OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD: GOOD NEWS?

The good news is the Edmonton Oilers have done reasonably well without Taylor Hall on their road trip, winning two of the four games they’ve played heading into Nashville on Tuesday. The better news is they might not have to get along without their dynamic left winger much longer.

Word today is Hall, who suffered a sprained ligament in his right knee crashing into a goalpost in a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Nov. 1, was scheduled to skate at Rexall Place. In addition to that, Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, who is with the team in Music City, strongly suggested Hall would be back in the line-up as early as Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.

A return against the Coyotes would put Hall right at the two-week mark in terms of recovery from the injury, which was the best-case scenario offered before the Oilers headed out on the road. If that’s the case, Hall with have missed just six games – the Oilers host Ottawa Thursday in their first game back.

What a difference a couple of days makes. After losing Hall in the loss to the Canucks and then losing 4-1 in Philadelphia and 5-2 in Boston, the Oilers were languishing at 4-8-1. A 3-2 win in Buffalo and a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers has them at 6-8-1 as they face the Predators. Now, promising news on Hall’s recovery.

THIS AND THAT

ThisAndThat

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t recall the Oilers playing a more complete game from top to bottom than they did against the Rangers Sunday. Didn’t see many flaws in the effort and it came against a pretty decent team, albeit on playing the second of back-to-back games, not the sad-sack Sabres, who faced a 52-shot onslaught by the Oilers.

  • Aside from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has been the best Oiler forward in a half-dozen games, the guy who caught my eye in New York was Benoit Pouliot. I mentioned Pouliot’s lack of production on Twitter Monday – I don’t expect him to be a 20-goal and 50-point guy but he needs more than good underlying numbers – and he responded with a goal and an assist.
  • I like how hard Pouliot is on the puck, something he came billed as providing. He wins board battles. He moves well. He’s looked good enough since being moved up with RNH and Jordan Eberle in place of Hall that some people are wondering if it might be worth leaving him there even when Hall is back. I’m not sure Dallas Eakins will do that, but it’s worth considering.
  • Jason Gregor touched on Nail Yakupov’s improved play in an item he wrote today and I fully concur. As noted, Yakupov has upped his shot rate in recent games and now has 37 shots in 15 games. Right now, Yakupov is the proverbial case of a guy who is not being rewarded for doing things right. His shooting percentage sits at 5.4 after seasons of 21.0 and 9.0. He won’t be stuck at two goals long if this keeps up.

  • I’ve called Mark Arcobello an AHL player more than once, and you probably have, too. I’m not sure we’ve seen enough yet to come off that assessment, but he’s played some good hockey on the trip and that’s been timely, to say the least. He’s a 4-2-6 through 15 games.

WHILE I’M AT IT

BTW

 . . . If I’m Eakins, I stay with the hot hand and play Viktor Fasth against the Predators. Until he gives up the crease with a sub-par performance, it sends the wrong message to take it from him just to get Ben Scrivens in. The Oilers have days off until back-to-back games against New Jersey and Chicago, so there’s no need to go on anything other than merit.

. . . David Perron didn’t skate with the Oilers today. Eakins is calling it a maintenance day. The way Perron is moving, that maintenance obviously involves the hip issue he’s been battling. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    So then would Hall play with Yak and Drai? Leaving Ilro and Purcell with Arco? Giving Perron maybe some much needed rest time?

    I like the idea of Hall and Yak making up a very strong second scoring unit. Hall makes everyone around him better so it could be a big boost for both Drai and Yak.

    I think this could be very nice. But if there’s on thing I’ve come to expect from Eakins, it’s to do what doesn’t seem necessary.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    I certainly hope members of the MSM, who have been highly critical of Yakupov’s work ethic, take the time to consider his level of play over the past 5-6 games. The turnaround has been marked and is very encouraging. If he is able to sustain this for an extended period he will undoubtedly begin to post some decent numbers and will have earned the trust of the coaching staff.

    His emergence as a quality option will make Eakins job much easier when filling out the line up card and when allotting ice time in critical situations. I am also very encouraged by the contributions of both Purcell and Pouliot. They have made a difference when pressure ramps up. They can be relied upon to make veteran plays when needed.

    • Who questioned his work ethic?

      I’ve read many articles from Gregor and others saying it was more about his hockey awareness than effort. He and other writers usually said they like Yakupov’s effort, but not what he did with and without the puck.

      For me, I think people need to realize that Yakupov won’t be a superstar. I think he will be a good 25-30 goal scorer in the future, but don’t see him as a dominant player.

  • Mike Krushelnyski

    i like the idea of keeping pouliot with nuge and ebs, and maybe try hall with leon and purcell. two lines that have players who can push the puck up the ice and create chances. and it’s about time the team decides to go with who is playing well instead of going with who they want to win with. i hope scrivens comes back stronger but he shouldn’t get the crease because brass wants him to be the #1, right now, fasth should be in there.

  • vetinari

    They got to start Fasth… two days rest and a .942 S% in his past two starts should mean that he’s earned it… especially when your team is under .500. They need to build and keep some momentum from this trip and the Preds will be tough.

  • vetinari

    What has impress me about Yak lately is the takeaways he creates. I swear I saw 3 takeaways yesterday that he didn’t get credit for statically. Yaks pressure on the defensemen is awesome to see also

  • I am a huge proponent of putting Hall on the “second” line with either Arco or Drai and Yak. Keep the first line as is. RNH and Hall are both drivers of the play. They will be coming at other teams in waves…

    Pouliot – RNH – Ebs +
    Hall – Drai – Yak +

    Perron – Arco – Purcell +

    Hendricks – Gordon – Joensuu +

    13th Pakarinen

    If they are struggling to score, you can always switch things up and play them together.

    • I would tend to agree but my question would be about deployment. I think that we diminish Hall’s value to the team if he is not playing against Power, his for check is just so relentless that he helps not only generate offence but stymy the opponents’ as well. But I don’t want Drai and Yak playing against the top line.
      I guess with the performance of the wagon line we can roll them against the top line but then Hall is on the ice less and his forecheck is less valuable.

  • vetinari

    I think we should go for a more balanced attack. If baby Nuge can continue to be a driver when he’s on, him and Hall should be on separate lines. Nuge is an ideal fit for Yak City. Purcell and Perron’s board play make them a good fit for Leon. #balancedattack

    Hall-Acro-Eberle
    Pouliot-Nuge-Yakupov
    Purcell-Leon-Peron

  • So many options for Eakins to try now that they have won a couple without Hall. I like Ebs with Hall and would love to see them put Dry between them. Leave Poo with RNH and then YAK. Would love to see how that would work.

  • @Brownlee

    Actually no I haven’t labelled Arco as an AHL’er. The guy can play on any team in the NHL.

    If you need anymore proof just watch his goal in Boston over and over until you finally get it.

    He got hammered behind the net, gets up skates the length of the ice to steal the puck, makes a bank pass to Perron that just misses and then hustles to get into the play and roofs one on one of the best goalies in the league. Just imagine for a moment Gagner doing the same sequence…..wait for it….I didn’t think so.

    The guy is a swiss army knife and can play virtually any role on any line.

    He spent 4 years a Yale and it shows. The always makes the right play so the play rarely, if ever, dies on his stick.

    In 57 games with the Oilers, he’s +12. Not bad considering the team’s goal differential over that period is horrendous. Half of those games he played with 4 line plumbers.

    I think it’s about time to drop the AHL tag or you’re going to look even sillier by the day.

  • Robin I like your idea of leaving Pouliot with the first line and creating a second scoring line with Hall inserted into it.

    My only fear is that Hall is a driver and is usually ahead of the play……there are very, very, few guys within the Oilers that can buy time and space and compliment a player like Hall.

    The only guy that comes to mind that is capable of doing that consistently is Purcell and Perron. Who do you feel is the best suited to play with Hall?

    • oilerjed

      Hall buying time and space would be a perfect fit with a guy like Yak, who is hiding in the bushes waiting to snipe. I like the idea of moving Hall so we have TWO lines that can attack regularly. But please not with Dr Drai, he just isnt ready. Acro has been doing everything he needs to in order to earn trust and icetime with the big guys.
      Drai can center the third line with Perron and Purcell who can help him out defensively.

  • I think it’s a no brainer to keep the RNH-Eberle-Pouliout line together. Reason being that once Hall is back, the team can them play him with Yak and Arco. This leaves Perron/Purcell to play with Draistl, and you can double shift either Gordon or RNH with them in certain offensive or defensive zone situations, without that Wing combo missing a beat.

    I am really for splitting up RNH and Hall, ala,
    Toews and Kane in Chicago who mostly play on defacto Line 1 or 2 options that Chicago is afforded due to their depth. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I see this Oilers top 9 being very very effective in the near future with RNH’s continued improvement and Yakupovs improvement on D and consciousness to shoot the puck more. Can’t wait til
    Hall gets back!

  • BlazingSaitls

    Keep proving the nay-sayers (myself included) wrong Eakins and MacT. That means good hockey and in the end that’s all that matters. Aulie for example…like WTF? Im still dumbfounded at the positive impact the big man has had.

      • BlazingSaitls

        For sure. With the Buffalo game I was happy but not blown away. Buffalo wanted to lose very badly and Oilers scoring was lowe for the amount of shots put on net.

        With the NYR game I was blown away. If the Oilers play like that and lose Ill eat crow. The Oilers absolutely need to put up a strong performance against the Preds tonight. Of course I want a win but if the Oilers play hard against the best team in the West and lose, Ill eat more crow.

  • bazmagoo

    Personally I think the best forward line combos we can throw out there right now are:

    Hall – Arco – Eberle

    Pouliot – RNH – Yakupov

    Perron – Draisaitl – Purcell

    Wagon

  • bazmagoo

    Hall might be the oil, pun intended, to light the yakupov fire. The way he is shooting and creating chances, hes also passing really well, I dont see any reason not to put hall on “line 2” have him run with Drai and Yak. Then Arco Perron and Purcell is a really copmetent third line. I think this would give us a solid 3 lines with depth scoring and then our wagon line. It may take a bit of time but lets not dump this right away and go to whats easy. Hall could be the jump Yak and Drai need. lets see it

  • bazmagoo

    I haven’t seen much of Pouliot. He did look yesterday but that was only one game against his ex-team. If he can maintain what he showed yesterday, he’ll be a force.

    I was concerned going into the season with Arco as a centre. If he can keep doing what he’s been doing, he’ll prove me wrong. I thought he would be fine for a while, I just didn’t think he could on the long haul. It takes a lot of effort for someone that size to compete in the NHL. He’s doing it so far.

    Aulie, What a pleasant surprise, so far.

    Defence looked good yesterday. They stopped the cycle at times – much better than last season, and the forwards are helping.

    I watched the whole game for the first time this season, and I enjoyed it!.