It was a late season game and the heart of the scheule was a distant bell. After thousands of listless shifts Edmonton fans were greeted with a stunning moment: a young man with determination, size and soft hands grabbed the puck in the corner, circled wide, drove to the net with an iron will and scored a goal. Music!
That was a year ago, and since then Teemu Hartikainen spent another winter in the AHL. His NHL line (6, 0-1-1 -3) has only recently seen a crooked number added to the boxcars. On Friday night, Hartikainen moved the needle with an assist, a shot on goal, a +1, 11:41EV, 7 hits, 2 blocked shots and some time with the skilled men. There’s a window of opportunity here for Hartikainen. With Paajarvi struggling with his sideburns and Linus Omark refusing to get taller, Harski the Finn finally has 11 games of blacktop and perhaps a chance to show some things to management (as he did one year ago).
Before Friday night’s game, coach Renney said this about Hartikainen: “He’s an up and down player, hard on the walls at both ends, goes to the blue paint, has some grit in his game naturally. I’ll watch him in regard to his instincts and his ability to read the play.”
He delivered. Ben Eager’s nasty virus might be to Hartikainen what Wally Pipp’s headache meant to some guy named Lou. You never know.
SHOW ME A SIGN!
We’ll get an indication tonight. If Hartikainen is in the pressbox, or playing 5 minutes on the 4line, then the Oilers aren’t serious about him. If, however, Friday night’s push because of Eager’s headache becomes 16 minutes because Hall is also out, then this may indeed be that point in this young man’s career where the tumblers fall, the meter clicks.
The Edmonton Oilers have never won a damn thing without a Finn on their roster. You could look it up.
It’s been a long season, is there something to salvage in the final 11 games? The Oilers have 28 wins, 63 points. Last year, they finished with 25W and 62 points. If Tom Renney can get to 33 or 34 wins, is that enough for another 2-year deal? Edmonton would have to win 5 or 6 of their final 11.
The goal differential is now -22 overall, which compares well to last season’s -76. It’s also interesting to break it down by discipline: -24 at evens, with 55 PP goals and 46 PP goals against. Last season’s team was -52 at evens, 44 PP goals and 74 PP goals against. The Oilers have shown some improvement this season. I don’t think Renney gets fired if this team can reach 75 points.