MONTREAL – Welcome to the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Whitney.
Playing in only his fourth game as an Oiler on Thursday since being acquired from Anaheim at the trade deadline, Whitney took an Andrei Markov wrist shot off the right knee late in the second period of Edmonton’s game against Montreal and hobbled off the ice.
He did not return to the Oilers’ 5-4 shootout loss to the Canadiens, adding his name to a voluminous Edmonton injury list that already includes fellow defencemen Sheldon Souray and Ladislav Smid.
The Oilers have lost a staggering 386 man games to injury, which may be why head coach Pat Quinn was able to make light of seeing Whitney go down as well.
“I don’t know the extent of it right now, he is being X-rayed so we’ll see what the results are,” Quinn said. “He does have sparrow-type legs, so there’s not much meat there. I always encourage guys like that to get out of the way.”
The Oilers play in Toronto on Saturday night and it was unclear whether or not Whitney will be ready to play in a match-up of the NHL’s cellar dwellers.
The loss of Whitney meant Tom Gilbert had to fill a lot of those minutes, playing 12:43 in the third period and overtime. He finished with a season-high 27:49 of ice time, the second straight game he’s topped the 27-minute mark.
“(Whitney) is obviously a big loss for us,” Gilbert said. “But we were rolling our shifts and keeping them short.”
It was a second straight loss for the Oilers, who have only five wins in their past 27 games, but Quinn still saw some positive signs in the loss.
“I thought our defence really worked hard tonight and played a solid game,” he said. “We still have some problems with our down low coverage, but we fought back all night. I certainly would like a better result, but it seems like we haven’t got that as often as we’d like.”
Another positive for the Oilers was the play of Dustin Penner, who was dangerous much of the night on a line with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule.
Quinn had mentioned some concern over Penner’s energy level prior to the game, but the Bell Centre setting seemed to remedy that problem for the Oilers hulking winger.
“This was my first game in Montreal, I was a healthy scratch two other times,” Penner said. “I was excited to play in this building. I felt good tonight, I had some snap in my legs.”
Penner was the catalyst for Cogliano’s goal 32 seconds into the third period that tied the game 3-3, bulldozing his way in front of the net and clearing out two Canadiens before Cogliano whacked in his sixth of the season and his first in 21 games.
Penner showed off some of the jump he had when he blew by the Montreal defence to go in alone on goal midway through the third period, just moments after Shawn Horcoff tied the game 4-4.
Penner fought off a Markov hook and made a great move on Habs goalie Jaroslav Halak to beat him cleanly, but his short shot went off the post.
“I guess you could say that’s how our season’s gone,” he said.