BUFFALO, N.Y. — Boyd Gordon is a specialist. He kills penalties, blocks shots and above all else wins more faceoffs than he loses.
That’s why on many power plays, Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins chooses to put his fourth-line centre on the ice.
“Boyd, he’s so good on the faceoffs, we want that puck right away,” Eakins said. “That’s where he gets a lot of his extra PP time.”
Gordon isn’t a goal-scorer. The 31-year-old entered this season with 47 in 560 career NHL games.
But in the absence of star left-winger Taylor Hall, who’s out with a knee injury, the Oilers would love for Gordon to get a little more offensive. With a goal in each of the past two games, he’s obliging.
“I think you want to contribute,” Gordon said. “I think all four lines get pretty equal, shared ice time. If you have different guys chip in every night, it definitely gives us a better chance to win a game.”
Gordon scored just the fifth power-play goal of his career Thursday night at the Boston Bruins. More importantly, he had the game-winner Friday night when the Oilers came back from two deficits to beat the Buffalo Sabres and snap their losing streak at four.
And this wasn’t a garbage goal or a wacky deflection in front. After Matt Hendricks forced a turnover, Teddy Purcell made a slick pass to Gordon, who fired past former Washington Capitals teammate Michal Neuvirth.
Gordon went sliding into the boards with his arms in the air having sealed Edmonton’s first victory since Oct. 27.
“Gordo, he’s been working hard, I’m glad,” Hendricks said. “That’s back-to-back goals for him. He’s on a hot streak.”
These were the first two goals of the season for Gordon, so no one expects his hot streak to continue Sunday when the Oilers visit the New York Rangers or pick up Tuesday when they finish up this road trip at the Nashville Predators.
What Eakins, the coaching staff and Gordon’s teammates expect him to do is continue to do what he does best. Often, that’s not what the most skilled players enjoy to do.
“He works so hard, and yet he’s never looked sideways once at the number of times he has to start in his D-zone,” Eakins said.
“He takes great pride in it and takes great pride in our penalty kill. He just quietly goes about his business.”
Gordon is a man of few words. Any questions?
About his goal, the Unity, Sask., native said it was fortunate the puck went in the net. About the victory, he said he was just glad this young, still-learning Oilers team was able to end their losing streak before it got out of control.
There’s no doubt the Oilers, still last in the Western Conference with 11 points at 5-8-1, have much to learn about winning close games like the one in Buffalo on Friday night.
“(Players) understand what process we’re going through, they understand where we’re at and where we’re going and that’s our main concern right now,” Eakins said.
Gordon, who was eighth in the league in faceoffs last year at 56.5 per cent, isn’t a part of Edmonton’s core but he’s the quintessential role player.
Eakins appreciates that.
“I can’t say enough about Boyd,” he said. “He does a lot of heavy lifting, dirty, dirty work and is happy to do it.”