Hemsky Luongo

The Oilers are taking shootouts very seriously this season


One of Ralph Krueger’s key initiatives as Edmonton’s bench boss this season is improving the Oilers’ success in the shootout.

“We see shootouts as a specialty team,” Krueger told the Edmonton Sun. “We have a power play. We have penalty killing. And we have penalty shots in the shootout.”

It’s a curious decision, given most clubs don’t offer much in terms of shootout prep.

There are usually attempts at the end of practice, occasional chats with the goalie for shooter tips or, in the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, a “mustache boy” competition.

The Oilers, though, take shootouts far more seriously — especially since Krueger crunched the numbers and realized Edmonton only won 11 of 33 shootouts in two years under Tom Renney.

Here’s more, from the Sun:

“This year we’re taking the penalty shooting part of the game very seriously,” said Krueger.

“We have a group of five or six players. And Freddie Chabot, who has been analyzing goaltenders in the league through and through during the lockout, putting some good information together, will be coaching it primarily.”

Krueger gave Chabot credit for the shootout success.

“Freddie picked them, not me. We have a new specialty team. That’s all Freddie.”

In a compact 48-game schedule, Krueger figures, it’s an area that could make the difference between a team finishing eighth or ninth in the standings.

“A playoff position could be decided by a point.”

“We now have a clear picture of what the goaltender is going to do. They all have a history. The shooters, too. Preparing Devan [Dubnyk] for them is a big part of it, too.”

Krueger first got the idea while coaching Switzerland during the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

He put his third goalie in charge of monitoring shooter trends and tendencies, and the move paid off reasonably well — the Swiss lost to Canada in an opening-round shootout (the Canadians only scored once) before beating Belarus via shootout in the qualification round.

It should be noted that Edmonton won its first game of the year via shootout — a 3-2 decision over the Canucks.

Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky both converted their chances while Dubnyk stoned Alex Edler and Alexander Burrows on consecutive attempts.

Campbell’s perfect snipe sinks Wings in OT

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Brian Campbell doesn’t score as many points as he used to, but he came up with a huge goal against the Red Wings on Sunday afternoon.

With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Campbell skated into the slot and beat Petr Mrazek with a perfect wrister to end the game.

It was also a pretty nice passing play between Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Huberdeau and Campbell.

Dylan Larkin opened the scoring in the second period before Reilly Smith leveled the score with just over five minutes remaining.

The Wings have blown a lead in three straight games.

Detroit was up 2-0 and 3-2 in their last game, against Edmonton, before they finally closed the game out with an overtime goal by Niklas Kronwall.

They weren’t so fortunate against the Bruins on Wednesday, as they lost 3-2 in OT after leading 2-1 with under two minutes remaining in regulation.

This was the first meeting of the season between Detroit and Florida, but they’ll see each other three times between Feb. 4 and Mar. 19.

With Jonathan Bernier sputtering, we’ll meet Garret Sparks

Garett Sparks
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You can’t blame Mike Babcock for siding with the relatively unknown when the other option is Jonathan Bernier, a goalie who’s 0-8-1 so far in 2015-16.

With that in mind, meet Garret Sparks, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ expected starter for Monday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.

Sparks was a seventh-round pick (190th overall) in 2011, a guy who was off to a great start in the AHL. That much wasn’t lost on Babcock.

Let’s face it, though; this is as much about the Leafs’ other two goalies as it is about Sparks (whose name inspired a very obscure reference in this post’s headline).

In Bernier’s case, there’s an “enough’s enough” feel:

Meanwhile, James Reimer‘s not quite healthy enough to play yet, so the window of opportunity is open for Sparks … a little bit.

Sparks will get a chance to make an impression, even if it’s just a small one.

Video: Dylan Larkin adds to his rookie goals lead

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So far, the 2015-16 crop of rookies is living up to the hype, if not exceeding it. Connor McDavid‘s unfortunate injury hasn’t even derailed this year’s crop.

The Detroit Red Wings are watching their own blue chip blossom, as Dylan Larkin is making an instant impact.

No. 71 scored his 10th goal of the season against the Florida Panthers on Sunday, fattening his rookie goals lead.

He still needs five points to match rookie points leader Artemi Panarin, though.

Latest report leaves Carey Price’s injury timeline fuzzy

Carey Price
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There’s one thing we seem to know about Carey Price‘s injury situation: he first got hurt stepping on a puck on Oct. 29, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Contrary to earlier reports about him missing about a month, it sounds like his window of recovery is still up in the air (which, to be fair, could mean that he’ll still miss about a month when it’s all said and done).

ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that Price underwent testing with Montreal’s team doctor on Saturday and is expected to go through more; we may not know more about his expected injury timeline until early this coming week.

So, basically, Price’s situation is fuzzier than his mustache right now.

Leg injuries can be tricky anyway, so we shouldn’t be too surprised that there are mixed signals regarding Price, and this may remain a fluid situation for some time.

(But we’ll hopefully know more soon enough.)