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NHL Today: The Party’s Over for the Oilers

March 10, 2011 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Tom Renney is trying to turn the Edmonton Oilers around.
Will Tom Renney still be around when Edmonton’s young talent matures?

The Edmonton Oilers — the NHL’s worst team — were just starting to play better this month when their leading goal scorer Taylor Hall suffered a high ankle sprain last week that will end what had been a fine rookie campaign for last season’s No. 1 pick.

Hall has never been a fighter, so of course he got hurt last Thursday in his first NHL fight, a major burn for his Fantasy owners with playoffs either starting this week or next week.

The Oilers won their first game without Hall on Friday, but they’ve gone back into a tailspin since, dropping their last two, including a 5-0 shellacking at the hands of the Capitals on Wednesday night. To call the effort against Washington sloppy is an understatement; at one point Edmonton allowed the Capitals a two-man breakaway. Ugly!

Coach Tom Renney has a team brimming with young talent, but you’ve got to wonder if he’ll be around to see it come to fruition. Last month, GM Steve Tambellini expressed his frustrations with the Oilers’ play, so this will be something to keep a watch on as the season wanes.

On a somewhat positive note, Nikolai Khabibulan returned to action for the first time since getting ice chips in his eye a couple of weeks ago. You’ve got to wonder how well he was seeing, after he was shelled for five goals on 36 shots. Clearly, there was some rust on the Bulin Wall on Wednesday. He’s gained a bit of traction on the waiver wire with news that he was returning, but I’m not sure how great an add he is at this point unless you’re desperate for goaltender help.

In fairness, he didn’t get a lot of help from his defenseman on Wednesday, but he also didn’t help himself by being out of position quite a bit. First he took a stupid penalty in the second period when he played the puck outside of the trapezoid; that led to a PPG by Washington for a 2-0 lead. And what was Khabibulin doing on the Caps’ fourth goal when he charged way out of his net to try to corral the puck away from Jason Chimera? That severe error in judgment led to an easy empty netter by Eric Fehr that made it 4-0.

Khabibulan looked very sharp in the games leading up to his snowing last month, but it’s been a simply awful season for the veteran as he’s managed just 10 wins in 40 appearances and his save percentage has plummeted to a career low.

Andrew Cogliano was more or less invisible on Wednesday (except for a short-handed breakaway, in which he was stoned), but it’s worth noting that he’s played much better over the past couple of months. Through the end of December, he had managed just four goals and 11 points in 36 games; in the 32 games since then, he’s got seven goals and 10 assists. It’s hardly a bonanza, but in deeper leagues, you can do worse for a speculative pickup. With Dustin Penner moved at the trade deadline and Hall and Ales Hemsky out (and possibly Sam Gagner as well, who cut his hand on Wednesday and stayed behind in Washington as a precaution as he gets the injury examined), Cogliano is likely to see plenty of ice time down the stretch, which should translate into more production.

Edmonton defenseman Kurtis Foster got Fantasy owners a bit excited a couple of weeks ago when he scored in back-to-back games, but he has failed to register a single point in the seven games since. And it was Foster that had the puck stolen away by Alexander Ovechkin when the Caps broke in two-on-none. Foster’s career year for the Lightning last season is looking like a distant memory, as he is going to have to pick up his pace just to accumulate half as many points as he did in 2009-10. Yet, for some reason, he’s been gaining a bit of traction on the waiver wire lately.

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