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Photo Credit: Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

WWYDW(TE): Line Juggling

The Edmonton Oilers put forward their worst effort of the season on Tuesday in Detroit and wound up taking a 4-2 loss to the Red Wings.

The loss to Detroit represented just the second time the Oilers scored fewer than three goals in a game this season, with the other coming in a 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks back on Oct. 30.

Edmonton’s offence has been the team’s biggest strength early on in the season and is a key reason why the Oilers are 9-2-0. Their 47 goals rank second in the league, the power-play is the best in the league by a wide margin at 46.9 percent, and Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are tied for the league lead in points.

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But, such has been the case over the past few years, the Oilers aren’t getting very much offence from their bottom-six. Without any of McDavid, Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi, or Zach Hyman on the ice at even-strength, Edmonton is getting outscored 12-to-5.

Here are all of Edmonton’s forwards in terms of on-ice goals for and goals against at even-strength

  • Ryan Nugent-Hopkins: 8 goals for, 3 against
  • Leon Draisaitl: 14 goals for, 6 against
  • Jesse Puljujarvi: 13 goals for, 8 against
  • Connor McDavid: 12 goals for, 9 against
  • Kailer Yamamoto: 6 goals for, 5 against
  • Tyler Benson: 1 goal for, 1 against
  • Zach Hyman: 5 goals for, 6 against
  • Zack Kassian: 5 goals for, 8 against
  • Warren Foegele: 5 goals for, 10 against
  • Davin Shore: 2 goals for, 4 against
  • Derek Ryan: 3 goals for, 8 against
  • Kyle Turris: 1 goal for, 3 against
  • Brendan Perlini: 0 goals for, 1 against
  • Colton Sceviour: 0 goals for, 0 against
  • Ryan McLeod: 0 goals for, 0 against

Given how good the team’s top-six is and how dominant their power-play is, the Oilers don’t need their third and fourth line to be amazing, they really just need to be breaking even so that the top guns aren’t shouldered with the large burden of compensating for the rest of the team.

That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday THURSDAY EDITION question. How can Dave Tippett get better results out of his bottom-six? Should the team shuffle the lines and spread some talent around? Are there any internal reinforcements from the Bakersfield Condors who could make a difference?

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Feb 1, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers right wing Zack Kassian (44) skates during the warmup period against the Calgary Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Oilers are without two regular players right now so it’s a fine opportunity to juggle the lines up and try something new. Devin Shore, who has mostly been used as the fourth-line centre, is out for a few weeks, while Zack Kassian, the team’s third right-winger, is day-to-day after falling awkwardly into the boards in Detroit.

Ryan McLeod is up for Shore, but since Kassian is only expected to miss a few days, he likely won’t go on the Injured Reserve and there won’t be a reinforcement from Bakersfield.

Though it probably won’t happen right now, one interesting option to consider from the Condors is Cooper Marody, who was last season’s AHL goal leader. Marody cleared through waivers and is off to a strong start this year with nine points through 10 games in the AHL. He’s had success in the past playing with Tyler Benson and McLeod, so maybe that trio could eventually get a look at the big league level.

Circling back to players who are currently with the team, if the Oilers want to spread their offence out throughout the lineup, one way to do so might be using all of McDavid, Draisaitl, and Nugent-Hopkins as centres, which is something we haven’t yet seen this year. That would involve operating with three pairs (McDavid and Puljujarvi, Draisaitl and Yamamoto, Nugent-Hopkins and Hyman) and filling in the holes with the other forwards on the roster.

What say you, Nation? How can the Oilers get more from their bottom-six? Should they spread out their three centres? Or should they keep rolling with the combinations that have them sitting at a 9-2-0 record? Let us know!


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