For the second consecutive day the Oilers had nine defencemen on the ice for practice. Justin Schultz is very close to playing. He told me doesn’t expect to be cleared by the doctor to play tomorrow, although he feels he could, but a more realistic return date will be either Friday vs. the Devils or more likely on the upcoming five-game road trip.
When Schultz is activated the Oilers will need to send a D-man to Bakersfield.
Who will it be?
Andrew Ference has a full no-movement clause and he can’t be sent to the AHL.
Andrej Sekera and Schultz won’t be going down.
Mark Fayne, Eric Gryba and Brandon Davidson would need to clear waivers to go down. The Oilers would lose Davidson, so that won’t happen.
Fayne and Gryba have vastly different styles and skillsets. Both have struggled, but the Oilers like Gryba’s size and ability to break up a cycle, not to mention his low $1.3 million cap hit, so they won’t be exposing him.
Despite his early-season struggles, the Oilers believe Fayne can be a steady defender, and losing him for nothing would not be great asset management at this point.
That leaves Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and Griffin Reinhart. None of them require waivers.
Klefbom is going nowhere. He is a legit NHL D-man, and he was excellent in Los Angeles.
Nurse has been paired almost exclusively with Sekera since being recalled, and he’s getting better every game.
Reinhart has not played worse than the other third pairing defenders, but he can go directly to Bakersfield without being exposed to waivers. The Oilers aren’t in a position to just give away D-men. One or two injuries and they’d be searching for D-men, so when Schultz is finally activated I see Reinhart going to the AHL.
I doubt it will be a long-term stay, however.
Bakersfield plays Friday and Sunday in Winnipeg vs. the Moose and then they play Tuesday, Friday and Saturday next week. Reinhart, depending on what day he is sent down, could play five games in nine days and stay sharp.
GM Peter Chiarelli has been working the phones trying to make a move on the backend, but so far he hasn’t found a deal he likes. I don’t see the need for Chiarelli to make a desperate trade, and while other D-men are likely just as deserving as Reinhart of being reassigned, sending him down makes the most sense, at least for now.
- The Oilers should have two lines who can score for the first time since Connor McDavid broke his clavicle.
- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Matt Hendricks were all on the ice today and all three will play tomorrow. RNH and Eberle were reunited with Benoit Pouliot and the Oilers need this trio to produce.
- Today’s lines at practice:
- Korpikoski will be a game time decision. McLellan wants him back in the lineup, but if Korpikoski is activated the Oilers will need to make a roster move. The easy decision could be to put Luke Gazdic on IR (he missed practice again with an illness), and wait until he is healthy before sending someone to Bakersfield.
- If Korpikoski is ready to go, Lander could take a seat in the pressbox. McLellan admitted it is a possibility, but he was quick to point out he believes Lander can contribute. He said Lander is pressing and clearly in an offensive slump. McLellan is not ready to give up on him based on the conversation we had today.
- Hall and Draisaitl have combined for 25 points in the last eight games. They are on fire, and their streak is the main reason the Oilers managed to win three of those games, but in order to start winning at least half of their games the team needs more forwards to contribute.
- The second line needs to produce. Yakupov has to score, at least on the powerplay. The remaining five in the bottom-six have to get on the scoresheet. Their +/- is plummeting, not because they are terrible defensively, but due to their offence being non-existent.
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