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Game Notes Oilers @ Ducks: Holland Does The Job

Last week, Ken Holland spoke outside the Oilers dressing room and said the players and coaches have done their job and he was hoping to help them out before the trade deadline.

He lived up to his promise, acquiring Mike Green, Andreas Athanasiou and Tyler Ennis. Athanasiou should have the biggest impact, as he will start on Connor McDavid’s left wing, but also because he is an RFA and will be more than a deadline rental.

1. Mike Green will most likely play in the third pair, while Tyler Ennis will likely end up in the bottom six, and start with a few looks up and down the lineup, but Andreas Athanasiou will start with McDavid and has the opportunity of a lifetime.

2. I’ve heard many reports stating Athanasiou likes to carry the puck and that might not work with McDavid. Yes, he did carry the puck a lot in Detroit, but last season when he scored 30 goals his most common centres were Luke Glendening (342 minutes) and Frans Nielson (294 min).

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And his most common wingers were Darren Helm (198 min) and Tomas Vanek (198 min).

This season his most common centres have been 35-year-old Valterri Filppula (301 min) and Glendening (145 min).

Of course he carried the puck a lot.

3. I see very little issue with him getting used to playing with McDavid. He will gladly let the league’s most dynamic player carry the puck more. Athanasiou’s speed allows him to keep up to McDavid, but more than that he will be able to pressure the puck and create turnovers. And the odd time he does carry the puck in, the defence will have to honour his speed, back in, and that will give McDavid more space when he comes into the zone without the puck. I don’t know how many goals Athanasiou will score, but the concerns about him carrying the puck need to put into context based on who his centres were.

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4. It will be an adjustment for him not carrying the puck as much, but the opportunity to play with McDavid makes it much easier to accept. He will have to read the play a bit differently. I’m not sold it means he is suddenly a 35+ goal man because he plays with McDavid, but his speed is something McDavid has never played with. Athanasiou could create more space for McDavid, and that in itself could be a huge benefit.

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5. Tyler Benson was reassigned to Bakersfield so the Oilers are still only carrying 12 available forwards. Zack Kassian has two more games remaining in his suspension and will return Saturday against the Jets. The Oilers are saving as much cap space as they can, so keeping 12 forwards while they are on the West Coast, close to Bakersfield, makes sense. Every dollar counts, because Edmonton wants to limit carry over from Mike Smith’s bonuses to next season.

6. The Oilers placed Kris Russell on LTIR late Sunday night, and there is no timeline for his return, but after Ken Holland told me he was looking for another D-man I wonder if Russell is out longer than a few weeks. Holland joined Jason Strudwick and me on TSN 1260 yesterday afternoon and said, “I had lots of irons in the fires. You don’t really talk to teams you are battling for, but there were a few others we were in on. I wanted to get another D-man, but it didn’t happen.”

7. Ducks GM Bob Murray made five NHL trades yesterday.

He traded Nick Ritchie to Boston for Danton Heinen.
He dealt Derek Grant to Philadelphia for a fourth round pick and Kyle Criscuolo.
He traded Devin Shore to Columbus for Sonny Milano.
He moved Daniel Sprong to Washington for D-man Christian Djoos.
He traded Korbanian Holzer to Nashville for Matt Irwin and a sixth round pick.
He also claimed forward Andrew Agozzino on waivers from Pittsburgh.

Heinen and Milano will be in the lineup tonight, and Djoos and Irwin could also play. The Ducks blueline is missing Cam Fowler and Erik Gudbranson.

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8. The Oilers and Ducks also made a minor-league trade. Edmonton acquired ECHL goalie Agnus Redmond and a conditional 2022 seventh round pick for Joel Persson. Redmond will remain with his ECHL team. If Persson plays 25 NHL games next year the Oilers will receive the seventh rounder in 2022. Holland explained the trade: “He was making a million dollars. The reality was he wasn’t going to make our team next year, so the trade was to give him an opportunity. If he plays 25 games next year we will get a pick in return,” he said. It also saves the Oilers a bit of actual cash, not cap related, this season.

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9. Here is the Oilers’ scoring last year compared to this season, though 62 games, as well as the Ducks’ scoring.

TEAM TOP-5 FORWARDS REST OF FORWARDS DEFENCE
2018/2019 114-146-260 34-57-91 22-78-100
EDMONTON 118-171-289 57-68-125 21-90-111
ANAHEIM 80-84-164 52-87-139 24-76-100

10. The Ducks are 29th in goals/game at 2.52 and 22nd in GA/game at 3.16. The Oilers have a massive advantage on special teams and need to exploit that. The Oilers PP is first at 29% and their PK is second at 84.7%, while the Ducks PP is 30th at 14.5% and their PK ranks 21st at 78.3%.

11. Perception and narratives often take on a life of their own despite not being that accurate. Many are excited about adding Ennis. I understand why. He was a low-cost rental and a player who has some skill and ability to make plays. I just find it interesting how this move is applauded, yet many of the same people still mock the David Desharnais acquisition in 2017. They are essentially the same player. Smaller, skilled players. If Ennis has one big playoff game like Desharnais did in game five against the San Jose Sharks when he assisted on the game tying goal with 2:46 remaining in the third and then scored the OT winner, he and the Oilers will be thrilled.

PRAY FOR PLAYOFFS

The boys are in the mix and we’re looking ahead to April. Please, Hockey Gords, make it so. Competitive games in February! Exclusively at NationGear.ca.

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