Already missing one of the NHL's top rookies, the Edmonton Oilers now must also try to get by without their leading scorer for the immediate future.
Edmonton (16-22-3) has dropped its last three games since star rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins suffered a shoulder injury in a 4-3 win at Chicago on Jan. 2. Nugent-Hopkins, the 2011 overall No. 1 draft pick who leads all rookies with 35 points, is out until at least after the All-Star break at the end of the month.
Eberle, who has a team-best 17 goals and 26 assists, will be out just as long after he sustained a knee injury in the first period of Saturday's 4-1 loss at Dallas that concluded a 1-6-0 road trip.
"We all think and know that it could have been worse," coach Tom Renney told the Oilers' official website. "We'll do the right things medically and stay prudent, but it's longer than we'd hoped."
Being without their top two scorers does not bode well for the Oilers, who have lost 15 of their last 19 games. Three of the victories, however, have come at home where Edmonton is glad to be after a rough road swing.
"We didn't have the results we wanted,'' 2010 overall No. 1 pick Taylor Hall said. "But we had a lot of good efforts. We need to stay together as a group and turn it around.''
Hall will be counted on to pick up some of the scoring load with Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins out. The second-year winger has a goal in four straight games and finished with five and two assists on the trip.
He recorded an assist in Edmonton's 4-3 overtime loss at New Jersey on Nov. 12, 2010.
The Oilers, who snapped a four-game home losing streak to the Devils with a 2-0 win in New Jersey's last visit March 7, 2010, will get a look at another of the NHL's top rookies in Adam Henrique. The 2008 third-round pick is behind only Nugent-Hopkins in rookie scoring with 13 goals and 21 assists.
He had one of each in a 6-3 loss at Calgary on Tuesday to drop the Devils to 1-1-0 on a four-game trip that concludes Saturday in Winnipeg.
Martin Brodeur was pulled after giving up two goals on the first five shots as the Devils yielded four in the first period. Backup Johan Hedberg made just five saves on nine shots as the Flames won despite being limited to 14 shots.
New Jersey has allowed six goals three times this season, including both of its last two defeats.
"We were flat in the first," Henrique said. "We made a few mistakes. You can't fall asleep for 20 minutes. We dug ourselves a hole that we couldn't get out of."
Ilya Kovalchuk, who had a goal and an assist Tuesday, has four and two assists in his last three contests. He scored the overtime winner against the Oilers last season.
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