In the churning sea of negatives around the Edmonton Oilers right now, maybe they’re getting a sliver of sunlight with Leon Draisaitl and Drake Caggiula passing their medical tests to go on the three-game road trip to Chicago, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
“They’re both progressing well. I don’t believe they’ll play against Chicago (Thursday) but there’s a chance they’ll participate on the road,” said Oilers coach Todd McLellan.
They’re both on injured reserve as the Oilers are carrying 22 players, one under the league max. If both come off, then farm call-up Brad Malone could return to Bakersfield.
Draisaitl, who had a goal and two assists in his first three games, has missed the last two with concussion-type issues, which apparently, came on after the loss to the Winnipeg Jets 10 days ago. Fellow forward Caggiula has missed three with an undisclosed problem. He last played in Vancouver Oct. 7.
Third-line winger Zack Kassian only played eight shifts and 4:44 against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, stapled to the bench after some penalties in the first period. He only got five shifts and 2:14 the last 40 minutes.
Kassian was the culprit on the too-many men call 76 seconds in when he jumped on with his linemates but Kailer Yamamoto was still out on the ice.
“I asked him (Wednesday) would you play yourself when you took the too many men penalty without even being on the ice? His answer was very fair. We got that sorted out,” said McLellan, who also saw Kassian take an interference penalty later in the first. “Some of the penalties we’re taking at this point are unacceptable and it’s causing us grief because our penalty killing isn’t as good as it has been.”
Milan Lucic was saddened to hear of singer Gord Downie’s death of brain cancer, because nobody liked hockey more than The Tragically Hip’s front-man. The Oilers had their songs playing in their dressing room Wednesday before flying to Chicago.
Downie was on an Oilers charter when the team had played in Calgary a few years back because he was a friend of Kevin Lowe. He mused about whether the Boston Bruins would ever trade Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and lo and behold, they did move him to Toronto.
“Sad news throughout Canada. Obviously, Gord was a big part of every Canadian’s life and meant a lot to hockey players,” said Lucic. “I grew up listening to his songs because they were on the radio all the time and I know he was a big Bruins fan and a fan of mine. Unfortunately, I never got a chance to meet him personally.”
Oilers defenceman Eric Gryba was a huge fan, too.
“Every Canadian kid out there loved The Hip,” said Gryba. “An iconic band and Gord is an iconic person in our country. His journey was inspirational to many.”
Patrick Maroon had a chance to tie the game on a breakaway in the third period Tuesday with the Hurricanes up 4-3, but Cam Ward stoned him.
“I missed it. Can’t hold my head against that now, there’s lots of hockey to be played,” said Maroon.
McLellan said his players have been all ears lately.
“They’re very receptive, their penance, if you want to call it that,” he said. “They’re part of the discussion, which is encouraging because if they turn quiet on you, then that’s not a good sign.
“Struggle and emerge, I think, is Notre Dame’s motto and that’s where we’re at.”
McLellan admitted the Oilers, “maybe got a little full of themselves against Vancouver and Winnipeg,” after the 3-0 win over Calgary and the pre-season hype about how good they were. But the last two losses to Ottawa (6-1) and Carolina (5-3) have been crushing.
“We’ve been humbled enough to get back to work. It’s just mistakes, it has nothing to do with expectations,” he said.
Lucic knows their four-game losing streak is mostly self-inflicted.
“Careless mistakes that weren’t in our game all season long last year. With all the video and the coaches harping on us, it seems we’re still making the same ones. It’s on the players to make it right,” he said. “It’s like we’re in quick-sand. The harder we try, the deeper we get.”