Shea Weber

Predators keep Oilers winless against the west


The Edmonton Oilers’ stretch of games without a win against the Western Conference was extended to 13 games (0-11-2) Thursday night following a 1-0 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators.

Preds rookie Filip Forsberg scored the overtime winner at 3:55 of the extra period.

Edmonton certainly had their chance to win this one.

Thirteen seconds into overtime Predators captain Shea Weber closed his hand on the puck in the crease. The Oilers were awarded a penalty shot, but Jordan Eberle could not solve Pekka Rinne.

Rinne improved to 15-3-1 on the season with a 37 save performance. Rinne has now won nine of 10 appearances (9-1-0) for the first time since he won 11 straight games from Jan. 12 to Feb. 7, 2012.

Thursday night marked the regular season debut of Predators center Mike Fisher, who ruptured his achilles tendon during an off-season workout. Fisher logged 12:44 in ice time while delivering three hits.

Viktor Fasth made 24 saves for the Oilers, who have now gone eight straight without a win. During the 13 game losing streak against the Western Conference, the Oilers have a goal differential of minus-28.

Edmonton, who is 6-3-1 against the Eastern Conference this season, played much of the game with just 11 forwards. Winger Matt Hendricks left the game early in the first period after blocking a Weber shot off his knee.

Post-game coach Dallas Eakins said Hendricks had X-Rays done on his knee cap, which came back negative, but that he was having trouble bending his leg.

Video: Oilers awarded a penalty shot in overtime


The Edmonton Oilers had a glorious opportunity to win in Nashville on Thursday night after Predators captain Shea Weber covered the puck in the crease early in overtime.

Jordan Eberle took the shot for the Oilers, but could not beat the left pad of Pekka Rinne.

Moments later, Predators’ rookie Filip Forsberg scored the overtime winner, his 10th of the season.

Video: Oilers’ Hendricks blocks Weber shot, leaves game (Updated)

Edmonton Oilers forward Matt Hendricks blocked a shot from Predators defenseman Shea Weber early in the first period Thursday night.

Hendricks took the shot off the knee and left the game.


Henrdricks is the second forward Edmonton has lost in a week due to an injury after blocking a shot.

Benoit Pouliot suffered a broken foot and has been placed on injured reserve after blocking a shot against the New Jersey Devils last week.

Jesse Joensuu is the lone extra forward currently on the Oilers’ roster. Depending on the severity of Hendricks’ injury, Edmonton would have to place him on IR in order to recall another forward.

The day before Thanksgiving, six new playoff teams


We wrote yesterday about the significance of being in a playoff position by Thanksgiving. At the time, the Islanders, Maple Leafs, Predators, Flames, and Canucks were all in that category after failing to qualify last season. And last night, the Jets leapfrogged the Wild into the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

What are the chances each of those six teams hangs on to a playoff spot? Click here for the standings, and let’s briefly run it down:

Islanders (15-6-0): Eight points up on the third-place Rangers in the Metropolitan Division, which is a pretty nice cushion to have built by this point in the season. The Isles have won nine of their last 10, responding as well as possible to a short spell in late November that had coach Jack Capuano in the critics’ sights. On paper, this is a much improved team, and it’s playing out that way on the ice. The Isles have been one of the NHL’s top possession teams, and goalie Jaroslav Halak has been outstanding in November, allowing just 11 goals in his last eight starts.

Toronto (11-8-2): Tied with Ottawa in points, but the Leafs have won more in regulation/overtime, so they get the nod. For all the negativity that’s surrounded this club this season, Toronto has beaten some pretty good teams, including the Islanders, Blackhawks, Bruins, and Lightning. It’s the Leafs’ inconsistency that makes them so hard to predict. One night they’re all on the same page, the next they’re getting smoked in Buffalo. The Leafs play in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Capitals Saturday. That Washington game will be worth watching, since the Caps may be the team Toronto has to beat out when all’s said and done.

Vancouver (15-6-1): With last night’s win over New Jersey, the Canucks tied a franchise record for their best 22-game start, matching the points total they set in 1991-92 when they went 14-5-3 out of the gates. With improved depth up front, Vancouver is no longer so dependent on the Sedins to provide the offense, and new coach Willie Desjardins seems to have injected his players with some renewed enthusiasm. The caveat is that the Canucks have played a relatively easy schedule, with four of their wins coming over the Oilers. Add to the equation that defenseman Dan Hamhuis is expected to be out a considerable length of time and Vancouver can’t afford to let off the gas as it embarks on a seven-game road trip.

Nashville (14-5-2): One of the surprise teams of the season. (Though, as previously noted, not altogether unexpected.) A healthy Pekka Rinne is the major key to the Predators’ success, but certainly not the only one. Nashville, like the Islanders, has been one of the top puck-possession teams in the NHL. While you still wouldn’t call the Preds’ offense “potent,” and you do have to wonder how hot rookie Filip Forsberg can stay, with Rinne in goal and Shea Weber on the ice for almost half the game, it should only have to be capable to make the playoffs.

Calgary (13-8-2): The biggest surprise team of the season. You just wonder how long it can last. The Flames have been one of the worst puck-possession teams in the league, and that has a tendency to catch up to a group over the long run. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with admiring this team’s resilience. Five times Calgary has won games it’s trailed after the second period, with seven losses. Their Alberta neighbors to the north, meanwhile, have also trailed 12 games after two, but are 0-11-1 in that situation.

Winnipeg (11-9-3): One point up on Minnesota, though the Wild are playing very well and have three games in hand. The biggest difference between this Jets team and previous unsuccessful editions is that this one is getting solid goaltending. Backup Michael Hutchinson has been especially good (.947 save percentage in seven appearances), while Ondrej Pavelec (.917) has middle-of-the-pack numbers, which at least beats what he’s done in prior seasons. Still, even if one assumes the goaltending can hold up, the Jets are probably going to need to start scoring a bit more. Currently, only Buffalo has a less effective offense.

Why are the Oilers still bad? Look at their drafting


No, this isn’t about Nail Yakupov. Enough has been written about the Oilers’ decision to use their third straight first overall pick on that guy.

This is about the drafting that took place early on in Edmonton’s playoff drought, which started all the way back in 2006-07, the season after they lost the Stanley Cup Final to Carolina, and continues to this day.

In 2007, the Oilers had three first-round picks. They chose forward Sam Gagner (6th), d-man Alex Plante (15th), and forward Riley Nash (21st). All three are no longer with the club.

Imagine, if you will, that Plante had turned into an impact defensemen, as opposed to playing just 10 NHL games before leaving for Austria. At 25 years old, he’d be the same age as P.K. Subban, who, by the way, was drafted 43rd overall in 2007.

Heck, imagine if any of the many defenseman the Oilers drafted from, say, 2007 to 2010 had panned out. Alas, Johan Motin, Troy Hesketh, Kyle Bigos, Ryan Martindale, Jeremie Blain — all taken in the fourth round or before — have not. Maybe Martin Marincin (46th overall in 2010) will. Then again, given the trade rumors, he might soon be gone from the club, too.

Is it fair to criticize a team for failing to draft diamonds in the rough? Not on a case-by-case basis maybe. There’s a whole lot of luck involved when it comes to drafting 18-year-olds. But when taken as a whole? Absolutely it’s fair. Otherwise, what’s the point of having scouts? Just let a monkey make the picks.

Consider Duncan Keith’s importance to the Blackhawks. He was taken 54th overall in 2002. With time to develop in the AHL, he was able to enter his prime just as forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, selected in 2006 and 2007, respectively, were entering theirs. Everyone knows defensemen take longer to develop than forwards. Shea Weber is another Norris Trophy candidate who wasn’t drafted in the first round. He was taken 49th overall in 2003 and needed two more seasons of junior, plus some time in the AHL, before he was ready for the show.

Drafting beyond the first round, then properly developing those players, is of paramount importance in the NHL.

From 2007 to 2010, the Oilers made 23 draft picks that weren’t in the first round.

What have they got to show for it in 2014?

An extremely frustrated fan base, that’s what.

Related: Strome, Nelson giving Isles that all-important cheap production