Sports Outside the Beltway

Eight is Enough- Edmonton beats Chicago 8-4

Sam Gagner took part in every Edmonton goal last night. From AP-

It was a spectacular evening for Sam Gagner, who scored four goals and four assists to tie a club record and lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4 on Thursday night.

Gagner’s eight-point game tied the club record held by Gretzky and Coffey and fell two points shy of matching the league mark of 10, set by Toronto’s Darryl Sittler on Feb. 7, 1976.

It was also the first eight-point game in the NHL since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux did it on Dec. 31, 1988, against New Jersey.

The 22-year-old Gagner came into the game with five goals on the season.

I had never heard of Gagner before this morning.

The Blackhawks started the scoring six minutes into the game as Mayers fluttered a long shot from above the circle that fooled Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Chicago kept pouring it on but hit a pair of posts — a long blast from the point by Brent Seabrook and another from in close by Andrew Shaw.

Just 40 seconds into the second period Chicago made it 2-0 when Patrick Kane fed it to Sharp who found a clear lane to beat Dubnyk.

The Oilers responded less than two minutes later as Gagner earned his first point of the night. With a long pass Gagner sprung Hall who chipped in his 18th of the year past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Hall has scored in three straight games.

Gagner then tied it just over seven minutes later when he picked up his own rebound, circled behind the net, and scored on the wraparound.

The Oilers took a 3-2 lead with seven minutes remaining in the second as Whitney ripped a shot from the point while on the power play for just his first of the season. Gagner earned the assist.

Chicago tied it two minutes later on a short-handed 2-on-1 as Dubnyk gave up a rebound to Sharp who buried his second of the night.

Gagner made it 4-3 two minutes into the third with his second goal of the night. Whitney’s shot sailed over the net but bounced in front for Gagner to put past Crawford.

The Oilers chased the Chicago goalie two minutes later when Barker fluttered a shot from the point that Crawford waved at as it went into the top corner. Gagner earned his third assist and Ray Emery replaced Crawford.

The Blackhawks got a goal back six minutes into the third as Bolland made a no-look backhand swat at a puck that squirted past Dubnyk.

Gagner completed the hat trick 30 seconds later to make it 6-4, as Hall spun around and found Gagner streaking for his sixth point of the game.

But he wasn’t done yet.

Eberle and Hall did terrific tic-tac-toe passing to get Gagner the puck, and he slapped his fourth of the game into a wide-open net as Emery slid to keep up with the play.

Gagner’s heroics brought a little bit to an otherwise dismal Oilers season. If not for the horrid Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton could finish with the worst record in the entire NHL. Just like they have the last two years.


Kicking mad- Edmonton beats Florida Panthers 3-2

The Florida Panthers played their first regular season NHL game last night. From the Sun-Sentinel-

The Panthers began their 17th season and first under General Manager Dale Tallon with a 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Sunday night.

Those watching saw a different Panthers team from years past.

Sure, they were still offensively challenged against last season’s worst team, missing point-blank shots that should’ve given them a 2-0 lead after one, instead of a scoreless tie.

Throughout the first two periods, Tallon and third-year coach Pete DeBoer watched their charges, including seven newcomers, dominate the game with smothering defense and solid forechecking, but still trailed 3-2 on deflected goals by Dustin Penner and Ryan Jones, as well as a goal by Shawn Horcoff that appeared to have been kicked in, but stood after a review.


“It looked very clear to me. I don’t know what else a kicking motion is. … That’s what I saw. … It didn’t surprise me they count it. They’re trying to get the scoring up.”

The Panthers outshot Edmonton 23-7 after two periods (28-13 overall), but three Edmonton shots got past Vokoun. The Panthers fell to 7-7-3 in season openers, including 2-7-1 on the road.

“It’s frustrating in that we didn’t get rewarded for the effort we put in,” DeBoer said. “It looked like a kick to me. The interpetation of that rule I don’t understand. I don’t know if you have to take a punter’s kick at it for it not to count.”

Thanks to two new Panthers forwards, Steve Bernier and former Oiler Marty Reasoner, the deficit was cut to one heading into the third. Bernier, a major part of the draft-day trade with the Canucks involving defenseman Keith Ballard, stole the puck and set up Reasoner for an open wrist shot that he buried from the faceoff circle.

Then with 2:09 left in the period, Bernier fed left wing David Booth, who, showing no ill effects from last year’s concussions, ripped a shot at veteran goalie Nikolai Khabibulin that popped back to Reasoner for the stuff shot.

Here is video of the Horcoff shot. The view that begins at the 1:18 mark seems to clearly show a kick.

Florida lost and it was due to fluke shots and a bad call by the referees. The team and its fans have to get over it. Next up is a game with Vancouver, tonight. The Canucks are picked by many to be in the NHL finals next spring. Florida’s path at the beginning of the 2010-11 NHL season is only getting tougher.

Hat tip for the above video- Donny at Litter Box Cats.


Break time- Anaheim beats Edmonton 7-3

There will not be another NHL game for two weeks. From AP-

Ryan Getzlaf made a strong case to keep his spot with Team Canada, scoring twice and adding two assists in his first game back from a sprained left ankle to help the Anaheim Ducks beat Edmonton 7-3 on Sunday.Edm-ANa

Saku Koivu, Corey Perry, Scott Niedermayer, George Parros and Bobby Ryan also scored for Anaheim, which trails Calgary by two points for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference as the NHL heads into the Olympic break.

Ryan Potulny, Ethan Moreau and Lubomir Visnovsky scored for the NHL-worst Oilers.

Getzlaf banged a rebound past Jeff Deslauriers off a scramble on a power play at 5:27 of the third period, then added another with the man advantage off a pass from Niedermayer with 3:02 left.

Before I saw this article, I had thought last night’s games was where NHL play halted. The Florida Panthers aren’t the barometer to measure the NHL by and I should know it.

The NHL’s trading deadline is March 3rd and while the Olympics are going on, there is trade ban in effect. IMHO there will be a lot of silent work resulting in a bunch of trades shortly after March 1st. Florida is definitely a seller but I just don’t know many quality Panthers are really available at this point. GM Randy Sexton says no one is untouchable but I believe that about as much as I do the team’s promises of a more successful franchise.

Note- Anaheim has 8 players participating in the Olympics. How will that affect the team’s performance when the Olympic break is over? Particularly against teams who are better rested. Anaheim is currently 30-25-7 and 2 points out of the last Western Conference playoff spot


Running on fumes- Chicago beats Edmonton 4-2

After last night’s win, the Blackhawks stand just two points behind Western Conference frontrunners San Jose.

The Chicago Blackhawks needed 44 seconds to take the fight out of the Edmonton Oilers.Chi-edm

Jonathan Toews scored on Chicago’s first shot of the game and the Blackhawks added to Edmonton’s misery Tuesday night, beating the Oilers 4-2 and sending the NHL’s last-place team to their 11th straight loss.

Troy Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien and Marian Hossa also scored for the Blackhawks, who are 4-2 through six games of a season-high eight-game road trip. Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith added two assists apiece for Chicago.

Chicago is the Western Conference’s version of the Washington Capitals. Both teams can score oodles of goals but are deficient at goaltender. I think the Huet-Niemi combo is better for Chicago than Theodore-Varlamov/Neuwirth is for Washington. The trouble is, San Jose appears strong enough to keep the Blackhawks out of the Stanley Cup finals. I am not sure there is a Eastern Conference team that can do the same to the Capitals.

As for Edmonton, they have fallen to 16-29-6 for the season. Not much was expected from the team this year, and they haven’t even met those low expectations.


Minnesota Wild release Winger Petr Sykora

Just a year ago he helped the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup. From AP-

The Minnesota Wild have placed right wing Petr Sykora on waivers.

Sykora and rookie Robbie Earl were placed on waivers on Tuesday. Earl can be returned to the minors or stay with the Wild if he clears, but Sykora’s stint with Minnesota is all but over.

Sykora turned down richer offers to play in Russia and signed a one-year, $1.6 million contract with the Wild in September.

The 33-year-old ranked fourth on the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins last season with 46 points in 76 games. He had only two goals and one assist in 14 games with Minnesota, missing nearly two months while recovering from a concussion.

The well traveled Sykora, who played his first NHL game back in 1995, may well be finished as a player for the 2009-10 season. If the concussion isn’t too bad, I am certain he will be back playing pro hockey but perhaps not in the NHL. As of a year ago Sykora could still help a team, and concussion aside, that is the basis for my evaluation.


Edmonton Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to have back surgery

He last played in a Oilers game on November 16th. From AP-

Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will have surgery to repair a herniated disk in his back and is expected to be out 12 weeks.Khabibulin

The team said Wednesday that he’ll have the operation Thursday in Los Angeles.

The Oilers didn’t provide a timeline for his return, saying only that he’s “out indefinitely,” but Khabibulin’s agent, Jay Grossman, said the goalie will need 12 weeks to recover from surgery.

That leaves him a narrow window to try and return during the regular season.

I’d be greatly surprised if Khabibulin plays again in the 2009-10 NHL season. The Oilers at this moment are well entrenched in the Western Conference’s cellar and have the 2nd worst record in the whole league. Edmonton will not be making the playoffs, so it would be wiser to rest the player nicknamed ‘The Bulin wall’ till the 2010-11 season begins.


NHL Western Conference at the mid point of the 2009-10 season

Due to the Winter Olympics, the NHL season is being being played at a more accelerated rate than normal. For instance, prior to Christmas week the Florida Panthers had four games in a week, five straight weeks in a row.

A NHL season is 82 games in length. Half of 82 is 41. Most teams are at 41 games or more

San Jose 42 games 27 wins 8 losses 7 overtime losses 61 points
Chicago 41 28 10 3 59
Colorado 43 24 13 6 54
Phoenix 43 25 14 4 54
Calgary 41 24 12 5 53
Nashville 42 25 14 3 53
Vancouver 42 25 16 1 51
Los Angeles 42 24 15 3 51

Detroit 41 21 14 6 48
Dallas 41 18 12 11 47
Minnesota 42 20 19 3 43
St. Louis 41 17 18 6 40
Anaheim 41 16 18 7 39
Columbus 43 15 19 9 39
Edmonton 42 16 22 4 36

Bold denotes all teams who would make the playoffs as of this minute.
The above standings are as of 10 a.m. on Sunday January 3rd.

Teams all but certain to make the playoffs- San Jose, Chicago
Team that won’t make the playoffs- Edmonton

I think Detroit will get their act back together and make the playoffs. Who do I think they will bump? I’m not sold on Phoenix yet. Los Angeles is the next most likely team to drop from the top 8

Columbus won’t make the playoffs unless Steve Mason returns to his form of last season. Dallas could also climb into the top 8. I won’t rule out Anaheim, Minnesota or St. Louis from making the playoffs but IMHO it will be a surprise if any of them do turn around their seasons.


Edmonton Oiler Ales Hemsky out for the season

He had scored 22 points in 22 games this season. From AP-

Edmonton right wing Ales Hemsky will miss the rest of the season because of a left shoulder injury that will require surgery to repair.

“It’s frustrating because it’s a big year for a lot of players,” Hemsky said Friday. “Especially considering it’s an Olympic year, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s no fun playing with an injury like that. I tried, but it just didn’t work out.”

Already fighting shoulder problems, Hemsky was hurt again Wednesday night in a loss to Los Angeles when he was hit from behind by Michal Handzus.

“The hit hurt him, but the problem was already there,” general manager Steve Tambellini said. “There was already some instability in his shoulder before.”

Hemsky had seven goals and 15 assists in 22 games this season.

Tambellini went on to say the loss of Hemsky was difficult but what could Edmonton do. The Oilers have allowed more goals than anyone else in the NHL’s Western Conference. The impact the loss of Hemsky for the rest of the 2009-10 seaon can’t be understated. It is huge, no question.


Nikolai Khabibulin notches his 300th career win

He is the 24th NHL Goalie to reach that mark. From AP-

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin came up big in the shootout to earn a milestone victory.

A game after his goaltending gaffe led to a loss in Edmonton’s home opener, Khabibulin became just the 24th goaltender in NHL history to hit the 300 career win mark.

He stopped all three shots in the shootout as Edmonton beat the Dallas Stars 5-4 on Tuesday night. Khabibulin had a far better night than Saturday, when he lost the handle on the puck with less than a minute, a miscue that led to a Calgary goal and 4-3 loss to the rival Flames.

“That was a hard way to lose that first game so it was good to see the team rewarded tonight,” said the 36-year-old free-agent acquisition. “It’s nice to hit that milestone but right now I am just happy that we won the game. I’ll try to build on it and make sure I don’t stop at 300, I guess.”

Alan Hemsky scored the only shootout goal.

Khabibulin, who played for Chicago, Tampa, and Winnipeg/Phoenix before coming to Edmonton, may be showing his age. IMHO I think he will be a backup goalie within 2 years, as long as a NHL team doesn’t let salary dictate who should be the starting goaltender. Like what is happening in Washington.


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