Ty Rattie played a total of 7:39 last night before leaving the game in the second period. Todd McLellan didn’t know the exact injury but said Rattie and Matt Benning are both doubtful for tomorrow’s clash against Nashville.
Watching the replay it looks like Rattie has some sort of groin or hip flexor issue, which often means a player misses one game, or sometimes the issue lingers and stretches into a week or longer.
Rattie’s injury creates a wonderful opportunity for one lucky winger to play on Connor McDavid’s right wing.
Rattie definitely didn’t play his way off the line. He scored a goal had two points in 4 1/2 games, was good defensively and had been solid on the forecheck, digging out pucks for McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. But his injury opens the door, and every winger would love the chance to slide into this spot.
McDavid played 20:40 at 5×5 last night and due to Rattie’s injury he had a variety of different linemates.
Nugent-Hopkins played 17:39 with him and he is a lock to be his left winger for the foreseeable future.
Leon Draisaitl played 5:24 with McDavid and often that was due to McLellan going head-to-head with his best three forwards against the Patrice Bergeron line. It was fun to watch those six forwards on the ice at one time. But Draisaitl won’t be lining up as McDavid’s regular right winger tomorrow.
So who will?
Let’s rule out those we know won’t be there. Milan Lucic is a left winger. He, along with linemates Ryan Strome and Kailer Yamamoto, had a very strong game as a unit. McLellan talked post-game about the need to get four lines going who can creates some chances, so I’d be very surprised if he split up this line. They will remain a trio.
Kyle Brodziak won’t be moving up. Alex Chiasson hasn’t played a game and he won’t be getting his first game on the #1 RW spot. Jujhar Khaira has played RW on the fourth line, but I don’t see him getting the bump either.
That leaves Tobias Rieder, Drake Caggiula, Jesse Puljujarvi and Zack Kassian.
I’d be surprised if it was Kassian, but last night Kassian played the fourth most minutes (2:58) with McDavid, behind RNH, Rattie and Draisaitl. Kassian was much more involved in the game last night. He made some strong plays along the wall to get the puck out. However, I don’t see him skating there at practice this morning.
I know some fans, and Dustin Nielson, will want Puljujarvi there. He could get a look. I sense the coaches are still a bit concerned with his decisions with the puck defensively, and might shy away from playing him with McDavid against Nashville’s best line.
Caggiula has played a little with McDavid over the past two seasons, skating 67 minutes with him in 2017 and 146 last year. Yesterday he told me he was confident he would be ready to play on Saturday. Caggiula has played arguably his three most consistent games as an Oiler this year. He was engaged every game. He hasn’t turned the puck over once, has been physical and is generating some chances. I think they put him on Draisaitl’s left wing, because he has created some offence and as McLellan said, they’d like to get four lines creating chances.
That leaves Tobias Rieder. He has done nothing to deserve playing on the the top line, however, he is responsible defensively, and he did play 2:55 with McDavid yesterday. Maybe a stint on the top line can get him some confidence and get him going, so when Rattie does return they could slide Rieder back to the bottom six and he’d be able to build off some renewed confidence playing with McDavid.
I think it will be either Rieder or Caggiula who gets a look, but I’d lean to Rieder, only because I think Caggiula might be able to help Draisaitl more at this moment based on how he has played.
When Rattie returns I think he has earned the right to keep his spot on McDavid’s wing, but in the meantime, one winger will be placed in a very enviable spot. Maybe McLellan rotates different players there during the game, but someone will start there.
My prediction is Rieder. Who would you put there and why?
Draisaitl hasn’t been great to this point, especially 5×5, but he has six points in five games. He still has more points than all the other skaters on lines 2-4 combined. Lucic has two points and Yamamoto and Puljujarvi have one each. It is fair to say Draisaitl needs to pick it up, but he is still producing points, and last I checked points are still pretty important. The good news for the Oilers is they are 3-2 and one of their best players has yet to play his best. That is a positive. You’d rather they find ways to win when he is playing average, because the odds are he will pick up his play soon and when he does they should be a better team.
Goaltending and special teams won the Oilers the game last night. Cam Talbot was excellent early in the game as the Oilers were outshot 10-1 in the first ten minutes. He kept them in the game until they found their stride. In the final 50 minutes the Oilers outshot the Bruins 21-19. The special teams were excellent. The penalty kill was perfect, killing off three powerplays, and they were at their best late in the third period for the second consecutive game. In Winnipeg they were extremely aggressive on the BS Lucic penalty, and last night they only allowed one shot during Rieder’s penalty with 5:37 remaining. The powerplay scored again and is now 37.5% on the season. The five lefties is working, and I’m not too surprised because of the talent of McDavid, Draisaitl and Nugent-Hopkins. And before you ask, no, that was not a set play. McDavid’s pass was intended for Lucic, but the Oilers got a bounce off the boards and Nugent-Hopkins buried it.
The only negative about the powerplay is they don’t get many chances. They’ve only had 14 powerplays thus far, but they’ve also only taken 14 penalties.
Matt Benning only played four shifts last night for a total of 2:27. He left after his fourth shift and didn’t return. He was in concussion protocol and I’ve learned it happened when he delivered a hard hit on David Backes on his first shift. Watching the replay, there isn’t anything that sticks out, but it was a high speed collision and they can do damage even if you are the player delivering the body check. It is too bad he was injured, because he did look better in those shifts than he had in previous games. A source told me Benning was feeling good and he doesn’t think it will be too serious, but because they deem it a concussion, then he could be out a week at least, meaning he’d miss games against Nashville and Pittsburgh.
What a goal by Yamamoto.
His celebration was awesome. He looked almost in shock. “I was. I was like, did that just happen? Then I think I blacked out for a bit,” he said. During our interview/conversation he was beaming. As he should be. What a thrill it must be to score your first NHL goal, and to score it in that fashion is even better. But Yamamoto’s biggest smile came when I asked about his parents. They were actually in the building. They are in town from Spokane and got to see his first NHL goal live.
His dad runs his own tile business. “It is really hard work. I have worked a bit with him in the summer and it is tough, especially when you have to remove it,” said Yamamoto. His mother works for the county. “They are very hard workers and I learned hard work and respect from them,” he continued. I could tell as excited as he was for his first goal it was a bit more special for him that his parents were here to watch it.
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