It could have been worse for Oilers forward Sam Gagner. It certainly looked bad at the time. Gagner crashed into the end boards during the second period of the Oilers’ 2-1 victory over the Flames on Saturday night. He lay sprawling on the ice in the aftermath of the hit—it could have been any number of ailments from the dangerous collision that were the problem. Was it his head that hit the end boards? Was it an ankle or upper body injury when he collided awkwardly? Luckily for the Oilers and Gagner, it looked much worse than it actually was.
The Edmonton Journal had the story and followed up with the Oilers’ coaching staff:
“At the time, it looked like Gagner may have also hit his head on the boards because he was down for a couple of minutes as trainer T.D. Forss came out to see him, but the Oilers dismissed that.
“He’s out day-to-day. ‘Just precautionary,’ said Oilers head coach Tom Renney, when asked if Gagner, who played 2-1/2 minutes in the second period, could have returned as the Oilers beat the Flames 2-1. He wasn’t scheduled to play Sunday in Calgary anyway.”
Later we found out that he had actually injured his ankle blocking a shot earlier in the game.
Since the same two teams are playing tonight, the Oilers coaching staff had already decided that Gagner would be a healthy scratch while they looked at other players. The last thing a player needs in the preseason is a game against a bitter rival when he’s not quite right. It’s surely a welcomed rest for a player who isn’t fighting for a spot on the team.
The sixth overall pick in the 2007 is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Oilers in 2010. Like any other pending restricted free agent, he wants to put his best foot forward from the start of the season as he looks to continue to fulfill the potential he showed with the London Knights in his draft year. At 22 years old, Gagner still has plenty of room to develop on a team that is already stocked with young forwards. He’s scored 40+ points in each of his first four season in the league—but many around the team think Gagner is capable of more than the 15 goals and 27 assists he put up last season.
Staying healthy would be a step in the right direction. He’s missed 14 games in each of the last two seasons; a preseason injury wouldn’t be the start he’s looking for this year. With players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, and possibly Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around nowadays, the Oilers aren’t depending on him to carry the team offensively this season. Still, if they want to be more successful in the standings, the scoring depth that Gagner could provide would go a long way towards helping the Oilers climb out of the basement.