Calgary, among other cities.

But the “Magic Man” started out in Winnipeg because that’s where all the big-name Swedish players were going. When he joined the Jets in 1977, his teammates included Swedes Anders Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson (no relation, though they are from the same hometown), Lars-Erik Sjoberg, Willy Lindstrom, Dan Labraaten, and Thommie Bergman.

By ’78-79, Hedberg, Ulf Nilsson, Labraaten and Bergman were gone and were replaced by a group of players from the Houston Aeros, including Terry Ruskowski, Morris Lukowich, Rich Preston and Scott Campbell.

“I remember that Canadians can play hockey too,” Nilsson said, tipping his cap to the aforementioned Houston players.

“They were good players and very good people. We were lucky in Winnipeg that we got so many good guys after Ulf and Anders left, Labraaten left, Bergman left. We were lucky to get so many good Canadians.

“We didn’t start very well that year. We had some crisis meeting before Christmas. But in the end, we pulled it together.”

So what else comes to mind for Nilsson, who had 81 goals and 214 points in two seasons with the Jets?

“I remember that Tom McVie was crazy,” Nilsson said. “I was only 20 years old and he was nuts.”

McVie took over as coach of that 1978-79 Jets team midway through the season and led them to the championship.

Both Nilsson and McVie will be at a 40-year reunion of the team in Winnipeg on June 1 at the Radisson, along with the likes of Lukowich, Preston, Ruskowski and Campbell.

Another former player expected to be there, was rugged defenceman Kim Clackson, who was the Jets’ primary enforcer in those days.

“Clackson was tough,” Nilsson said. “He saved my ass for two years. He’s my MVP.”

Nilsson was an outstanding player, but the Jets weren’t able to find a way to keep him as they entered the NHL. Jets general manger John Ferguson was only allowed to protect two forwards and two goaltenders and he chose to keep forward Lukowich, defenceman Campbell and goalies Markus Mattsson and Gary Smith.

“I was lucky to go to Atlanta, very lucky,” said Nilsson who went on to score 264 goals and 686 points in 553 NHL games.

Nilsson would have been much more inclined to stay in Winnipeg had the team been allowed to enter the NHL intact. Instead, the Jets spent two seasons just trying to keep their heads above water with a makeshift roster before finally starting to be competitive in the NHL.

“Both years I was in Winnipeg would have been good teams in the NHL I think,” Nilsson said.

“Ulf and Anders and Bobby (Hull) is hard to beat it was probably one of the best lines in the world at the time.

“But how many goals did Morris score? 70? (it was actually 65). Terry Ruskowski was a good leader, Campbell was a good defenceman. We had a good mix (in 1978-79). When all the guys came from Houston, they wanted to win.”

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MONTREAL — Shea Weber was in esteemed company as part of the select brotherhood of Montreal Canadiens captains gathered at Bell Centre on Tuesday.

The current Montreal captain was one of 12 Canadiens captains who were on hand for the Canadiens’ 110th birthday celebration prior to the game against the New York Islanders.

Hall of Fame members Yvan Cournoyer, Serge Savard, Bob Gainey, Chris Chelios and Guy Carbonneau were honored in a pregame ceremony along with Kirk Muller, Mike Keane, Pierre Turgeon, Vincent Damphousse, Saku Koivu and Brian Gionta. Henri Richard was unable to take part because of health issues, and Max Pacioretty was in New Jersey playing for the Vegas Golden Knights.

The 11 former captains each were shown on the video board looking at their respective photos on a display of Canadiens captains in the lobby while they were introduced in order. Then they walked through the crowd to gather together at center ice, where they were joined by Weber for a photo of their exclusive club.

“Walking in the room today and looking around and seeing all the big names and the Hall of Famers, you know, you really felt the history and all the years behind,” said Koivu, who drew the biggest ovation when he was introduced. “And then you look at the picture on the wall and it kind of made me realize once again what a special place and what an accomplishment it was to be a captain here.”

The rest of the current edition of the Canadiens then gathered around them for another photo opportunity, with Chelios catching Max Domi and helping him remain upright after the Montreal forward stumbled on the blue carpet.

Domi wore Guy Lafleur’s No. 10 jersey during the pregame warmup as each member of the Canadiens donned the jersey of a Canadiens great. Goalie Carey Price wore Jacques Plante’s No. 1, Weber wore Larry Robinson’s No. 19, Phillip Danault wore Jean Beliveau’s No. 4, Charles Hudon wore Maurice Richard’s No. 9, and rookie Nick Suzuki wore Howie Morenz’s No. 7, the first number retired by the Canadiens after the legendary forward’s death in 1937.

Look inhabituel pour les joueurs, ce soir. Misez sur les chandails d’échauffement au profit de @CHCFondation, dans le cadre du RadioTéléDON #unBUTuneAIDE. Lien en bio. Not your typical warmup session. Bid on tonight’s warmup jerseys benefiting @CHCFondation as part of the #ourGOALtoASSIST RadioTéléDON. Link in bio. #GoHabsGo

The Canadiens were formed on Dec. 4, 1909 as one of the founding teams in the National Hockey Association, the NHL’s predecessor.

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Remember when the Detroit Red Wings were an annual playoff team? Now they find themselves at rock bottom. How can they reverse that trend?
The Detroit Red Wings have been one of the most dominant teams in the NHL. They’ve made the second-most Stanley Cup Finals appearances, they’ve won the third-most Stanley Cups and they are the only team other than Toronto and Montreal to win back-to-back titles more than once. They are also one of only two teams to have two separate streaks of at least 20 consecutive playoff appearances.

However, the Red Wings are currently a different story. It’s no shocker to anyone that this season has not gone even close to anything that management, players and fans had planned. And for those who thought it couldn’t get worse than last season, they couldn’t be more wrong.

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The Red Wings haven’t just been bad – they’ve been abysmal. Last season, Detroit finished with the fourth-worst record in the NHL with 74 points. Basically nothing from last season went well, but compared to this season, it wasn’t that bad. Yes, it is possible that fans haven’t seen rock bottom yet.

Through 32 games at last season’s pace, the Red Wings had 29 points. So far this season, the team has 17 points. Over 82 games, if nothing changes, the team will have amassed 44 points. And if the Red Wings do end up with 44 points, they will become only the seventh team ever to do so over 82 games.

Even how they are losing games is astounding. Their goal differential is 25 goals worse than the next closest team and of their 25 losses, only six have been by one goal. In fact, of those 25 losses, nine have been by at least four goals. And even though they lead the league in losses, they have only mustered an extra point three times.

The special teams have also been anything but special. They rank dead last on the penalty kill and the power play hasn’t been much better, sitting at fifth-worst in the league. It’s the same song with goal-scoring, where they rank dead last in goals for and against, both by a wide margin.

All that being said, it has been anything but successful. Here are three ways to fix the Detroit Red Wings.

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1. Management overhaul
I’m not talking about the brand new general manager, Steve Yzerman. However, anything before Yzerman should at least be questioned with the greatest of scrutiny. Coach Jeff Blashill has been the coach since 2015. And while that isn’t considered very long to some, in today’s NHL, it’s more than enough time.

You can make arguments like not having the right players, needing time to accustom yourself to the job, seeing the core finally ended, or anything else. But when it comes down to it, time is up.

We can also examine not firing people, but changing their roles. The Red Wings have a plethora of former NHL talent under management. Dan Cleary, Shawn Horcoff, Pat Verbeek, and Jiri Fischer all offer a multitude of expertise. Maybe they are in the wrong role or maybe they need more responsibility. Whatever the case, if they stay, you can always alter their role.

2. Buy out contracts
It’s crazy the Detroit Red Wings don’t have the cap space to show for their lack of recent success. In a way, the team is built very nicely. They have some nice young players. However, it’s impossible to lure players over via trade or free agency if you can’t afford them.

Teams are not built with a bunch of players with mid-range salaries in today’s NHL. The salary of an NHL team is top-heavy. It needs to be for such a heavy free agent signing type of league.

This is the “no disrespect intended” portion. If you look at the team, there are six players who are 34 or older. There is only one whose salary could be justified in my opinion. I’ll let you figure out who I’m talking about. The point is that there is a lot of salary that needs to be lifted.

3. Rebuild
Not too many teams have the strength to follow through on all the pain it takes to go through a true build. One way to fix things is to gut the house. Tear down all the walls and pull out the guts until you are left with nothing but a hollow core.

You certainly have to keep guys to build around. The Detroit Red Wings have some nice youngsters to be proud of, including Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Anthony Mantha is where you get started. It’s unfortunate that none of them are defensemen of a goalie, but you have to start somewhere.

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For one game at least, Edmonton Oilers got the message. After a couple of days of team meetings off the ice and battle drills in practice, the Oilers took to the ice in Minnesota and worked their collective butts off for 60 solid minutes. The result wasn’t always pretty but it was very effective, as they skated, hit, and ground their way to a 4-1 win over the Wild. It was a solid team effort in which even coach Ken Hitchcock took one for the team when he got beaned with a clearing shot that put Glen Gultzan in charge of the bench for a few minutes.

It took the Oilers just 2:15 to take the lead, with Darnell Nurse striking from distance. The very sort of goal the Oil have allowed in the early going far too often this season. Indeed, it was the first time Edmonton has opened the scoring in seven games… not so coincidentally the last game they won. In this one they built on that lead, allowed one early in the third but struck back within three minutes on a deadly efficient powerplay that restored the two-goal bulge, giving both the club and its fans a little room to breathe.

It was a hard-fought game with literally hundreds of board battles. Give the Wild credit, their work rate was also very high and they kept pushing the play hard into Oilers territory, but were repeatedly battled to the perimeter. In a game that score effects ruled hard, Minnesota outshot Edmonton 36-23, with the margin in shot attempts even wider at 65-35. Make it 35-16 and 61-27 in 5v5 play. But that doesn’t properly reflect zone time, as the visitors kept grinding the boards effectively in the o-zone but didn’t force passes into the middle or waste shots (and possessions) from bad angles, preferring instead to gradually work the puck inside the faceoff dots before even thinking about letting fly. By contrast the Wild were firing away from pretty much anywhere. That was apparent by eye and is well supported by this heat map courtesy the essential Natural Stat Trick:

Grade A scoring chances as recorded by the Cult of Hockey‘s David Staples were much closer at 8-7 Wild. The Oilers had a clear advantage on special teams, highlighted by an epic penalty kill in the middle frame and a terrific powerplay goal that extended the lead to 3-1 in the third.

___

Post-game podcast

The Edmonton Oilers, led by Oscar Klefbom on defence, Cam Talbot in net and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on the attack, looked like their 2016-17 selves in a convincing 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild. David Staples and Bruce McCurdy of the Cult of Hockey dig in.

___

Player grades

#4 Kris Russell, 5. Spent most of his time inside his own territory but limited the damage to outside shots. Took (another) one for the team when he got spilled hard into his goal frame, in the process drawing the critical powerplay that restored the 3-1 lead.

#6 Adam Larsson, 7. Business as usual now that his partner Klefbom is back. The two formed an extremely effective combo, Larsson thwarting attackers with guile and grease, Klefbom winning races to the resultant loose pucks and moving them effectively. They were in very little trouble at any point, allowing just 6 shots at evens and none at all in a pair of brilliant penalty kills in which both logged nearly 3 minutes of the 4.

#8 Ty Rattie, 7. Given the big chance with McDavid-Draisaitl and responded with an excellent game that included a team-high 4 shots. Went hard to the net on multiple occasions, scoring the eventual game winner when he buried an RNH feed, narrowly missing another on a fine Draisaitl set-up at the doorstep and a third when he tipped Matt Benning’s point shot out of mid-air and on goal. My favourite was when he aggressively charged through the middle and leaped high to pull down Draisaitl’s aerial pass, surge past the defender and force one of Devan Dubnyk’s best stops of the night. Diligent on the backcheck. Drew a penalty.

#12 Colby Cave, 5. Played just 6 minutes on a lightly-used fourth line, but was effective in that limited role. 3/4=75% on the dot, with one of those faceoff wins leading directly to his own scoring chance on a jam play. 2 hits, and one very strong backcheck to help disrupt an apparent 2-on-1.

#16 Jujhar Khaira, 6. If you judged him by Corsi alone you’d think he played poorly, but that was far from the case. His line with Malone and Kassian did some outstanding work in the o-zone in increments up to entire shifts at a time. Created one very good chance when he stepped out in front and let fly from close range, the best of his 3 shots.

#22 Tobias Rieder, 5. Did his job in limited ice time (just 6½ minutes), taking the puck hard to the net on one occasion and providing a screen on another decent chance.

#24 Brad Malone, 5. Smart, safe, good on the cycle. Got walked on one rush by the crafty Mikael Granlund, otherwise didn’t look out of place.

#25 Darnell Nurse, 7. Scored his career-high 7th goal with a bomb from the point that surprised and overpowered Dubnyk. Remained on the first powerplay unit, where he made a slick backhand saucer pass early in the five-man passing play that became the 3-1 goal. Played 22:16 and kept things simple for the most part. Did take a penalty which he argued vociferously, but his mates killed it off without a threat.

#26 Brandon Manning, 5. Played an uncredited role in the game winner when he stepped up in the neutral zone to negate a Minny result, and was rewarded with a +1 when RNH and Rattie took the disc the other way and finished the play. Made 3 mistakes on Grade A chances against but Talbot had the answers.

#27 Milan Lucic, 6. Effective on a hard-working line with RNH and Chiasson, also contributed to the Rattie goal with a won battle that helped send Nuge away. Made a number of decent passes and was strong on the walls. Did take one bad icing from the neutral zone that forced a d-zone faceoff with three tired wingers and no centres on the ice (basically the second PP unit that got caught out there), but helped to erase the disadvantage off the subsequent draw.

#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Sniped his 8th goal in the last 6 games early in the third with a massive goal that answered back the one the Wild had just scored to cut the deficit. Another powerplay tally, his fifth in that short span. Now ranks third in the NHL in goals (32) and powerplay goals (12). Helped his own cause by winning the faceoff that kicked off that deadly sequence Draisaitl to McDavid to Nurse to Nuge to Chiasson to Draisaitl to back of net — teamwork as art form. Let fly another dangerous drive on a later powerplay (that he drew himself), a new move in his arsenal that he unveiled last game, taking the pass on his backhand facing away from the goal, then wheeling and firing. Made a couple of terrific passes to Rattie for splendid looks. Was among the culprits on the lone Minnesota tally. 8/19=42% on the dot. Strong on the penalty kill. Played 22:27 in all situations.

#33 Cam Talbot, 8. Probably closer to a “7” based on difficulty of shots he faced, but a bonus point for coming through with a solid performance in a high-stakes game, both personally and for the team. He looked like the “Calm Talbot” of old, cutting down angles and smothering rebounds. Didn’t face a shot until midway in the first, but saw lots of rubber thereafter including 15 drives in each of the final two frames. One puckhandling error but he made up for that with an emergency paddle save. Made two big stops in the 59th minute 5v6 with the second of them an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter with the dangerous Granlund, the rebound of which sent McDavid and Kassian away for the empty-netter to seal the deal. 36 shots, 35 saves, .972 save percentage.

#39 Alex Chiasson, 6. Set up Draisaitl’s clincher with a fine centring pass off a set play. Played a diligent two way game and contributed along the walls with his size, reach, and 3 hits. Also played a key role on the PK.

#44 Zack Kassian, 7. A rare two-point night with a secondary assist on Nurse’s goal early and the empty netter late. In between times he played a robust game, a fair bit of it deep in Minnesota territory where he, Khaira and Malone were too much for the Wild to handle on occasion. Nearly crossed the line with one borderline hit on Zach Parise but managed to stay out of the box. Is skating well of late and playing with more consistency than Oilers fans have become accustomed to.

#77 Oscar Klefbom, 7. What a breath of fresh air to have the dreamy Swede back in the line-up. He’s not lighting it up offensively just yet, but his defensive chops have been especially welcome, thwarting attacks before they even enter the zone, closing gaps to engage puck carriers, winning races to loose pucks and clearing them efficiently. His direct effect on Larsson is readily visible, but indirectly he helps cut down Nurse’s ice time to reasonable levels while allowing Hitchcock to slot his third pairing guys appropriately. Played nearly 24 minutes in all situations during which time Minny mustered just 7 shots on net; they fired 29 more in the 36 minutes Oscar was on the bench. Hitchcock singled him out for praise in the post-game avail and rightly so.

#83 Matt Benning, 5. Played 16 minutes and kept things simple. Involved in no Grade A chances at either end. Took a penalty. Paid homage to former Oiler and Minnesota North Star Paul Shmyr with a sequence where he coughed up the puck but immediately bailed himself out with a terrific defensive play.

#93 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, 8. Outstanding at even strength and on both special teams, playing with skill, grace and intensity. Earned a superb assist on Rattie’s game-winner, then chipped in another as the middle man in the five-way beauty on the powerplay. Had a phenomenal shift on the epic second period penalty kill, battling in the trenches to constrain the puck along the wall, then twice making fine plays to clear the zone under heavy pressure. Cleared the zone two more times on the Oilers’ other PK. 9/18=50% on the dot. Broke the 50-point barrier for the first* time in his career, now has 51 points in 54 games. (*Actually the fourth time, I’m just riffing off an old Oilogosphere meme.)

#97 Connor McDavid, 7. Earned a pair of assists from the periphery, setting up Nurse’s early tally and Kassian’s empty netter late. Also played an uncredited role in Draisaitl’s powerplay snipe. Had numerous moments of quality like he usually does, though just 1 shot on net. Did have a pair of defensive lapses, one that led to the Wild goal and the other to Granlund’s great late chance; that part of his game still needs polishing. 4/10=40% on the dot.

#98 Jesse Puljujarvi, 5. Played just 8½ minutes. Effective in a grinding role, and chipped in defensively by collapsing to the net front to help put out a couple of small fires before they “took”. His one shift on the second powerplay unit was largely wasted due to his inability to cleanly handle a routine pass in the neutral zone.

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Pat Hughes, a native of Calgary, is a three time Stanley Cup champion best known as a role player with the high flying Edmonton Oilers in the mid-1980s.

Pat first made a name for himself while attended the University of Michigan. The Montreal Canadiens noticed Pat during his sophomore year, and drafted the speedy winger 52nd overall in 1975. Pat turned pro in 1976-77, but spent the first two years playing in the Montreal farm system.

By 1978-79 Pat made the Canadiens, although his ice time was limited as the rookie right wing on a deep and talent squad, the year ended on a very successful note. Pat got into 8 playoff games and got his name on his first Stanley Cup.

With the retirement on goaltending great Ken Dryden following the Cup victory, the Habs traded Hughes to Pittsburgh to find a new goalie in Denis Heron. Hughes benefited from more ice time on the much weaker Penguins, and scored 18 goals and 32 points. The pesky Hughes also helped the Penguins make the playoffs that year.

1980-81 was a frustrating year for Hughes. Playing behind Rick Kehoe, George Ferguson and Peter Lee, he struggled on the score sheet and was traded to Edmonton in exchange for Pat Price late in the season.

That move turned out to be a great thing for Pat, joining the Oilers just in time for their famous playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. Montreal was the heavy favourite, but Edmonton pulled a major upset and swept the best of 5 series 3-0. Although the Oilers didn’t win another game in the playoffs, their upset victory over Montreal was a key step in their development. Hughes 5 assists in 5 games aided that cause.

Over the next three years Hughes played a nice role on the Oilers third line. In addition to his abrasive play and tight checking, Hughes chipped in nicely with some offense. From 1981-82 through 1983-84 Pat scored 24, 25, and 27 goals and 46, 45 and 55 points respectively.

The Oilers were a team known for scoring goals. With the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson they scored lots of goals. On a couple of nights at least, Pat Hughes joined that elite company with famous goal scoring outbursts.

The first game of note was against St. Louis on Jan. 11, 1983. On that night he set a NHL record (since bettered) by scoring two shorthanded goals just 25 seconds apart, bettering teammate Wayne Gretzky’s record of 27 seconds, set just one season prior.

Nearly a year later, on February 3rd, 1984, Hughes lit up the Calgary Flames with 5 goals in one game, joining Gretzky (who did it three times) and later joined by Jari Kurri for the Oilers team record.

1983-84 saw the Oilers win their first Stanley Cup. Pat picked up 13 points in the 19 game playoff run and played a quiet but important role on the team’s success.

The Oilers followed up that Cup victory with a second win in 1984-85, but then Hughes was involved in a three team trade with Pittsburgh and the Sabres. Pat ended up in Buffalo where it was hoped his experience with the Oilers and Canadiens would help bring along a struggling Sabres team. Hughes in turn struggled too with just 4 goals and 13 points in 50 games as the Sabres missed the playoffs.

The Sabres exposed Hughes in the waiver draft in 1986 where the St. Louis Blues picked up the 6’1″ and 180 pound penalty killer. He scored just 1 goal in 43 games with the Blues, he was traded to the Hartford Whalers. He played just 2 regular season games and 3 playoff games before retiring.

In 573 NHL games Pat Hughes scored 130 goals, 128 assists for 258 points. He added 8 goals and 33 points in 71 playoff contests.

Hughes, the brother in law of Mark Napier, worked in marketing departments of both the Edmonton Oilers and Molson breweries in the hockey off-seasons.
Posted by Joe Pelletier at 8:59 PM
Labels: Pat Hughes
3 COMMENTS:
Anonymous, 11:52 AM
After an Oiler game back in 1982, Pat Hughes gave my 6 year old son his hockey stick for a souvenir. We still have that stick to this day. I am hoping I can get Pat to sign it for him…he’s now 38 years old. Quite the keepsake.

John Gelmon, 6:56 PM
I was a fan of Pat Hughes. Was a hard working player who made things happen. It’s incorrect that Edmonton did not win another 1981 playoff game after sweeping Montreal in the preliminary round. They won two games (games 3 and 5) in the 1981 quarter-finals against the eventual cup winner New York Islanders.

J.P. Fox, 2:40 PM
Agreed in correct with regards to 1981 playoff wins v. Islanders