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Corey Perry skates in Oilers top six as Vincent Desharnais gets promoted to top pairing

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
17 days ago
It took Corey Perry all of two games with the Edmonton Oilers to wind up in their top six.
As the team practiced in Coachella Valley, California, Thursday ahead of a back-to-back set against the Anaheim Ducks and LA Kings Friday and Saturday night, Perry drew into the Oilers’ top-six, skating alongside Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane.
Perry, who signed with the Oilers in January, months after his contract with the Chicago Blackhawks was terminated, had been skating in their bottom six. But when he joined the Oilers, there was talk that the team could give him a spin in their top six, and that appears to be imminent.
That wasn’t the only change of note from the Oilers’ practice, as the defensive pairings have changed, too. Vincent Desharnais has been bumped up from the Oilers’ third pairing to the top alongside Darnell Nurse, while Cody Ceci has been bumped to the second pairing alongside Mattias Ekholm. The third pair will feature Brett Kulak and Evan Bouchard.
It marks the first time we’ve seen significant changes to the pairings since Ekholm arrived in Edmonton after last year’s trade deadline, and it’s going to be interesting to see how ice time gets allocated to these groups.
Under head coach Kris Knoblauch, Evan Bouchard has been the Oilers 5v5 time-on-ice leader among defencemen, playing 18:18 there per night and over 23 minutes overall, the most of all defencemen. With him on the ice there, the Oilers have controlled 60 percent of the goal share and 63.43 percent of the expected goal share, as he and Ekholm have been one of the league’s best pairings.
Desharnais’ bump up the D corps is well deserved, as his game has been nothing short of excellent. The Oilers have also controlled 60 percent of the 5v5 goal share with him on the ice and 59.49 percent of the expected goal share, showing his dominant play is real.
When it comes to Ekholm and Ceci, they should be able to play off each other well.
What this all reads to me is that the Oilers are looking for some more offence from Darnell Nurse and Mattias Ekholm, as these pairings put them in a position to do so. Desharnais and Ceci are both much stronger players in their own zone than with the puck on their stick, so this situation will allow their new partners to jump up in the play a little bit more.
Things could still change, of course, and these swaps could just be for the practice, but at the end of the day, with a game against the beatable Ducks on Friday, this is a great spot for them to try some new looks out.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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