Without their three best left-handed defenders, are the Oilers in trouble?

Things are not going so well in Edmonton these days.

After starting the season with a 9-1 tear in the league, some regression has surfaced with Edmonton slipping to a 4-4 streak in the last eight games. They had tough losses where they were outscored by the Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabers, Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars, but also had decisive wins over the Boston Bruins, St. Louis, Chicago Jets and Blackhawks.

With goalkeeper Mike Smith out since October 19 with a lower body injury, first pair defenseman Darnell Nurse is out with a broken finger and third pair defenseman Slater Koekkoek has suffered an injury in the lower body in the same game last Friday, things went from bad to worse.

In the 4-1 loss to the Stars last night, defenseman Duncan Keith, who rose to the spot for the best minutes in Nurse’s wake, suffered what the team calls an upper-body injury.

The play was rather innocuous. The Oilers retrieved the puck from Keith who turned and gave a routine pass along the blue line to teammate Evan Bouchard, but immediately winced as the puck left his stick. Head coach Dave Tippett confirmed on Wednesday that Keith is being dealt with day to day, but that there must be some level of concern given the injury.

Dr. Harjas Grewal, resident physician in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Manitoba who tweets about NHL injuries, said while « A little extreme » Keith may have experienced strain in his oblique or other muscle.

« I hope this is not a situation where he has a long standing back problem that he is trying to overcome, like Parayko last year, » Grewal continued.

Now the Oilers left side is exhausted. Rookie Phillip Broberg is a likely candidate to slide into the top pair alongside another youngster in Evan Bouchard, who appeared to be playing well in his first full season in the NHL. The other two are fellow defenseman Kris Russell and William Lagesson, who only played 27 games in the NHL.

Hope is for Edmonton that Keith is not gone for long. Edmonton has a good matchup with the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday, before starting a tougher streak next week against the Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins and Seattle Kraken next week.

Edmonton right-side Bouchard, Cody Cela and Tyson Barrie will need to step up their efforts with their stoned opposing players.

Zach Laing is Chief News Officer and Senior Columnist for the Nation Network. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or contactable by email at [email protected]

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