GDB 47.0: Will the Oilers Actually Unveil Three New D-Pairs? (8pm MT, SNW)

Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
5 months ago
Since Kris Knoblauch was hired the Edmonton Oilers are 26-7. They are 24-4 in their last 28 games and thus far almost every decision Knoblauch has made — whether it be systemic, roster moves, or line combinations — has worked out very well.
The one area he hasn’t changed has been his defense pairings. Yesterday at practice, Knoblauch, along with input from Paul Coffey and Mark Stuart, decided to switch all three pairings, but will he use them tonight?
Be sure to check out the latest NHL odds with online sportsbook Betway.
In their first 33 games under Knoblauch, the D pairs have remained the same — except for two games in Florida and Carolina on November 20th and 22nd, when Philip Broberg was dressed, and they played seven defencemen. Outside of those two games, Knoblauch has opted for consistency. He has also been very consistent in his messaging.
He isn’t afraid to name his starting goalie the day before a game. He explains why he makes line changes in games, or before. And yesterday, when he was asked about his three new defence pairs, he said this.
“We practiced with it today, and we’ll see if that is the formation we go with going into the weekend,” said Knoblauch. “Right now, we are always looking for ways to get better. We never want to do anything drastic, and when you are splitting up three pairs of defenceman that is a little more drastic. Ultimately, we feel we want to get a little bit better in some areas and some pairs. Today was just a practice and it hasn’t been decided if we are doing that on Friday (today).”
He left the door open that not all three pairs would be unveiled tonight. He has been very direct with his replies all season, so I believe him when he says it wasn’t decided. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had two new pairs, and kept the Ekholm-Bouchard pair together, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if he decides to change all three.
But it is important to note what he said yesterday regarding his defence, compared to what he said about the new second and third lines from practice. They skated Evander Kane, Leon Draisaitl and Corey Perry as a line, and had Dylan Holloway, Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele. Knoblauch made it clear those would be the lines tonight and explained why.
“We wanted to make an adjustment there, trying to get a little more scoring,” said Knoblauch. “The last few games we haven’t had very much scoring unless Connor and Leon have been on the ice together. Obviously, Corey is a player who can play with skill and has the ability to score goals and hopefully we can build some chemistry with those three. We’ll see if things go well.”
It is bizarro world right now in Edmonton. The team’s struggles have been more in the offensive zone than the defensive zone. The Oilers goalies haven’t allowed more than two goals for the past 15 games. It is a good problem that there is more concern offensively than defensively, and I’m sure that is why Knoblauch wasn’t 100% committed to making all three changes to his defence pairs. I don’t think it will cause major issues if he does, but I could understand if he opts to only unveil two new D pairs tonight.
The one change I would make is to play Vincent Desharnais with Darnell Nurse. Desharnais has played well, but in a third pair role. There is no guarantee he will have the same success playing top-four minutes, especially when the Oilers’ top-two pairs have played the same number of minutes. The only difference between the Nurse-Ceci pair and Ekholm-Bouchard pair has been how much Ekholm-Bouchard play with McDavid. Since Knoblauch’s arrival, McDavid, Bouchard and Ekholm have been on the ice together (5×5) for 344 minutes, while McDavid has logged 93 minutes with both Nurse and Ceci on the ice.
If they change all three D pairs, it will be interesting to see the TOI split between them with McDavid’s line. I understand why you’d start the D pair changes tonight, against a Ducks team that sits 30th in the NHL standings, is 29th in goals for/game, 26th in GA/GP, 22nd on the PK and 21st on the PP. Edmonton can’t take them lightly, and haven’t recently, but it’s not like Edmonton is changing their D corps before a game against of the best teams in the NHL.
The timing makes sense, if Knoblauch indeed makes the changes.



Oilers ***UPDATED***

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Perry
Holloway – McLeod – Foegele
Janmark – Ryan – Brown
Nurse – Desharnais
Ekholm – Ceci
Kulak – Bouchard
This morning Knoblauch wouldn’t confirm which D pairs he will run with. So the above pairs might not be what we see tonight. The Perry/Foegele swap will happen and Perry will play his former team on the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane.
Calvin Pickard is looking for his fifth consecutive victory which would extend his personal best, which he set last game when he won his fourth in a row. Pickard has been very steady since being recalled, and as the Oilers schedule starts to intensify (36 games in 70 days), they will be using Pickard more.


Henrique – Carlsson – Strome
Vatrano – Groulx – Terry
Jones – Lundestrom – Silfverberg
Johnston – Carrick – Leason
Fowler – Lindstrom
Vaakanainen – Lyubushkin
Lacombe – Gudas
Mason McTavish didn’t skate this morning and will miss tonight’s game. Trevor Zegras is out with a broken ankle, Alex Killorn has been out for months and Pavel Mintyukov is also out. The Ducks have battled injuries all season. The good news for Oilers fans who like seeing good players, you will get to watch Leo Carlsson for the first time. Many believe he is their best player right now. He is fun to watch.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers get back in the win column with a 5-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers’ PP remains hot (entered game with six goals on 14 PPO in last six games) and scores two goals.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Evander Kane picks up his second multi-goal game of the season and first since November 15th.
Updated: Links (2/9/2024)

Check out these posts...