Just when you thought the Edmonton Oilers might be getting the band back together…
Cam Talbot was placed on injured reserve on Thursday with an upper-body ailment that will keep him out for the next couple of weeks (and perhaps longer):
It comes at a time when the Oilers were starting to string a couple wins together, having won two straight and three of their past four. Connor McDavid had gotten over the flu, Zack Kassian finally scored and Talbot was starting a mini-revival in the crease.
And then someone angered the hockey gods.
Perhaps Talbot injured his back from him having to carry the Oilers all last season. Maybe this year, the load has just become too much to bear.
It’s a joke, of course, but Talbot has played a lot of hockey, with ‘a lot’ being a severe understatement.
The 30-year-old played 73 games last season, a whopping 89 percent of Edmonton’s schedule and held down a .919 save percentage to go along with his 42 wins.
And that load hasn’t lessened at all this season, with Talbot having played in 22 of Edmonton’s 25 games.
It wouldn’t be surprising at all if Edmonton’s over-exertion of Talbot is somewhat to blame, but what choice have they had?
They’ve needed to lean on Talbot because they’ve needed to win games. And backup Laurent Brossoit’s .881 save percentage and 0-3-1 record isn’t doing Talbot, or the basement-dwelling Oilers, any favors.
Now that load shifts to Brossoit, who will immediately need to get better if the Oilers are to overcome Auston Matthews (who has the sniffles) and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.
Perhaps the rest will do Talbot some good. He’s received very little.
Meanwhile, McDavid vs. Matthews offers a salivating matchup for all hockey fans, even if both teams are polar opposites at the moment.
The Leafs are 7-2-1 in their past 10 games and are tied for second in the Eastern Conference with 33 points. As mentioned above, the Oilers are second last in the West and losers of six of their past 10.
Perhaps Matthews will be slowed down a little by the cold he is nursing. He failed to record a shot in his last game (which nearly led to Canada declaring several days of mourning), the first time in his career he’s done so. He also hasn’t scored in five games.
McDavid knows that pain. He hasn’t found the back of the net in his past five games either, but has offered up five apples in that time.
Matthews and McDavid have met twice last season and both times Matthews’ Leafs came out on top.
It wouldn’t be surprising in the least if something gave tonight for one (or both) of the superstars. Neither starves for that long.
Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck