There aren't very many roads to the NHL that have been bumpier than the one traveled by Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson.
The team has yet to announce whether the 23-year-old will make his NHL debut tonight on the road against the Anaheim Ducks, but if he does, it will be the culmination of a tumultuous few years that included a cancer scare and an off-season groin injury earlier this year that caused him to miss training camp.
"For a lot of my life, things have come harder for me, but I've always battled through and here I am ready to go," Davidson said following the team's pre-game meetings in Anaheim. With Nikita Nikitin (back) placed on IR on Monday, the Oilers recalled Davidson on Tuesday and he joined the team in California.
The Oilers selected Davidson in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft, and he followed that up with 100 points and a +21 rating in 141 games during his final two Western Hockey League seasons with the Regina Pats, before graduating to the pro level.
Hockey took a backseat for Davidson in October 2012, however, as he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He battled through successful surgery and chemotherapy, worked his way back to game shape and ended up finishing the season with the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons. Fully recovered, he spent all of 2013-14 with the Barons and put up 13 points in 68 games.
Poised for a competitive NHL training camp, Davidson had another setback during his summer training as he suffered a groin injury that prevented him from on-ice action until he debuted with the Barons in November. He's been stellar since, putting up three points and a +5 rating in 14 games, for the most part playing on an OKC defence pairing with veteran Brad Hunt.
"Less is more for me," Davidson said. "I play a simple game, a strong game. I feel like some stability on the back end would help the team, and that's all I want to do is help. I'm not going to change anything or reinvent the wheel. I'm just going to play hard."
The Edmonton Oilers announced today they have recalled defenceman Brandon Davidson from the American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons.
Davidson, 23, has recorded three points (1G, 2A), 13 penalty minutes and a plus five rating in 14 games with the Barons this season.
The 6’2”, 214-pound defenceman has registered 21 points (8G, 13A) and 85 penalty minutes in 109 career AHL games.
The Oilers were happy with their 2-1 win over the Sharks on Sunday night. The win snapped a mentally exhausting 11-game losing streak. It also gave the Oilers their first victory over a Western Conference team this season.
“It’s a big step in the right direction,” David Perron said. “It’s nice playing that way, like we did in Winnipeg mostly and same here. It’s nice to get the result. It shows everyone in the room that when you do the right stuff on the ice for the most part of the 60 minutes you’ll get rewarded after.”
Now comes the real challenge. The Oilers look to continue their better play moving forward. Now with their first win in quite some time and points in four of their last five games, the team seems to be finding a formula.
“At the end of the day, I thought we executed pretty well,” Ben Scrivens said. “That’s got to be our expectation now of how we have to play. Minimize the mistakes. We made a couple, but they weren’t as often and as egregious as they’ve been in the past. I thought early in the season we probably deserved a better fate in a couple of games. I thought we were playing well early on. In the last little while, we got away from that. This last game against Winnipeg and the one tonight are two good ones we can build off of. It’s one or two games. It doesn’t mean a lot if we’re not going to stick to it. That’s got to be our challenge now— to make sure we go with that type of effort and execution going forward.”
Eight of their 11-straight losses were decided by one goal and Sunday night’s win was by one score as well. The Oilers will get back to work with an emphasis on finding more offence to help keep the wins coming.
“We go through that streak and I think eight of those were one-goal games. There’s a tipping point there,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. We won by a goal and we played a responsible game, but that’s how we have to play every night. We have to play with that responsibility and we’re still looking for more offence. We’ve got to find some more offence and some more finish. Does it allow you to enjoy your night and part of your day tomorrow? Absolutely, but we’re not going to have a parade over this. We’re going to get right back to business and go play this same team, which is an extremely hard team to play. They’re well coached, they’re organized and they’ve got such a veteran core there that they’re hard to beat.”
The Oilers American Hockey League affiliate won their single-season franchise record eighth consecutive game on Saturday night. The Oklahoma City Barons took down Milwaukee by a score of 5-3 to stretch their unbeaten streak to 10 straight games (9-0-0-1).
Oklahoma City has 32 standing points, good for third in the Western Conference and first in the West Division.
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The Oilers have lost 11 straight games, eight of those being by just one goal. Four have been decided in overtime. The team is right there, they just haven’t been able to finish off games.
Oilers winger Luke Gazdic says that’s why the team has been working on upping their battle level.
“I think our battle level, our compete level needs to come up for sure,” Gazdic said. “All these games, out of the 11 that we’ve lost, eight of them have been one-goal games and four have been in overtime. That’s something you can’t really practice. That’s just got to be a compete level and a battle level that we have to switch on. We’ll be looking to get after that for sure.”
It’s been a mental struggle, but the Oilers believe that if they can refine little things in their game and up the compete, they can turn some of those one-goal games into two points.
“I think it’s been tough mentally in this stretch here. It’s just things we have to work on and finding a way to win here. We’ve been close, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss, whether you lose by five or you lose by one. We’re still finding a way to lose games but we have to find a way to turn that around and find a way to win it. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
The Oilers will try to end their losing streak starting on Sunday, but that task gets tougher considering their next opponents. Edmonton hosts the Sharks Sunday, then heads to California for a back-to-back road swing against the Sharks and Ducks. They then return home to host the Ducks again with one day in between.
The California teams always bring a physical matchup, but the Oilers are just focused on getting that first win to shake off this difficult stretch.
“First of all, we’ve got to get a win here,” Oilers winger Luke Gazdic said. “I think that’s the most important part. We’ve been working hard the last couple of days on different things. We know what kind of teams they are. They’re big and heavy, you hear that word heavy all the time but we’ve got to bring it and we’re looking to get a couple of points against San Jose here tomorrow.”
Gordon, Hendricks and Nikitin are all absent, having missed yesterday’s practice as well.
The Oklahoma City Barons remain unbeaten in their last nine games, a franchise record (8-0-0-1), and have not lost since November 14.
Andrew Miller scored two goals to lead the Barons to a franchise record-tying seventh straight win, a 4-1 decision against the Grand Rapids Griffins.
The boys are hot right now #bluesteelbarons— Brandon Davidson (@bdavy3) December 6, 2014
The Barons (13-4-2-2) are third in the American Hockey League's Western Conference with 30 standings points.
The Barons will try to stay hot with a game Saturday night in Milwaukee.