Don’t be surprised if Sam Gagner shows up in Detroit Saturday looking like the Michelin Man. The Edmonton Oilers’ last healthy centre will likely consider showing up to play the Red Wings wearing chain mail, a hazmat suit or wrapping himself in foam packing peanuts, bubble wrap and all the columns I’ve ever written saying anything bad about him. It’s at the point where Gagner must have survivor’s guilt. If it weren’t enough to lose captain Shawn Horcoff for half a season with a freak knuckle injury, Eric Belanger with two broken toes and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins with a sore shoulder, call-up centre Anton Lander took a shot in the foot early in the first period last night and was on crutches before the Oilers made it back to the dressing room. “Right now the puck is our enemy, not the opponent,” said coach Ralph Krueger. If this team hadn’t lost 286, 346, 225, 531, 286 and 246 man game to injuries in each of the last six seasons in which they’ve missed the playoffs, you’d say this is unbelievable. What is unbelievable is that the injuries are coming not long after the enemy — the puck — is dropped. “Belanger, Horcoff and now Lander have all happened very early in the hockey game,” said Krueger. In the end the Oilers managed to get the game to overtime where it wasn’t all the donut lines (no centres) that cost them the two points as it was Ryan Whitney getting back in the lineup and imploding yet again. “It was a one-on-one coming out of the corner,” said Krueger of Jaromir Jagr’s overtime winner in a game in which Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky played outstanding games, stepping up in a situation which demanded it. “I’m proud of the effort. It just makes that loss more disappointing,” said Krueger, who was at least able to report that it appears nothing is broken in Lander’s foot, that Nugent-Hopkins should be back Saturday and Belanger Sunday.
Sam Gagner the lone starting centre still standing for the Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Sun | Feb 7