More absence concerns for the Oilers ahead of Game 2 in Vancouver

After being one of the healthiest teams during the regular season, the Oilers face the prospect of missing two of their top six for Friday night in Vancouver.
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers
Los Angeles Kings v Edmonton Oilers / Leila Devlin/GettyImages

They say timing is everything, but sometimes this can also work against you. Consider the case of the Edmonton Oilers and their current injury situation.

During the 2023-24 regular season, the Oilers were one of the healthiest (and luckiest) teams in the NHL. As per, they only lost 60 man games to injury during the regular season, which was second fewest out of all 32 teams (behind the St. Louis Blues at 57 games).

Now though, the Oilers find themselves finally enduring some bad fortune on the injury front at the worst possible time. More specifically, they could enter Friday night's crucial game two versus the Vancouver Canucks, without two of their top six forwards.

Potential of no Draisaitl or Henrique for Game 2

Following the stunning collapse in game one at Rogers Arena, it was clear the Oilers were missing Adam Henrique, who was out with an ankle injury which he sustained in the series-clinching game of round one versus the Los Angeles Kings. In fact, we wrote on Thursday, that the team needed him back in the lineup as soon as possible.

To compound the frustration of the 5-4 loss on Wednesday night, Leon Draisaitl also had to leave the game during the second period. He did return in the third, but he was clearly compromised on the ice and his performance suffered.

Post game, Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch seemed to dispel any concern about an injury, by claiming Draisaitl was just dealing with cramps. And yet, when speaking to the media following practice on Thursday afternoon, Knoblauch advised Draisaitl and Henrique are day-to-day and the team won't confirm until Friday if either or both will play in game two.

It should be noted that Henrique was at least on the ice for the beginning of Thursday's practice, albeit he didn't take part in line rushes. As for Draisaitl, he was absent altogether which -- fair or not -- leads to some concern that he is dealing with more than just cramps.

Who gets the call in the absence of either player?

This all leads to the question of who will take the place of one or both players, if they do not suit up for Friday night's crucial game two in Vancouver? Consider that the Oilers cannot really afford to go back to Edmonton down 0-2 in this best-of-seven series.

In this respect, Warren Foegele replaced Mattias Janmark on the first line alongside Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman, for practice on Thursday. Meanwhile, Sam Gager was in for Draisaital on the second line, playing with Evander Kane and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.

As much as this doesn't provide 100 percent clarification of how the Oilers will lineup on Friday night, it is interesting that Foegele was placed on the first line for practice. Yes he was one of the team's best players as the regular season wound down, but he subsequently got moved from the top six to the bottom six during the playoffs, due to his struggles during the first round against the Kings.

We know Foegele has the potential to thrive, but this doesn't mean a damn thing if he fails to actually produce under the bright lights and pressure of playoff hockey. At the same time, it's clear Knoblauch continues to have faith in him, and last time we checked he knows a heck of a lot more about his team's capabilities than the average person (and media person).

As for Gagner being in for Draisaitl, this alludes to the expectation the assistant captain will play on Friday night, with Knoblauch purely wanting a veteran pro to use his experience to help keep the natural flow going during practice. At the same time though, again, the German superstar missing practice still provides justified reason for some concern.

Next. The return of Adam Henrique is now more crucial than ever. The return of Adam Henrique is now more crucial than ever. dark

The Oilers enter Friday night's game, knowing they need to find a way to finally get a win versus a team which they are 0-5-0 against so far this season. It is imperative that they have Drasaitl and Henrique in the lineup to provide more confidence, that the team can return to Edmonton with a 1-1 split that will give them home-ice advantage.

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