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Smyth, Whitney return to take on Avs

Ryan Smyth and Ryan Whitney are expected to return to the Edmonton Oilers line up in a Northwest Division battle against the injury-depleted Colorado Avalanche , tonight at Rexall Place.

 

After amassing a decent 4-1-1 record to begin this lockout-shortened season, the youthful Edmonton Oilers have lost six of their last seven contests. The only win for the Oilers during the current losing-skid occurred as a direct result of some spectacular goaltending by Deven Dubnyk. Dubnyk stole the show in a game against the Columbus Bluejackets on Feb. 10, stopping 39 of 40 shots and holding on for a 3-1 victory. Even more flabbergasting is how the Oilers managed to win when they got only 14 measly shots on the Bluejackets net.

 

During the same game, near the end of the third period, Oilers-veteran Ryan Smyth was assessed his third penalty of the game. The score was tied 1-1, so it was a critical time of the game. Thankfully for the Oilers, instead of a possible Bluejacket’s powerplay goal, Sam Ganger was able to get the puck on the penalty kill and break into the Bluejacket’s zone, where he made a nifty backhand pass to a streaking Magnus Paajarvi who rifled a shot passed the glove of Bluejacket’s goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and into the net.

 

Because the Oilers won in Columbus, it seemed that Smyth would be off the hook for taking a dumb penalty at such a crucial time of the game, but Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger had other plans. The coach decided to send Smyth to the press box for the next game against the Dallas Stars to sit alongside fellow healthy-scratched, Ryan Whitney.

Nail Yakupov,  Paul Stastny.
Ryan Smyth stands in his familiar spot during a game against the Colorado Avalanche earlier in the season. Smyth returns to the line up tonight in a game against the Avalanche at Rexall Place after being a healthy scratch for the previous game.
(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)

 

Krueger expects much more out of his veteran players, and his disallowing Smyth and Whitney to play sets a precedent in the Oilers dressing room. By scratching two important members of the team, especially two veterans, Krueger shows the younger players that he is willing to scratch any player if that palyer is not ready to compete.

 

Those “Hockey Gods” that Don Cherry is always yelling about must really exist, because the Oilers were handed a 4-1 loss in their next game against the Stars in much the same way the Bluejackets lost to the Oilers in the previous game.

 

Returning home to Rexall Place, the Oilers managed 36 shots against visiting goalie Keri Lehtonen. It was Lehtonen’s turn to thieve a win for the Stars, as Taylor Hall was the only Oilers player to score on the goaltender midway through the first period. But after the Stars tied the score early in the second on one of the luckiest goals you’ll ever see, the Oilers couldn’t beat Lehtonen again and gave the game away in the third period.

 

Tonight, the Oilers should be hungry for a win, as they seek to add some more numbers to the win column of their mediocre 5-5-3 record. If the Oilers wish is to be in the playoffs at the end of the season—and many fans are expecting them to be—the time is now to tie off all the loose ends of the club and get some valuable wins. Hopefully, they can take advantage of their current five-game home stand before they embark on a treacherous nine-game road trip.

 

Evan Davits

Evan Davits

I grew up playing hockey on the roads, outdoor rinks, and ice surfaces of various arenas in Edmonton and around Northern Alberta. Now, I am a father of three and a journalism student at MacEwan University in Edmonton. My words are often brutally honest and critical; however, I have never been the type to shy away from sarcasm and humour.
Evan Davits
Evan Davits

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