EDMONTON — It’s official: Evander Kane will return Tuesday night against Seattle.
It’s been 31 games — only two months and nine days, which is less time than expected — after that grisly cut suffered when he had his wrist accidentally stepped on in Tampa by ex-Oiler Pat Maroon.
The Oilers placed Kailer Yamamoto (concussion/neck issues) and Ryan Murray (back) on long-term injury reserve Tuesday afternoon to clear cap space for Kane’s return.
“I don’t think it’s going to be day-to-day for either one of those two,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said.
More like week-to-week, which is why the Oilers were able to fit Kane in under the cap without placing Jesse Puljujarvi or Warren Foegele on waivers for the purposes of sending them to Bakersfield.
The return of Kane checks a lot of boxes for this Oilers team, the first of which is that he is Edmonton’s best left winger. Alongside Connor McDavid, from mid-February on last season, Kane scored 37 goals in 68 games, regular season and playoffs combined.
He tied Nathan MacKinnon for the league lead with 13 playoff goals in 15 games, and started this season with 5-8-13 in 14 games before getting hurt. Yet, scoring isn’t all does for the Oilers.
“He certainly brings a lot of elements to our team on and off the ice. We missed them, I’d say,” McDavid said on Tuesday morning. “He’s adds a personality to our group — off the ice and on the ice. He brings a lot of intangibles that the average fan might not see. He’s big and strong and plays physical — a hard game that does a lot for our group.”
A hockey team, and more so a dressing room, can be a big chemistry experiment at times. You can’t have too many of the same elements, and Kane’s physical play and vocal leadership have both been lacking.
“We’ve lost some lost some older voices in our room,” McDavid said, alluding to Duncan Keith, Mike Smith and Kris Russell – all gone from last season’s roster. “I still think we have a pretty vocal room — a lot of guys are chatting in here that maybe the fans or the media wouldn’t expect. Evander does that too, so anytime you can have a vocal room, a lively room, I think it’s a good thing.”
“He comes to the rink every day with juice. He comes to the rink with a passion for the game and his teammates,” Woodcroft added. “Some people only lead from the throat. The good part about Evander is that he backs it up with his play too. He shows up every game and he works.
“You knows he’s in the building. He’s not just someone who melds into the background.”
With the Seattle Kraken in Tuesday night, there should be no reason the Oilers can’t bring their excellent road game back to their home sheet inside Rogers Place.
“We think the same. That’s what we’re looking for,” said McDavid, whose team has gone 14-7-1 away from home, but just 10-11-2 in Edmonton. “It’s something that we’ve got to figure out. We love playing in front of our fans. We love playing in this building. You know, we can’t quite put our finger on it. I think it just comes down to maybe playing a little bit of a road-style at home. Keep it a little simpler.”
Having the Kraken in town and perhaps a bit vulnerable, there is no reason the Oilers shouldn’t be fully invested.
The Kraken recently won all seven games of a lengthy road trip, and had an eight-game winning streak in total. Then they came home for one game — a 4-1 loss to Tampa on Monday night — and flew into Edmonton for the second game of a back-to-back.
Seattle sits five points ahead of Edmonton, with two games in hand. A win Tuesday night for the Oilers makes chasing down the Kraken in the final 36 gams as a realistic goal. A loss, perhaps not so much.
“This is the third time we’ve played them in essentially three weeks,” said Woodcroft. “They know what we like to do, we know what they like to do, and we know what their strengths are.
“Whether we played this game in Seattle, Edmonton or Hudson Bay, it doesn’t matter. We have to bring our level of execution and a level of intensity about us in order to beat this team.”
Jack Campbell starts in goal for Edmonton, with Martin Jones expected to go for the Kraken.