It’s October and Edmonton’s already playing ‘must-wins’


Fall too far behind the pack in the NHL, even early in the season, and it can be very hard to climb back into the race.

That fear is starting to weigh on the 3-7-1 Edmonton Oilers as they look to wrap up the month with road games in Phoenix and Los Angeles, followed by a home contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“That’s for sure the concern,” forward Jordan Eberle told the Edmonton Sun. “We’ve played a lot of road games and we know we have a lot of home games coming up … but we’re four games below .500 right now. The next few games are must-wins.”

Part of the issue is how good the Pacific Division — and really the Western Conference in general — has been. The Oilers are already seven points behind in the race for a playoff spot. If they lose against the Coyotes this afternoon and the Kings on Sunday, then they’ll be nine points behind in the postseason berth race by the end of the weekend.

The Oilers have dealt with some serious injuries already, including ones to forwards Sam Gagner (jaw) and Taylor Hall (knee). At the same time, Edmonton needs to demonstrate that its young team is willing to move past the rebuilding phase and that’s a hard argument to make as long as the Oilers sit in the Western Conference basement.

Personal reasons: No Ovechkin for Caps tonight

Alex Ovechkin
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Alex Ovechkin won’t play for the Washington Capitals on Tuesday because of personal reasons, the team confirmed.

He entered the building considerably later than usual, but his presence at least opened the door for the possibility of No. 8 suiting up against the San Jose Sharks.

Instead, the Capitals will face the hot-starting Sharks without Ovechkin (personal reasons) and Nicklas Backstrom (injury).

That’s a tall order, yet it’s also an opportunity for Barry Trotz to prove his system is a difference-maker … and that the Capitals have the young players to take up the mantle when the big stars are out

This is how Washington’s forward lines may look tonight:

No, the Capitals have not shared details regarding what his “personal reasons” might be, by the way.

Bruins put Morrow on IR, bring up Cross

Brady Skjei, Joe Morrow
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Lower-level defense is not the biggest of many worries for the Boston Bruins, yet it might be another in a series of headaches.

CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty points out that Joe Morrow has been placed on IR while AHL stalwart Tommy Cross was called up.

With a -3 rating and negligible offensive impact so far, few will really be missing Morrow (pictured). From the way Haggerty describes Cross, it’s a pretty cool story if he gets into the lineup:

Cross was named captain of the Providence Bruins this season, and actually had a strong training camp as the hard-hitting, tough stay-at-home defenseman he’s developed into during his five years in the B’s minor league system. The 2007 second round pick was a highly regarded potential puck-moving defenseman when he was drafted prior to his Boston College career, but a series of knee injuries negated some of his speed and puck-moving capabilities.

Granted, the Bruins would prefer a sure-thing improvement over a feel-good story right now, as this 0-3-0 start marks their worst beginning in some time.

Injuries have been an issue in general, too, with Zdeno Chara‘s slow start mixed with Dennis Seidenberg on the mend and Brad Marchand in limbo.

The Bruins’ next game comes against the Avalanche in Colorado. Maybe they’ll start to mend things on the ice?