SAINT PAUL, Minn. — With Connor McDavid out of the lineup, the Edmonton Oilers are putting on a brave face and embracing the opportunity for other players to step up.
Edmonton lost the three-time Hart Trophy winner to an upper-body injury on Saturday, announcing on Sunday that he'd be out for 1-2 weeks. It's the first time the 26-year-old centre is missing action due to injury since the 2021-22 season.
"Obviously you don't replace the best hockey player in the world but what you're looking to do is fill those 21, 22 minutes that he plays a night with valuable contributions from some other people," said head coach Jay Woodcroft ahead of Tuesday's road match with the Minnesota Wild.
"So what an opportunity it is to show what kind of team we are and for some individuals to step up and take a little bit more responsibility."
Edmonton has been sluggish out of the gate, going 1-3-1 through its first five contests of the new campaign, including an 8-1 season-opening loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
The high-powered Oilers were set on competing for the Stanley Cup prior to the season's start after back-to-back eliminations from the Western Conference final and the second round.
"We feel we're better than our record shows but our record is what our record is," Woodcroft said. "But there's moments in some games that we think we could handle better … We just want to make sure that we're eliminating lapses in execution, lapses in concentration that are ending up in our net right now. So that's the focus for us."
McDavid had eight points (two goals, six assists) through five games with five (one goal, four assists) of them coming on the power play.
The adjustment to life without the Richmond Hill, Ont., native wasn't one that forward Zach Hyman was willing to overplay.
"Obviously you're missing a big piece in all aspects of the game — even-strength, power play and penalty kill now too," he said.
"So, a little adjustment on those specialty units but I think we've just got to go out there … and build chemistry with the lines that we have. The nice thing about our team is that we're so used to playing with so many different players. We're always kind of in rotation."
Following Tuesday's game in Minnesota, the Oilers return home to start a four-game homestand with matches against the New York Rangers on Thursday and Calgary on Sunday for the Heritage Classic at Commonwealth Stadium.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2023.
The Canadian Press