February 08 2013 11:24AM
The Edmonton Oilers made their first significant shuffle to the forward lines in practice this morning. They also added Chris VandeVelde from Oklahoma to replace the injured Anton Lander.
The New Lines
#Oilers lines at skate in Leduc: Hall-Gagner-Hemsky, Hartikainen-RNH-Eberle, Eager-Smyth-Petrell, Yakupov-Belanger-Paajarvi— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 8, 2013
On defence, Potter, Fistric and Whitney are rotating through drills together with Smid-Petry and NSchultz-JSchultz still together— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 8, 2013
- The first thing to keep in mind: Friday's opponent is Detroit, which means that the Oilers needed to have two strong lines to match up against the Datsyuk and Zetterberg lines. In a lot of ways, this rotation to me looks like a way to spread out the wealth for road games against teams with a deep group of forwards.
- Obviously, if Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky are expected to perform in a power-vs.-power role, they weren't going to do it with Yakupov. Taylor Hall is a more rounded player and at this stage of his career certainly a far superior possession player than the Russian rookie. Moving Hall to that line makes it much more difficult to play against.
- Hartikainen joining Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle is something that's been talked about for quite some time; he adds size to that line but more importantly he's going to be a good fit in the offensive zone. This is a line that's likely still going to face relatively tough competition - especially against Detroit - and it will be interesting to see how they handle it, particularly given that Nugent-Hopkins is likely less than 100%. I'll also be curious to see how often Yakupov gets spotted in place of Hartikainen on this line.
- I'm also curious to see whether the third or fourth line gets more ice-time against the Wings. Despite the fact that Yakupov's on the nominal fourth line, I'd be surprised if the two units weren't used roughly the same amount - Eager's just coming off a concussion and Smyth is playing centre, so that third line is less than ideal; on the other hand, VandeVelde is likely to initially slot in for Belanger on line four.
- With special teams taken into account, I imagine the Oilers' top two lines get roughly the same amount of ice-time (with Hall leading the way) because I expect we'll see Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Hartikainen still forming the core of the first power play unit. For that matter, Yakupov's bound to continue to see time on the power play, too.
- Looks like Smyth/Petrell and VandeVelde/Paajarvi are the natural primary penalty-killing pairings up front.
All things considered, these line changes strike me as pretty sensible - they fit with the situation and with Krueger's commitment to balance.
One last word, from the coach:
"Once VandeVelde gets here, we'll make the final decision. Those lines could change tomorrow." - Krueger on today's fwd configurations— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 8, 2013
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