Oilers claim they’re making “progress”

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If you look at some of the Edmonton Oilers front office’s moves, there’s a strange sense of “keeping the band together” even though they’ve mostly hit foul notes. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that the team told Robin Brownlee of The Canadian Press that they’re making progress (and not just toward another lottery pick, one would assume).

“I think we’ve already made progress to tell you the truth, regardless of what happens,” Shawn Horcoff said. “We’ve had great leaps and strides forward with our young guys and we’re going to get another good (draft) pick. We’re going to be older and a little more experienced next year. I think experience goes a long way.”

After finishing 30th overall in back-to-back seasons with 62 points, the Oilers face the Ducks in their final home game with a record of 32-39-9 for 73 points. At worst, the Oilers will be 11 points better when they’re done with the Ducks and the Canucks.

While it’s reasonable that the Oilers continue to build around an improving nucleus of young offensive players, re-upping with flawed veterans such as Andy Sutton and Ales Hemsky* seems a bit perplexing.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are cemented in last place in the NHL – the Oilers’ former cozy home – so technically some progress has been made. Still, in a salary cap age full of rapid turnarounds (particularly with teams who stock up on high-end draft picks), Edmonton seems relegated to the New York Islanders category of baby step improvements.

Much like the Islanders, the Oilers’ front office has its strange quirks, as GM Steve Tambellini has made his fair share of strange decisions.

Still, when games open up to allow Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall to take over, it can be a beautiful sight. Let us know in the comments if those brief moments of glory – not to mention Sam Gagner’s historic run – are just a mirage or are instead a sign of better things to come.

(And be specific about how much better, if you don’t mind.)

* – I like Hemsky and I know he isn’t that old, but he’s basically a poor man’s Marian Gaborik because of his near-constant presence on injury reports. It’s a bit surprising that Edmonton’s brass wants to deal with more of that IR drama.

Auston Matthews’ 33rd goal includes a dash of comedy (Video)

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Ouch, Blues consider Paul Stastny out week-to-week

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The St. Louis Blues announced that Paul Stastny is out week-to-week with a lower-body injury.

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during last night’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, head coach Mike Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious.

There are only about three weeks left in the regular season, so it’s tough to tell if “week-to-week” would mean that the Blues will be without Stastny for any playoff time.

With Stastny out for an expended period of time and other injuries affecting Blues forwards, it sounds like Nail Yakupov gets another chance to prove himself:

Stastny generated 18 goals and 40 points in 66 games so far this season. He has played more of a defensive role this season (46.2 offensive zone start percentage after being closer to 50 earlier in his Blues days) and has been impressive in the dot, winning 53.8 of his faceoffs.

WATCH LIVE: Islanders at Rangers – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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A night after a feisty matcuhup with the Devils, the Rangers host an even bigger rival in the Islanders at Madison Square Garden for Wednesday Night Rivalry on NBCSN.

As nasty as Tuesday’s contest got at times, this one means more.

While the Rangers seem pretty safely seated as the East’s first wild card, the Islanders stand three points behind the Maple Leafs for the final spot in the conference. They’ve seen other bubble teams stumble, so this is their chance to close in on Toronto in what might be a shrinking field of contenders.

Spiting the Islanders might just give the Rangers a little extra life on back-to-back nights … especially since their fans would probably let them have it if they sleepwalk through this one.

It should be a fun, physical and dramatic one on NBCSN. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.