One player’s misfortune could be another one’s gain for the Edmonton Oilers as the 2013 season gets set to kick off in eight days. In a fluke occurrence, right winger Ryan Jones recently took a puck to the eye during a conditioning skate in Minnesota almost two weeks ago, and after having surgery in Minnesota it is being suggested that Jones will be out of action until at least mid-February, and possibly the end of the month. And you can never be too careful with your eyes, so who knows how long it will really take for him to come back and be able to contribute to the team.
While this is a loss for the Oilers, this will provide an opportunity for one of the Oilers’ prospects to either get some more playing time–say, Teemu Hartikainen, for example–or give a struggling player like Magnus Paajarvi more of a chance to play his way into significant minutes for the Oilers again, especially after he performed reasonably well for the Oklahoma City Barons this AHL season.
Right wing isn’t exactly a thin spot for the Oilers, what with a few guys named Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov on the roster. The Oilers are so deep there that they are likely to switch Yakupov to left wing on the second line just to give him Top-6 minutes. As a result, Hartikainen should take Jones’s spot on the third line while Paajarvi perhaps dukes it out with one of Lennart Petrell or Darcy Hordichuk for fourth-line time.
It’s not ideal for Paajarvi as he is not much of a grinder and frankly needs third-line or better minutes if he hopes to rediscover his scoring touch for the Oilers, so he’s going to have to really outwork Hartikainen if he wants to get those third-line minutes in Jones’s absence. Of course then there is always the problem of what happens to the Oilers’ lineup if and when Jones comes back, but for now Jones’s injury is providing an opportunity for Paajarvi and Hartikainen to try and step in and steal a roster spot for good. That can only mean good things for the Oilers heading into this abbreviated season.