That tomorrow’s game against the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place means anything at all is a testament to the guts and character of this edition of the Edmonton Oilers.
Written off a month ago when they sat 14th in the Western Conference and were 13 points out of a playoff spot, the injury-riddled, rookie-laden Oilers pulled into an eighth-place tie with Nashville and Vancouver with their 2-1 win over the Flames Saturday.
They’re on a 13-4-1 run in the 17 games they’ve played since they were second-to-last in the conference 36 days ago. Now, wins tomorrow and in their regular season finale in Vancouver Thursday can put them in the playoffs — if they get some help.
“A really good effort by the team, obviously,” coach Craig MacTavish said after Dustin Penner’s 23rd goal of the season and 31 saves by Dwayne Roloson did the trick.
“We didn’t have a lot of legs, but we showed a lot of heart … we were leaving it all on the ice tonight.”
At 40-34-6 for 86 points, the Oilers give up games in hand to both the Predators and Canucks, but the possibility they’d be in the mix pitching for a post-season spot at all seemed ridiculous a month ago.
That they’ve made the move without captain Ethan Moreau, top centre Shawn Horcoff, Raffi Torres and Sheldon Souray — and without Mathieu Garon since March 13 — makes the scenario all the more unlikely.
The win in Calgary came just 24 hours after a 5-4 shootout loss in Denver, a defeat that could’ve and maybe should’ve convinced them to fold their hands for good. Not this team.
“From that point a few weeks ago, we’ve had no die in our game,” said assistant coach Charlie Huddy. “We’ve gone out and we’ve battled. We’ve made some mistakes that have ended up in the net and cost us some games, but credit to all the guys. They’ve dug in and nobody’s quit.”
• Garon’s sprained ankle hasn’t responded significantly to rest and treatment, including a cortisone shot. Out of action since March 13, Garon skated for the second time Saturday morning in Calgary, but reported little improvement.
“It’s pretty much the same,” said Garon, who took the shot in the ankle before the Oilers began their three-game road trip. “It’s not any better.”
Unless the Oilers make the playoffs, his season is likely over.
In a decade covering the Edmonton Oilers, Robin Brownlee has been the news-breaker and insightful voice for hockey fans in Oil Country.