THIS HURTS

Long-term in­jury to adam lars­son leaves Oil­ers with big hole on blue­line

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Jim MATHE­SON jmath­e­[email protected]­media.com @Nhlby­matty

Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers de­fence­man Adam Lars­son’s pain thresh­old is such that he sol­diered on through two pe­ri­ods on a busted right fibula.

“His last shift was two or three min­utes left and he couldn’t go any­more,” said Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers coach Dave Tip­pett.

Lars­son was put on longterm in­jury Thurs­day and will be out six-to-eight weeks ac­cord­ing to the Oil­ers.

The Oil­ers have 13 more games in Oc­to­ber and if he’s out un­til mid-novem­ber, that’s 21 games in all. If Lars­son is on the side­lines un­til the end of Novem­ber that’s 27 games to­tal or a third of the sea­son.

It’s, ob­vi­ously, a big hole with Lars­son, who is the Oil­ers’ best de­fen­sive de­fence­man and a right shot, where Oil­ers are not deep.

In what could just be a salary cap move, they sent Os­car Klef­bom’s part­ner Ethan Bear, who had a good open­ing game Wed­nes­day to Bak­ers­field with a re­call of Evan Bouchard to save some cap room. But, that’s prob­a­bly just a pa­per trans­ac­tion, for now.

They will see if Swedish rookie Joel Pers­son (shoul­der), who is on in­jured re­serve, is ready to play Satur­day against Los Angeles Kings at Rogers Place. If so, he’ll go back on the ros­ter, Bear will stay here and Bouchard won’t come up. They will see how Pers­son is with con­tact at prac­tice Fri­day and go from there.

In the short term, Dar­nell Nurse needs a part­ner. It could be Kris Rus­sell or Matt Ben­ning, who has played with Nurse be­fore.

Lars­son was hit by Quinn Hughes’ shot with about a minute left in the first pe­riod on an ex­tended cy­cle by the Canucks where the Oil­ers couldn’t change. Lars­son gut­ted out the rest of the shift, and played the sec­ond and most of the third.

But, the Hughes shot hit him in the wrong place.

There’s no surgery re­quired but one of the talk­ing points go­ing into the sea­son was the Oil­ers hav­ing a set shut­down pair to go against the other team’s top guns.

Now Lars­son is gone. “Dis­ap­point­ing, frus­trat­ing that it hap­pens in the first game of the year. It was on a play where we spent 30 sec­onds in our zone and if they had scored we would have chal­lenged it for off­side ear­lier," said Tip­pett.

The Oil­ers felt Loui Eriks­son was off­side be­fore this but the lines­man was blocked out by Colby Cave and didn’t whis­tle it at the time. If so, Lars­son wouldn’t have taken any shot on his leg from Hughes.

“This is very tough for Adam who is look­ing for a bounce back year and was com­ing off a good camp and in great spir­its,” said Tip­pett.

Goalie Mike Smith played with Travis Ha­monic in his days in Cal­gary and Lars­son is in the same mold as a shot­blocker, no-non­sense type de­fender.

“Any­time you have a player in front of you will­ing to do any­thing to keep the puck out of the net, you love those play­ers as a goal­tender,” said Smith. “You love those play­ers as a goalie.”

Klef­bom can em­pathize with Lars­son, his long­time part­ner un­til they de­cided to shake things up with the pair­ings this sea­son. He broke his pinkie fin­ger block­ing a shot against Colorado last De­cem­ber.

“Block­ing a shot is part of the game, bro­ken bones, frac­tures, but this is tough tim­ing. This hap­pens in the first game. We’ll miss him for quite a few weeks. He’s a very im­por­tant player for us, he’s a tough guy, never com­plains,” said Klef­bom.

It’s no se­cret that the Oil­ers have a shal­low pool of ex­pe­ri­enced right-shot, right-side de­fence­men.

“We don’t have a de­fin­i­tive an­swer yet on how the de­fence will look. We’ll try a cou­ple of op­tions at prac­tice Fri­day. Pers­son is ques­tion­able He’s cleared for con­tact,” said Tip­pett.

Bouchard is likely wait­ing by the phone on the farm. Is he on his way here, yet?

“I don’t think so,” said Tip­pett. “It could be a safety valve for us.

“We have to find out where Pers­son’s at. If he’s ready to go Satur­day or Tues­day (Long Is­land), maybe we can get through this.”

So the pairs now? Op­tion for Nurse? How about Rus­sell? “Prob­a­bly the best bet,” said Tip­pett.

Con­sid­er­ing how the wheels fell off last sea­son when Klef­bom broke his fin­ger and an­other veteran Rus­sell bat­tled in­juries, this is not good, ob­vi­ously, with Lars­son down.

He strug­gled last sea­son but when at the top of his game, he’s a very solid, ag­gres­sive D.

“In­juries are not an ex­cuse for not win­ning. As a coach you try to ma­noeu­vre your way around it. We started the sea­son with (centre Ri­ley) Shea­han out,” said Tip­pett, who will have to ma­noeu­vre his way around this.

This is very tough for Adam, who is look­ing for a bounce-back year and was com­ing off a good camp and in great spir­its.”

Oil­ers head coach Dave Tip­pett

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