Oil Kings on a hot streak with key players missing

Title: Oil Kings on a hot streak with key players missing
Date: December 31, 2012
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My latest piece was a sidebar from the Edmonton Oil Kings game on Dec. 31. This article did not appear in the print edition of the Edmonton Journal as there was no Jan. 1 edition.

EDMONTON – This time last year, the Edmonton Oil Kings were in the middle of a WHL Championship season. This year, the team heads into the new year atop the Eastern Conference and is looking for a repeat performance.

With wins in seven of their past eight games, the Oil Kings have extended their Central Divison and conference lead over the Calgary Hitmen to three points.

At 25-8-2-3, the Oil Kings are on pace to finish just shy of last year’s 107 points. However, last year’s team started slower with a 20-9-1-3 record when the calendar flipped. Some are expecting this year’s squad to similarly peak later in the season.

“It’s a work in progress is the best way to say it,” said head coach Derek Laxdal. “At the end of the day, we’re right where we want to be. You really can’t put a final analysis on it until you get to the playoffs.”

Over a long 72 game season there are bound to be lulls in play as well as hot streaks. Henrik Samuelsson knows this as well as anyone, as he’s recorded points in eight straight games to end the year.

“We started off mediocre for the amount of talent we have,” said Samuelsson. “For the last 10 games we’ve been playing pretty well.”

It’s difficult not to compare 2011-12’s team with this year’s squad since many of the core players have returned. If anything, the expectations might have been higher for this year.

“I think we’re a little more skilled than last year’s team,” said Samuelsson.

The hot streak comes while the team is missing captain Griffin Reinhart, David Musil and Edgars Kulda to World Junior Championship rosters, as well as defenseman Dysin Mayo to the Under-17 Worlds. Last year’s top scoring defenseman, Martin Gernat, is also yet to play a game.

“I think we’re playing good hockey,” said Keegan Lowe, who is wearing the “C” while Reinhart is in Russia. “If you do look at it with guys missing, we have guys stepping up and they’re doing a good job of it, which says a lot about our team.”

The Oil Kings should finally have a full roster by the middle of January, when the world junior participants and, possibly, Gernat have returned. There are still 34 games left and the team knows it’s important to take the longview.

“It doesn’t really matter how we’re playing now,” said Samuelsson. “It matters how we are when it comes to playoffs.”

 

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