GDB 10.0: THE SWITCH

Yesterday Ralph Krueger suggested he is contemplating making a switch amongst his top two lines for tonight’s tilt v. Dallas.

Which move makes more sense? Turns out it wasn’t what many were thinking.

Will he move Sam Gagner between Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, and slide Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky, or will he stay with the duos he liked at the start of the season, Eberle with RNH, Gagner with Hemsky and swap Yakupov and Hall?

I think both moves would have merit.

The Hall/Gagner/Eberle trio had success last year, most notably Gagner’s 8-point night against Chicago. Hall and Hemsky are the two best forwards right now at backing off the defenders on the rush, so keeping them on separate lines makes sense.

Right now Nugent-Hopkins has shown he is better defensively than Gagner. While RNH isn’t producing like Gagner, 9-game point streak, he has shown remarkable improvement with his defensive zone coverage. If you put RNH between Yakupov and Hemsky, they likely won’t be eaten up 5-on-5 like the 64/89/83 trio was.

Also, putting RNH with the Yakupov, who has been the best shooter early on, could lead to more offensive chances. The great news for Krueger is that he’s the first Oiler coach in a decade who has six legitimate offensive players that he can rotate through his top-two lines.

Krueger could also throw Yakupov with RNH and Eberle, and give them better matchups, while putting Hall with Gagner and Hemsky and give them the harder minutes. Hemsky has faced the top defenders for most of his career, so he’s used to it, and right now Hall’s overall speed and strength make him the hardest to defend amongst the young kids.

SCRATCH THAT

Nugent-Hopkins will not play tonight. There will be some switching of lines and positions, but it will involve Mark Arcobello and Ryan Smyth.

Arcobello will have one of the best opportunities any player has had for his first NHL game. He’ll play between Hall and Eberle, while Smyth will move to centre with Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk on his wings.

RNH is listed as day-to-day, and according to Krueger if this was a playoff game he’d be playing. Krueger said they expect him to play Saturday in Detroit. His shoulder is bothering him, not sure which one, but after a hard hit in OT v. Vancouver the Oilers have elected to rest him.

LINE UP

Hall/Arcobello/Eberle
Yakupov/Gagner/Hemsk
Paajarvi/Lander/Hartikainen
Hordichuk/Smyth/Petrell

Smid/Petry
N.Schultz/J.Schultz
Whitney/Potter

Dubnyk 

The Stars roll into Rexall looking very different than last year. They have lots of new faces, young and old, and it will be interesting to see how they and the Oilers match up.

Morrow/Benn/Jagr
Ryder/Roy/Eriksson
Vincour/Eakin/Smith
Roussel/Fiddler/Nystrom

Robidas/Dillon
Daley/Rome
Oleksiuk/Larsen

Lehtonen

Alex Goligoski is a healthy scratch. He hasn’t played as well as the coaches would like, so he’ll take a seat upstairs.

QUICK HITS

  • Devan Dubnyk is tied for 7th in SV%, .925%, with goalies who have started at least five games. He has faced the most shots in the NHL at 295, and along with Jimmy Howard, Mikka Kiprusoff and Jonathan Quick they are the only goalies to have started every game for their team.
     
  • The Oilers are 30th in shots against. They are allowing 34.4 per game. They are 24th in shots for with 27.4/game, which ranks them 29th in SF/SA ratio at a woeful -7.
     
  • The positive for tonight is that the Stars are 30th in SF/SA ratio at an awful -9.2. The Stars are only averaging 24.6 shot per game while allowing 33.8.
     
  • Smyth, Petrell, Lander, Gagner and Paajarvi will rotate on the penalty kill.
     
  • Yakupov tweeted out a pretty neat picture of him and Jaromir Jagr. "Nail10_1993 : That was 2004 -Jagr played in Russia , in Lockout time . And it’s me 11 years old Boy 🙂 Good eh ?)))) "
  • Yakupov is excited to play one of his idols tonight.
     
  • Krueger wouldn’t say for sure who would be on his first powerplay unit, but you will likely see Arcobello slide in to Nugent-Hopkins spot. I’d look at putting Ryan Smyth on the first unit in place of Shawn Horcoff, because they need to try and win the faceoff and he is good in front of the net.
     
  • The Stars have been shorthanded a league-high 50 times this year. They were preaching discipline this morning, and admitted they are leery of the Oilers powerplay. The Oilers are 2nd in PP goals, 12, and 3rd in PP% at 28.6. The Stars PK is solid at 11th, but their PP only has 4 goals on 33 chances and sit 27th at 12.1%.
     
  • Hall fought Roussel in the minors this year, and Stars analyst Darryl Reaugh called him mini-Pepe today, a Claude Lemieux reference. Roussel is great at getting under people’s skin, and isn’t afraid to drop the gloves to protect himself. Look for him to try and fire up the Oilers tonight.

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are without three centres, and since most expect them to lose tonight, they will do the opposite and win, 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will struggle in the faceoff dot, and Smyth will have the best percentage.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Early in the 2nd period, Arcobello will saucer a cross-ice pass to Eberle who scores his first goal in five games. Right after he scores Roussel will give him a cheap shot in the back. Arcobello skates in and jumps Roussel. They drop the gloves and Arcobello takes a few heavy shots. While sitting in the penalty box, they announce the goal and Arcobello’s assist and the big screen shows Arcobello in the sin bin, nose leaking with a huge grin. The crowd loves it and gives Arcobello a standing ovation. 

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

    • Clyde Frog

      The combination of the Oilers Hall and Eberle being snake bit in conjunction with all the centers on the IR is not making me very optimistic either at the moment.Just sayin. I do like that the team has not folded its tent and gone to ground. They are battling and eventually some of those chances have to go in. Ebs missed a golden opportunity last night.Hall the PS the game before.

      The one factor that we all seem to discount is that the quality of the goaltending we have faced early on has been absolutely amazing. We are seeing across the league alot of low scoring games. Scotty bowman commented that you better make the most of your PP because 5 vs 5 there ain’t going to be heck of alot of scoring. We are seeing that across the league.

      Lander? bruise? Next? The beneficiary in all this is the guys down in OKC and Stockton and those guys looking for a PTO. The Oilers are on every agents speed dial right now.

      When do the Oilers make a move for a center?

    • That’s true in that every team that doesn’t make the playoffs has a chance at the lottery this year.

      I think they are right about where most people thought they would be ( as indicated by the recent Oilers Nation Poll that had about 70 or 75% of respondants stating exactly that).

      My prediciton was 8th in the West if they stayed very healthy……13th if there were heavy injuries. With the recent rash of injuries….it looks like it might be somewhere between 10th to 12th in the West. Giving us a top 10 pick even without a lottery win. Can you say “BIG CENTER” ??

      ( and Tristan Jarry with one of our 2 second round picks)

  • Stack Pad Save

    Can they get rid of Potter? Any other defenseman would be an improvement. The guy makes the worst give aways. He makes me remember good things about Grebeshkov.

  • justDOit

    That sit in the press box sure did Whitney a lot of good. He looks as slow and lethargic as he has all season. Lots of try in this year’s squad but the game is a lot tougher when you don’t have the puck. Taylor Hall seemed to be the only guy who could win a faceoff out there.

  • Shaun Doe

    Someone needs to teach these guys how to clear the zone. I miss the days of Staios bouncing it off the glass and out. At least it made it over the blueline.

  • justDOit

    Tough one, But we need to look at- No Horcoff- No Fistric- No Jones
    No Eager- No Belanger-Lost Lander, I have to believe somewhere
    in there, we win this game if these gents are in the lineup.
    No Lander probably would not be, but i am sure Jones
    would have 2-3 goals [maybe] by now and one of them
    cold have equated to a victory.. I dunno.

    Whitney- Wow, thats all i can say.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I felt bad about the Whitney benching, but I’d would be mad if they don’t sit him next game. Hell, Bobby Baun on a broken leg could of defended that. Jagr is a world class player, but at times but he’s slow. Ryan was beat to spot by a 41 year old. He’s to slow to get pucks, he’s not physical enough to defend, and he can’t keep up with and old man.

    Whitney is this years Barker, he’s costing games and points.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Think that OT goal by Jagr is a good example of Dubnyk getting tired. Unobstructed view of the shooter/puck and he sits there, hoping the puck just hits him. His glovehand must’ve went to sleep on him on that opportunity. Zero wins in his last four starts.

    Oilers must be paying a price for mouthing off at the refs. More often than not they’re on the short end of breaks from the officials.

    • Czar

      He has a .925 save percentage in his last four starts. I’m not sure you can ask more from your goalie getting you to OT three times in four games while getting badly outshot most nights.

      The reason this team has zero wins in four games is because of the lack of scoring. Only 1.75 goals per game in the last four. Hardly Dubnyk’s fault this team can’t score right now.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          If we don’t count the first period against the Sharks it was .951. That .020 difference could be attributed to being tired in the later stages of games. That .020 difference may have cost the club 2 or 3 points in the last week, no?

          • Brass tacks……. tired or not tired, the Oilers are not scoring enough for any goalie.

            Would it make a difference if Khabibulin or Dubnyk were in net?

            Scoring under two goals a game it wouldn’t be.

            By an inch or by a mile…………really doesn’t matter.

  • I can’t believe I’m going to say this but, I’m starting to feel really bad for Whitney, its got to be killing him inside.

    I just can’t get over how off his game is.

    At the same time Krueger cant keep putting him out there.

    He’s a bloody train wreck.

    • Rocket

      This.

      Also, I know it’s completely obvious but Hall is a beast right now. Him & Hemsky are all over the ice & it’s a good thing. Good thing they’re at least healthy.

      Half the team is injured; I mean what is this 2010?

  • Czar

    Can we try Hall at center now? On second thought, the way our centers are going down maybe we should try Whitney there. Can’t believe after sitting out a game he comes back with that effort.

      • Gets back to the point of the NECCESSITY to have the courage to trade players when their value is high and you really want to keep them.

        It’s not complicated….its like the stock market…sell on the way up and buy on the way down….

        Two perfect examples are Hemskey and Gagner….Hemskey has been the best Oiler for many years…and Gagner has made significant strides in the last 12 months… SO….we have to put our emotions aside and have the guts and the nerve to move them when thier trade value is high….if you are serious about getting quality in return….

        Its really hard to wrap your head around trading players that have value, WHEN THEY HAVE VALUE…..but the alternative is the Whitney cunundrum!

        If your serious about the need for a Big or Talented second line Center as a NECESSITY, then you have to have the balls to make the HARD choices! The alternative ( 3 pieces of our crap for one of their Stars is nonsensical) And to much wait and see / evaluation time……is DITHERING.

  • Phixieus666

    Well another loss – 4 in a row.

    Whitney – well documented already. He looks as bad as he did that first Vancouver game where the puck was in the corner and he couldn’t turn the proper way to retrieve it. Cue Holmstrom retirement speech.

    Hall was awesome – again. Could have done without the btw legs as I think he he would have scored on the backhand. But was best Oiler.

    Arcobello – welcome to the NHL. Now you know why these guys do all that endurance training like they do! A step behind the play (sometimes 5 steps). A lot to ask of you and loss is not on your head.

    Dubie – Agree he was getting fatigued. Most minutes in NHL and most shots! Cue Habi.

    Upside??? Well until the Emergency Room gets emptied we are going to be lucky to keep getting these Loser points.

    Help . . . .

  • Peanut Sauce

    The bottom line is that the oil have won 4 and lost 6.

    There is no top line. Hall and ebs can’t finish and the Nuge has not been himself. Until the top line stops trying creative nice plays and starts taking the puck to the net the oilers will lose.

    Arcobello was a failed experiment and Yak and MPS should not be out together in ot.

  • 1 Regulation win in 10 games – that is the most telling stat… throw in all the arguments why blah blah blah…it is still only 1 regulation win in ten games at that is atrocious.

    AND GOOD!

    because another thing about a youth movement – is cockiness and they where filled to the rim in it all of them Hall, Nuge, Eberle after treating the AHL like every game was an all star game they tried to bring that to the big show.

    look at every game – you will see extra passes, nifty dance moves, crazy shots and TURNOVERS like no one has ever seen.

    Yakopov – is still on cloud 9 – big eyed and shell shocked that he is in the NHL that is understandable but also making blunders.

    The only two young guys that have come in – punched in to work and punched out are Justin Shultz and Devan Dubnyk. Calm – settled and ready for the next game.

    Yes losing centres suck and yes Ryan Whitney is absolutely struggling after reconstructive surgery on both his feet,

    but even more the reason for everyone to keep it simple, put the puck in the corner, crash the net and score ugly.

    So after 10 games – I hope thats enough for the young guns to get the wake up call and realize settle down – play hockey. Ultimate job is to win games not razzle dazzle for the oooohs and aaaahs.

    Who is playing hockey right now – Gagner, Hemsky, Shutlz, Dubnyk, Hartikanen, Petrell, Petry, Smid

    The rest can come back from hollywood anytime now, we need you.

    • Clyde Frog

      I suppose you can look at it that way, but they also only have 3 regulation losses in 10 games. When a team is in a slump, you have to still collect points which is what the Oilers have done thanks to Dubnyk and the Gagner line.

      Hope the others can get going soon. Not only the top line, but others have to start contributing as well. Only 3 goals in 10 games from forwards outside the top 6.

      But I agree with most of what you are saying except for Yakopov…sure he makes some mistakes but 5 goals and 8 points in 10 games for a rookie is outstanding.

  • It’s funny how some fans expectations are so high for a team that has finished dead last or next to dead last the past 3 seasons. The Oilers sit 7th in the Conference this morning…which is hardly a failure. I think most of us realistically expected this team to finish between 7th-12th in the conference depending on injuries, growth of our younger players, and the play of Dubnyk.

    • justDOit

      Totally agree,they are young and talented,and need to grow and mature,get stronger and smarter,but there are some good signs :Dubnyk is playing much better than last year,there looks to be some decent d-men here,smid,schultz,petry,and schultz,and up front ,hall,nug,eberle,yak,gags,but i also think fan expectations are to high.

    • It is not about unrealistic expectations…

      my point was about youth brings excitement but also brings hard lessons about reigning it in every once an a while.

      the young crew needs to understand their no. 1 job is to win – period. I guarantee you some of them started this season with – “lets show the fans what we got”

      so this slump is perfect for the wake up call and get it sorted.

  • But lets not Panic either. And lets not use the new CBA/Salary cap as an excuse not take action on or before the trade deadline.

    We need two solid deals that address our OBVIOUS needs and see us wave goodbye to 2 or 3 players that we REALLY like….You’ll probably know you’ve done well only if it HURTS a little…

  • Eastern Oil

    @ Old Retired Guy

    Re # 106. After that comment you should perhaps look in a mirror before accusing someone of being inappropriate. I do not agree with much of what DSF says but I respectfully read his comments and attempt to respond within a hockey context as this is a hockey forum.

    Say what you want about his comments but he is never personally disrespectful.

    I appreciate your passion in being an Oilers fan, as I am a passionate one as well, but too far man, too far…

    • Czar

      You are entitled to your opinion, and I’ll certainly consider it……I admire your restraint….but I think that you and I have a much different opinion when it comes to DSF being respectful.

      Bringing up your dead mother in the middle of some blog / chat room banter for effect ..like he did crosses a line……..Doesn’t it.? That’s not respectful to the guy he’s talking to, it’s not respectfull to DSF’s mother and it’s not repectful to DSF himself.

      If he wants to talk Hockey and throw in the occasional witicism…that’s one thing …..but with this…..come on…..even he must feel some regret…..at having made that particular statement..?

  • Marcus

    Didn’t watch the game, had to work. Just the highlights, recap, etc.

    So we’re only 1:40 into overtime and we have Potter and Whitney on the ice? Dubey should have been told prior OT to muckle onto the puck any chance he gets for a whistle because we’re going with our 4 best D in OT.

    I love Hall and Ebs, but they have to stop being so fancy and start scoring the make-able goals. Hall had all day long to stop with the puck and beat Lehtonen instead of some foolish between the legs scrimmage move. Lots to learn young guns.