Oilers working on their power-play

linejuggling

The Oilers skated this morning except for Souray, Roloson, Reddox and Nilsson. Nilsson just walked by me during practice and I jokingly asked him if he will be in the doghouse for missing the skate. He laughed and said he got the green light not to skate today. He bruised his knee on the road trip, so they gave him the day off today, but said he will play tomorrow.

Souray and Roloson are just getting rest, and while Reddox told us he feels fine, he clearly doesn’t have clearance from the medical staff to play. With four extra forwards there is no need to rush him back.

Lots of PP work in practice today. Both the first and second unit spent close to 20 minutes working on quick puck movement and lots of shots. They still don’t shoot enough with the man advantage and clearly the message is to get more rubber on goal.

If the Oilers can win the special teams battle, their chances of winning are much higher because this season they’ve become pretty effective 5-on-5.

Look at the recent road trip. The Oilers were +2 on special teams in Colorado, +1 in Chicago and then -1 in Minnesota. They won the games where they won the special teams. In the 12 games prior to Colorado, the Oilers never won the special teams games and they went 4-3-5 in that stretch.

If this team can improve their PP and their PK in the final ten games they are a lock to make the playoffs.

Oh! Line juggling

If the first line was producing as little as they have been lately you would of seen a change in personnel, but don’t expect O’Sullivan, Hemksy and Horcoff to be split up anytime soon.

Hemsky has two goals in this last 13, while Horcoff has two (both on the PP) as well. They aren’t producing five-on-five, but MacTavish will not split them up.

“In times before I would have changed that line if it wasn’t productive, but now I think they have to work themselves through it. The other lines are playing okay, so I don’t want to switch them, but they (first line) has the capability of working themselves through it. I see a lot of potential on that line, and I expect them to produce very soon.”

If the first line wakes up it would make life much easier for the Oilers and their loyal fans. O’Sullivan is 1-1-2 and –4 in the last six. Hemsky is 0-2-2 and –3, while Horcoff is 2-0-2 and –2. Horcoff averaged 20:39 of ice-time during this stretch, Hemsky 18:25 and O’Sullivan 20:07.

Compare their production to the 2nd line:

  • Gagner: 4-4-8… +3 and 16:16 of icetime.
  • Kotalik: 1-3-4… +2 and 14:25 of icetime.
  • Nilsson: 2-4-6… +4 and 13:38 of icetime.

Horcoff and O’Sullivan kill penalties so that is the where they get most of their extra minutes, but even if you take away those three minutes a game the production of the first line is well below Gagner’s line.

We constantly hear how this is the FUN time of the season, and the time where your go-to-players need to show up. Gagner and company have upped their game, and it’s time that Hemsky et al follow suit.

They play the most minutes within the forwards and they need to start producing to make life a bit easier for their team, and most importantly that would allow MacTavish to rest Roloson for a game. He will play tomorrow against Detroit, and right now it seems as long as he gets rest on off days, he will play until the Oilers have secured a playoff spot. Phoenix to Anaheim is a much easier back-to-back than Denver to Colorado, so don’t be surprised if the Colossal Fossil plays both of those.

Clarify Eberle

In case you missed my post on JW’s article about Eberle’s contract and how the Oilers were allowed to sign him:

He signed a three-year entry level deal that kicks in next year if he makes the team.

He is playing the remainder of this season on a “Futures” contract. It allows a player to play a maximum of 25 games. These types of contracts are common in the AHL and ECHL. They don’t count under the 50 team contracts.

While the Oilers didn’t confirm this, I would suspect that Eberle’s agent wanted a three-year deal in place before his client played on the “futures” contract in the AHL.

Eberle will play the RW with Potulny, and the LW will be either Schremp, Willis or Stone according to Rob Daum.

  • swany

    We play the Wings next I would bet money that Mact and the team would like to send a message to the Wings in case they meet in the first round. Roli will start and Mact will have the same lineup as minny except i think Storts goes in for Mac, This game is the perfect game to show us fans and the Wings that the Oil CAN beat them, as for the first line they had about 3 chances in the first against Minny I to think they are just about ready to brake out and score a bunch. I have liked all the lines of late, even Penner has been using his size and holding on to the puck maybe Moreau had some influence.

  • SquidRx

    Dennis wrote:

    I don’t even think they have the win the ST battle; as long as they can finish even I’ll like their chances because we’re steady on the EV tip.

    I read this and had to look back at the top of the post. I could have sworn this was a DeepOil statement.

    *holds head trying to keep it in one piece while attempting to translate Dennis's post*

  • HBomb

    New line combo idea for the day (assuming they don't go with MacIntyre tomorrow night and replace him with Pouliot):

    Penner Horcoff Hemsky – proven power vs. power trio; want to get Horcoff and Hemsky going? Go with what's known to work.

    Nilsson Gagner Kotalik – soft minute munchers; don't mess with "success"

    O'Sullivan Pouliot Cogliano – many reasons for this one: 13 showed chemistry with 19, 13 and 78 have played together, 13 and 19 are both finishers while 78 is a playmaker, and 13 should be on the damn RW and not playing C. Beyond that, all three guys have shown flashes of being competent two way players, so the trio wouldn't have to be babysat.

    Moreau Brodziak Pisani – a fourth line in name only; reminds me of the combo of Moreau-Reasoner-Pisani from the 2003 playoffs. This line could probably hold it's own in secondary tough minute assignments.

    That would be my latest and greatest idea. If they're hell bent on Stortini over Pouliot, Pisani moves up a line and Cogliano shifts over to center.

    At least, that's how it would be if I were running the team. Which I'm not. Oh well….

  • Dennis

    The new 10 line has been generating enough big opps that you'd bet they'll break out soon.

    I haven't seen the same from the new 89 line outside of that period in Col

  • humantorch

    Hemsky has two goals in this last 13, while Horcoff has two (both on the PP) as well. They aren’t producing five-on-five, but MacTavish will not split them up.

    “In times before I would have changed that line if it wasn’t productive, but now I think they have to work themselves through it. The other lines are playing okay, so I don’t want to switch them, but they (first line) has the capability of working themselves through it. I see a lot of potential on that line, and I expect them to produce very soon.”

    AAARRRRGHGHGGHGHGHAK;DLFL;KTER;OIF;IFGD;LHDFG;LKJ

    i think i just had a stroke.

  • Chris

    I have staunchly advocated playing O'Sullivan on the first line since his arrival. I think the line works well, but will only really produce when Hemsky gets going… It's hard for Horcoff or O'Sullivan to really take matters into their own hands when Hemsky is the guy who always has the puck. I also like Kotalik better on the second line right wing. I laughed out loud during the ST Louis post game interview, when Kotalik said that his role in Buffalo, "wasn't about goal scoring anymore"; and when asked by Tencer if he was more comfortable on the right side, Kotalik answered, "The game has changed over the years, you know they are using the trap on the left side, you know with the way teams back-checking over the last couple years I wasn't effective…. I was moved to the right side and had been playing better for two and a half years, and I definately feel better, I can make more plays, and I can see the ice better…"
    I wish MacT had asked the same question, and gotten an honest answer back on March 4th… That said, I'm happy with the current set of lines… I'm also much happier with the results.

  • Reggie

    How much of the struggles of the first line is because Horcoff has no energy left ? he's been used so much in the faceoff circle, etc.

    He is constantly missing passes, missing one timers, not making plays with the puck, etc.

    I think cutting down on his minutes a bit will make him more effective.

  • Dennis

    Yeah, this club did alright on that stretch considering they were getting ripped on ST. I think they were outscored 3-16 from the game at SJ until the OTW vs the Blues.

    I don't even think they have the win the ST battle; as long as they can finish even I'll like their chances because we're steady on the EV tip.

    BTW, I'm not in the least sold on the 12-89-21 line. They've been together since last Tues vs Stl and here's what they did:

    vs Stl: absolutely nothing
    at Col: they tear up the third period but it's against a crappy/young team.
    at Chi: the line gets owned chances-wise but 89 scores on the PP off a sweet pass from 12.
    at Min: outchanced once again.

    So, good on 'em for being able to take down the Avs but we're talking a small segment sample here and the numbers are being pumped by one period at EV and some PP stats.

  • Nickler

    Interesting numbers for the second line. Do you think if MacT put the second line in with first line minutes that it might light a fire under the 19-10-83 line or would it take away from the second line production by facing the oponents top players?