Edmonton's 'enormously painful' season

The last place Edmonton Oilers are suffering through a brutal 2009-10 season. The franchise continues to struggle to find an identity ever since the notorious Chris Pronger trade, but this season cannot be blamed on that or any single event. Instead, the team has faced injuries, double-digit losing streaks and more than their fair share of personal humiliation. You know things are bad when even their owner Daryl Katz admitted it has been “an enormously tough year.”

Tonight’s game with the Chicago Blackhawks shined a light on the Oilers’ injury and trade ravaged roster. The Copper and Blue captured just how dilapidated their defensive core is right now: 
“Of the 6-man defensive unit that all agreed was the Oilers’ strength heading into this season, three have been traded and two shelved with bad medical news since Monday. The early result will be that tonight the Oilers will likely ice the worse defensive unit that has hit the ice for an NHL team since late in the 2006-07 season, when the Oilers (natch) had to use the likes of Dan Syvret, Bryan Young, Sebastien Bisaillon, and Toby Petersen on the blue. Assuming neither Whitney nor Johnson makes it to Chicago on time, the Oilers will ice four guys who were in the AHL last Sunday. The Hawks, meanwhile, will ice four guys who played in the Olympic Gold Medal Game on Sunday.”


Much like tonight’s game, a lot of the Oilers’ problems came from horrible luck. Their most dynamic forward (Ales Hemsky) suffered a season-ending injury in November while Nikolai Khabibulin upped the stakes by not only suffering a season (and possibly career) ending injury but also getting in legal trouble to boot. To put a cherry on top of a sadness sundae, the  Oilers received news of potential season-ending injuries to defensemen Ladislav Smid and Sheldon Souray during this trade deadline week. Souray, in particular, could have been able to fetch some great value on the trade market.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any self-inflicted problems, though. The signing of Nikolai Khabibulin generated quite a bit of criticism, particularly because the aging Russian goaltender’s cap hit would count against the Oilers’ cap even if he retired before the contract ends. Let’s not even linger on that painful Dany Heatley non-trade.
As far as the future of the Oilers goes, there’s still much in the air. With only Toronto (49 points) anywhere near Edmonton’s last-placed 42 points, it looks likely that the Oilers will have a great chance in the draft lottery. With the possibility of a new arena, a (hopefully) healthier roster and a probable top-5 draft pick (Taylor Hall anyone?) things could pick up for the downtrodden franchise.
That’s great, because the rest of the year has the potential to be very grim.

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    Jaden Schwartz’s hat trick leads Blues over Blackhawks

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    Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.

    Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.

    After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.

    As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.

    St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

    WATCH LIVE: Canadiens at Kings

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    The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

    It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.

    You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    Leafs’ Marleau becomes 18th NHL player to reach 1,500-game milestone

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    Patrick Marleau’s three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs will end two months before his 41st birthday, a summer when many believe his NHL career will come to an end.

    But as he celebrated game No. 1,500 Wednesday night against the Detroit Red Wings, the veteran forward was talking about reaching another kind of milestone.

    “I’m going to keep going as long as I can,” he said Wednesday morning via Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. “I don’t know if my wife’s ready to have me at home full-time yet. If I feel good and still think I can contribute then I’ll keep it going.”

    Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.

    Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.

    Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.

    Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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    WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Blues

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    This week’s edition of NBCSN’s Rivalry Night will feature a central division clash between the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues.

    It’s still early days, but the two sides are battling atop the Central, with the Blackhawks powered by great starts from a number of players including Brandon Saad and Ryan Hartman. The Blues, meanwhile, are looking to halt a two-game skid after winning their first four games of the season. The game also features the return of NHL on NBC analyst Ed Olczyk to the booth.

    You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    Blues get Alexander Steen back against Blackhawks

    Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk’s ‘best medicine’

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    Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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