For the Edmonton Oilers, it’s about the process of elimination.
“We’ve played our way out of a coach and we’ve played our way out of a GM now,” said captain Connor McDavid. “So, it’s obviously on us.”
Todd McLellan is long gone, Peter Chiarelli is freshly gone, and McDavid, well, he’s not going anywhere. So the players who are here, the ones who state the belief that this roster has enough juice to make the playoffs, are now officially on the clock.
For a team coming out of its extended all-star break with a 23-24-3 record — three points from a wild card spot but with five teams to pass — the Oilers have one true positive to cling to as they enter their final 32 games: No. 1 defenceman Oscar Klefbom is close to a return, which would fill a gaping hole on the blue-line and return every other D-man to their regular allotment of minutes.
He practiced with the team on Thursday, and spent the final 15 minutes as a non-participant after taking a stick to his broken finger. Klefbom was on the ice for Friday’s 9 a.m. workout before the team flew to Philadelphia, but was seen grimacing when handling the puck, and participated in drills only sporadically, according to those in attendance.
He broke a finger blocking a shot on Dec. 11, and as badly as the Oilers need him, a broken bone is usually a two-month injury at best. On Friday, Klefbom was seen grimacing while handling the puck, a sign that the vibration of his stick — an issue with composite sticks and broken fingers — is causing pain.