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Photo Credit: © Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 63.0: Pontus Debuts (8:30pm MST, SNW)

Pontus Aberg could become a legend in Edmonton, based solely on his name. I love the uniqueness of it.

“In Greek mythology, Pontus was an ancient, pre-Olympian sea-god, one of the Greek primordial deities. Pontus was Gaia’s son and has no father; according to the Greek poet Hesiod, he was born without coupling, though according to another Latin author, Hyginus, Pontus is son of Aether and Gaia.”

Some would argue the Oilers will need a miracle to become a consistent playoff team, so maybe Aberg can channel some of his inner Dietyness (not a real word) and be the speedy savour Oilers fans have been hoping for. They already have McJesus, so Aberg doesn’t need to part defences and feed the hunger of Oilersnation, he just needs to be able to contribute.

He’ll make his Oilers debut tonight.

Of course I’m not expecting Aberg to be a big-time scorer. If he can become a regular NHLer that would be great, and we’ll see how he does over the final 20 games. Maybe he just needs an opportunity.

But there is a fine balance between opportunity and creating a losing environment. Todd McLellan has to juggle many factors when deploying his lineup in the final quarter of the season.

The first goal is always to try and win. Tanking is for losers and if you coach to lose you will lose the respect of the players.  Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl want to win and McLellan owes it to the two most important players in the organization to coach to win. He can’t just deploy players on the first line in hopes they produce.

He also has to balance the reality of the NHL. Milan Lucic isn’t going anywhere and while he’s mired in the worst goal scoring slump of his career, McLellan can’t play him on the fourth line. He has played him fewer minutes lately, excluding last game, and if Lucic keeps struggling I think we will see more 13 and 14 minute games for him.

And McLellan has to balance trying to get his younger players some ice time, while not sacrificing games. It isn’t as easy as people think because his main focus is winning. If the Oilers go 4-16 down the stretch McLellan could lose his job. He can’t just play young guys and hope for the best.

LINEUP…

Oilers

Lucic-McDavid-Slepyshev
Cammalleri-Draisaitl-Rattie
Puljujarvi-Strome-Aberg
Caggiula-Khaira-Pakarinen

Nurse-Larsson
Klefbom-Russell
Sekera-Benning

Talbot

Pontus Aberg will make his debut and wear #46 and he’ll slot in beside Ryan Strome, who is suddenly rolling offensively. Zack Kassian was injured in Anaheim on Sunday and didn’t skate this morning. I don’t have any issues with line combos at this point. If I could make one change it would be to slide Jesse Puljujarvi to the right wing on the second line, but right now Strome is playing very well so I’m not too concerned about it.

I think it benefits Puljujarvi to play on the third line at even strength because he’ll face “easier competition.” While many fans want him to play with McDavid, the harsh truth is he is not ready to face the opposition’s best defence every shift and still produce. I see no harm in sheltering him a bit at EV. However, I would ensure he is getting a regular shift on the second unit PP. It makes no sense not to play him there.

Kris Russell will be a game time decision. He blocked a shot with his hand in LA and didn’t play against Anaheim. The Oilers also recalled Ethan Bear. If Russell can’t go they might slot Bear in on the third pair with Sekera. Bear has 6-10-16 in 34 games with Bakersfield in the AHL. He has 2-3-5 in his last six games and has a very good shot. Considering how terrible the PP has been, I’d have no issue playing him on the PP right away. It can’t be any worse. The PP is 4 of 52 (7.7%) since January 1st.

But I bet Bear plays his first game in Edmonton. Adam Larsson will fly to Sweden after tonight’s game to attend his father’s funeral. There were some delays in getting his body back to Sweden so now their family can lay him to rest in his homeland.

Sharks

Kane-Pavelski-Doonskoi
Hertl-Couture-Boedker
Meier-Tierney-Lebanc
Goodrow-Fehr-Karlsson

Ryan-Burns
Vlasic-Braun
Dillon-Demelo

Jones

Evander Kane makes his Sharks debut and he’ll slot in on their top line with Joe Pavelski. Kane has a great combination of size, skill and speed. He should help the Sharks as they battle for home ice in the opening round of the playoffs.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Fear the Fin:

This season has been a disappointing one for the Oilers. They have failed to live up to the hype they left us with last season. Things have been a bit better lately for the struggling Oilers, though. They played two big intradivision games and walked away with three points. Against the Los Angeles Kings, they pulled off a 4-3 regulation time win. Two of the goals came from Ryan Strome and Leon Draisaitl, two offensive powerhouses for the Oilers. They played the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday and walked away with a 6-5 shootout win. Ryan Strome had two of those goals.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will try to win four games in a row for only the second time all season, while the Sharks have lost three in a row. The streaks end. Oilers lose 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores his 13th goal of the month.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Aberg becomes the fourth Oilers to wear #46 following in the skates of Todd Rierden, Jani Rita and Zack Stortini. Rita only wore it for his NHL debut and the next season wore #14, then had #22 in his stint with the team. Aberg picks up a point in his first game with the Oilers.

GDB BROUGHT TO YOU BY SHERBROOKE LIQUOR

Take home a growler, a crowler, a sixer, a mixer, whatever. Sherbrooke Liquor. Where’s Your Beer?


Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 02/27/2018 – 2:00 pm MST