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GDB +11.0: Kulak Ready to Step Up (8pm MT, CBC)

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
Brett Kulak will play his 50th career playoff game tonight. All of them have occurred over the past four seasons. He will be the 29th player to play 50+ games in that span. He, along with Ryan Reaves (55), Jesperi Kotkaniemi (54), Jordan Eberle (53), and Nick Leddy (50) are the only players to skate in 50 games and not play for Tampa Bay or Colorado.
Kulak has gained significant playoff experience since 2020, and that will help him tonight when he is thrust into a larger role.
Kulak has been here before. Last year in game six v. Los Angeles he was elevated to the top pair with Cody Ceci as Darnell Nurse was suspended. Kulak, and Ceci, performed very well, and I expect Dave Manson to lean on Kulak again tonight.
Kulak has been very steady all season for Edmonton. He is capable of handling an expanded role for one game. Here is how Dave Manson has deployed his blueline v. Vegas’ top-two lines through four games.
Game four in Edmonton. Oilers won 4-1.
Playerv. Eichelv. StoneTotal
Nurse6:133:049:17
Ceci6:032:368:39
Ekholm1:104:105:20
Bouchard1:014:105:11
Kulak3:314:127:43
Desharnais3:044:157:19
Kulak and Vincent Desharnais actually played the 2nd most minutes v. Jack Eichel and Mark Stone.
Game three in Edmonton. Oilers lost 5-1.
Playerv. Eichelv. StoneTotal
Nurse4:493:067:55
Ceci5:102:407:50
Kulak2:404:006:40
Desharnais1:073:434:50
Ekholm7:104:4211:52
Bouchard5:244:169:40
Broberg1:342:223:56
A different deployment than game four, as Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard played the most v. the top two lines.
Game two in Vegas. Edmonton won 5-1.
Playerv. Eichelv. StoneTotal
Nurse6:522:199:09
Ceci3:071:545:01
Kulak5:284:159:43
Desharnais4:362:156:51
Ekholm4:483:408:28
Bouchard2:432:134:56
Broberg1:371:343:11
Edmonton led this game early, and Kulak actually played the most minutes vs. Vegas’ top-two lines. It was an interesting deployment choice as Kulak, Nurse, and Ekholm played the most against Stone and Eichel and all three are lefties. Nurse and Kulak played only two minutes together.
Game one in Vegas. Edmonton lost 6-4.
Playerv. Eichelv. StoneTotal
Nurse3:435:589:41
Ceci4:124:098:21
Kulak3:311:284:59
Desharnais1:392:103:49
Ekholm5:105:1310:23
Bouchard4:395:159:54
Broberg3:000:513:51
Kulak and Desharnais were on for one goal against v. Eichel, while Stone’s line scored with Nurse and Bouchard out. Manson had his top two pairs out significantly more v. Vegas’s top two lines.
In the four games, Kulak has played 29:05 vs. the top two lines. Bouchard and Ceci also played 29 minutes while Nurse and Ekholm played 36. Kulak has faced the top players and will face them more tonight.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – McLeod – Ryan
Kostin –Bjugstad – Janmark
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Ceci
Broberg – Desharnais
Skinner
Philip Broberg will play more than normal, but now much. It will depend on how he and Desharnais fare in the first period. I won’t be surprised if we see a few shifts where they are paired with a veteran.

Golden Knights…

Barbashev – Eichel – Marchessault
Howden – Stephenson – Stone
Smith – Karlsson – Amadio
Carrier – Roy – Kolesar
Martinez – Hague
McNabb – Theodore
Hutton – Whitecloud
Hill
Nicolas Hague moves to his off-side and will play right defence with Alec Martinez. Hague is a solid defender, but there are challenges of playing your off-wing, mainly needing to play the puck on your backhand more. And with him playing RD, I expect the Oilers to dump it into his corner more. They did that with Pietrangelo and he was a natural righty. Evander Kane, Warren Foegele, and Klim Kostin all have double-digits in hits this series and look for them to go after Hague. You want to pressure him, and if he has to move the puck a half second before he wants, that is when mistakes and turnovers occur.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton alters the trend of sucking in odd number games. They take advantage of Pietrangelo’s absence and the top two lines score three goals 5×5 and win 5-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers PP scores twice. They are 56% on the road in this series.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: RNH scores in back-to-back games after going goalless in the first nine of the playoffs.

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