Although the Oilers are 1-3-1 and will be without captain Connor McDavid for one-to-two weeks, head coach Jay Woodcroft isn’t declaring his team dead in the water. In fact, he hopes McDavid’s absence can provide the jolt Edmonton sorely needs.
“You’re always looking for opportunities that present themselves to serve as fuel. This is certainly one of them,” Woodcroft said Monday. “We feel (our record) could be different, but it is what it is. … You couple what the record is with losing your captain, great opportunity for other people to step up.”
Woodcroft added that McDavid feels the same way.
“He views (his injury) as the captain of this team and how this could be a really important, positive inflection point for our group,” Woodcroft said. “He sees it for the opportunity that it represents.”
McDavid suffered an upper-body injury during Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets. He projects to miss the Heritage Classic against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 29, but Woodcroft isn’t ruling out McDavid just yet.
“I’ve learned when it comes to Connor that nothing is off the table,” the bench boss said.
McDavid’s absence leaves a gaping hole in the Oilers’ lineup. The superstar has taken home the Art Ross Trophy for three straight seasons, and he’s mere months removed from becoming the first player to score 150 points in a single campaign since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96.
“Obviously, nobody’s going to fill his shoes,” Evander Kane said. “Tough to lose a player like that and how much he means to our group and how he’s an integral part of kind of all phases of our game. Hopefully, he’ll be back soon. We’ve gotta settle up for him while he’s gone.”
Without McDavid in the mix, Kane was promoted to the top power-play unit in practice Monday. The veteran winger, who remains goalless through the first five games of the season, said he viewed it as a “great opportunity.”
Kane stirred up some attention during Saturday’s game when he made a quip about his limited ice time in an intermission interview. He addressed the moment Monday, saying his comments were taken out of context and that he was just “laying out the facts.”
Woodcroft, meanwhile, viewed Kane’s comment as a positive thing.
“I see it as someone who’s passionate and wants to get in a rhythm and wants to play,” he said.
The Oilers’ first McDavid-less game will come Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild.