After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.
Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.
Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.
Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.
While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.
Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.
Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.
Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.
In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.
Some of the more choice quotes:
“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”
“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon Draisaitl–Taylor Hall line] that provides that.”
Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.
They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.
Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.
“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”
The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.
After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.
You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:
“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.
“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”
There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.
His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.
Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.
Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.
Exactly 366 days ago, Garret Sparks was tending goal for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
What a difference a year can make.
On Monday, Sparks — the 22-year-old netminder just recalled from the AHL Marlies — was the big story in Toronto, posting a 24-save shutout over Edmonton in his NHL debut.
Sparks’ debut came after the in-form James Reimer went down with injury and Jonathan Bernier struggled mightily to start the year. A seventh-round pick in 2011, Sparks was taken 189 spots behind the guy lined up across from him tonight — that’d be Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the No. 1 overall pick in ’11.
So yeah, Sparks might not be high on pedigree. But he’s certainly full value for what he’s achieved.
The former OHL Guelph standout went 8-2-1 with the Marlies this year, with a .938 save percentage and 1.90 GAA. Those numbers impressed the club’s brass and afforded him the chance to get a spot start against the Oilers.
And needless to say, it went well.
Leo Komarkov provided two-thirds of the Toronto offense on the night, scoring both the opening goal and insurance marker (into an empty net) to put him on 10 goals for the year. Komarov’s offensive outburst is nearly as surprising as Sparks’ emergence; prior to this season, the gritty Finn had never scored more than eight goals in a single NHL campaign.
Nazem Kadri scored the other goal for the Leafs, who are now 8-11-5 on the year.
As for Edmonton… well, the scoreline says it all. The club has just six goals in its last five games and has been shut out twice (the other occurred last Monday, in a 1-0 loss to the Caps). The defeat dropped the Oilers to 8-15-2, putting them right in the Western Conference basement next to Calgary, with 18 points.