Connor McDavid’s injury and Jordan Eberle’s return to the lineup has forced Todd McLellan to change his top two lines.
In practice, Eberle skated on the right side with Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins slid into McDavid’s spot in the middle of Nail Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot.
Losing McDavid hurts, but the return of Eberle and the emergence of Draisailt softens the blow a bit. The Oilers’ top-two lines still consist of skilled forwards. The Oilers don’t have to promote AHL scorers like Marc Arcobello or others to play above their head in a top-six role in the NHL like they did in the past, and that is a testament to the Oilers finally having some depth.
Moving RNH between Pouliot and Yakupov makes a lot of sense. He is their best centre and the Hall line will likely face the top-pair defenders. It will make life more difficult for Draisaitl, but I believe these two combos give the Oilers the most balance.
It would have been risky to move Draisailt between Yakupov and Pouliot. Yakupov’s play away from the puck has improved, but he and Draisaitl as a combo could have led to some defensive zone adventures. Better to let both of them continue to develop and mature on separate lines.
- Ten minutes into practice McLellan blew his whistle and then ripped into his players for not working hard enough in a drill. He encouraged them to shoot the puck from the bleeping slot and get in front of the bleeping net and score. He refuses to let this group become complacent. Consistency is still their biggest challenge most nights, and he believes that consistency will only come from practicing fast, hard and intense.
- He has to break some of the players’ bad habits, and it will take time, but he won’t let up and the players have responded. I love that he focuses on shooting to score. It is an offensive mindset, and lack of effort or attention to detail in the offensive zone is just as egregious as doing it in the defensive zone. I’m glad he is constantly reminding his team to bear down in the scoring areas.
- Hendricks/Letestu/Purcell were still a line, while Lander was centering Gazdic, Miller and Pakarinen. Those three were rotating on both wings.
- The PP units had: Hall, RNH, Eberle, Purcell and Klefbom on one unit. This gives the Oilers two right shots on the first unit and will allow them to line up more one-timers if needed, but the PP has been rolling for the past two weeks.
Yakupov, Draisaitl, Pouliot, Letestu and Sekera were the second group.
- The D pairs looked the same, and if that is the case Mark Fayne will sit out a third straight game. If he and Ference sit out again, the Oilers will have $13.675 million in the pressbox/AHL.
- I thought McLellan would go back to Talbot tomorrow, but he said this morning he is “leaning” towards Nilsson tomorrow night. He also said he would watch the rest of the Penguins/Canucks game before deciding on his D corps..
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