Oilers Get Much Needed Penalty Kill Experience

In a very lopsided outing, the Oilers got some terrific NHL caliber penalty killing experience in a preseason game. Despite the loss, I can't think of a better scenario for a team that was absolutely horrid on the kill last season; than game time experience in a contest that means nothing other than a quick shot to player pride. Therefore, if we forget the fact that it came at the hands of some awful officiating to start the game, there are some great positives here.

The Edmonton Oilers were short-handed 9 times on Wednesday night against the Flames and almost every player on the roster spent a significant time on the ice down one man. The list looks like this (each time frame is how long the player spent killing off at least one or more penalties):

Gilbert: 7:40
Souray: 6:17
Strudwick: 5:42
Smid: 5:26
Moreau: 4:52
Cogliano: 4:45
Horcoff: 4:13
Brule: 3:34
Grebeshkov: 3:11
Penner: 2:54
O'Sullivan: 2:14
Stone: 2:09

I've not included players under 2 minutes of short handed ice time such as Visnovsky, Comrie and Hemsky even though they're on the list too. The whopping stat is that Khabibulin, who left the game after two periods and 24 shots on goal, was playing short-handed for 13:02 of the 40 minutes of game action he saw. That's about 1/3 of the time facing shots on net and seeing the Flames in the Oilers zone on the man advantage. No wonder he felt dehydrated and left before the 3rd.

Here's the good news. The Oilers killed off 8 of those 9 penalites and only allowed a goal by Jarome Iginla in a 5 on 3 situation. That speaks volumes for a team that was known as one of the poorest penalty killing squads in the NHL last year.

These kills were not against week talent either. Much of this time was spent with players like Phaneuf and Bouwmeester launching from the blueline and Iginla with Jokinen and Langkow among others, picking up the pieces down low and in tight on the Oilers goalie and defenders.

Players like Cogliano and Brule did well and were aggressive on the puck, which is great for their confidence trying to show they are not one trick ponies. The defense did well to keep the shot total to only 36 over the 60 minute game considering the sheer amount of penalites and 5 on 3 situations and Tom Gilbert, who played the most time on the kill and received the most overall ice time in the game on the blueline was a plus player over 60 minutes. That speaks highly of a player known more for his offensive ability that he defensive skills.

The bad news, is that it didn't allow much for players like Hemsky and Comrie to do much damage. Their ice time limited and their opportunities to show their offensive skill lowered, these are not the best style of games for these two players. Let's hope this many penalties is a rare instance more than the norm.

That said, if the Oilers can keep up efforts like this, they'll be taking great strides in their PK over the 2009/2010 campaign. If they can't, I'm sincerely glad to see such poor officiating and resulting need to kill penalties in a game that doesn't hurt the Oilers in the Western Conference standings. At least they got some practice where it was badly needed. I know I'm being snarky when I make the following remark, but maybe Quinn hopped that AHL ref a hundy just to give the Oilers some time getting used to the kill.


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