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GDB 38.0: Should the Oilers mess with a good thing? (5:00PM MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
5 months ago
And the beat goes on.
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One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed in the Kris Knoblauch era is his desire to keep things status quo. When hired, he preached stability in the Oilers’ lines and defensive pairings as something of importance, and he’s backed it up.
Edmonton’s parings have remained untouched since he was brought on. In terms of ice time at 5v5, Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard have been the number one pairing averaging 15:35 per night. They’ve controlled 62.62 percent of the shot attempts, 65.4 percent of the expected goals and 60.53 percent of the actual goals.
Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci have averaged 14:40 per night, controlling 47.04 percent of the shot attempts, 48.69 percent of the expected goals and 55.17 percent of the actual goals.
Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais have averaged 10:40 per night, controlling 51.58 percent of the shot attempt share, 60.32 percent of the expected goals and 57.89 percent of the actual goals.
The numbers across the board here are solid, with the 2RD spot likely where the Oilers will look to upgrade ahead of the trade deadline. Ceci has been a nice piece for the Oilers and a good warrior, but there have been warts in his game with Nurse the last two years that can no longer go untouched.
Up front, things have been blended more, but that’s natural given 12 lineup spots up for grabs instead of just six. Competition is a good thing, and even while Knoblauch briefly broke up the electric Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Connor McDavid – Zach Hyman line, that only lasted for one game. Together under Knoblauch, they’ve played 216 minutes together at 5v5, controlling 64.49 percent of the shot attempts, 70.98 percent of the expected goal share and 70 percent of the actual goals, outscoring opponents 21-9.
There seems to be some struck gold in their second line of Ryan McLeod, Leon Draisaitl, and Warren Foegele, who have looked very sharp. In 78 minutes together, they’ve controlled 61.41 percent of the shot attempt share, 57.75 percent of the expected goal share and 76.92 percent of the actual goal share, outscoring opponents 10-3.
The Oilers’ bottom six has been a mix-and-match group. Evander Kane has seen time with Derek Ryan and both Mattias Janmark and Connor Brown. James Hamblin has been solid in the 4C spot, playing with Adam Erne, Brown, Janmark and Ryan at times.
One omission from the Oilers lineup you’ll see below is that of Sam Gagner, whose nine points in 18 games apparently isn’t enough to get him back in the mix. His last game came on Dec. 21st against the Devils, one where he notched two assists in 9:49 minutes of ice-time, but also one where he took a stick in the face, leaving him with concussion-like symptoms, but has been “ready to go” since Jan. 5.
Back when the Oilers had their first seven-game winning streak under Knoblauch, Erne was the odd man out of the lineup sitting on the sidelines. They lost three straight afterwards, and he returned to the lineup in that aforementioned game against the Devils, scoring a goal.
Knoblauch said he wanted to get Erne back into a game prior to that match, but to paraphrase, he “didn’t want to mess with a good thing.” That is understandable, for sure. But as the club looks to tie a franchise record with a ninth straight win, it truly feels as though Gagner should be in the lineup against his former team.
The Oilers have been excellent with him on the ice, and at 5v5, he has the third-highest points per-hour rate of any Oilers player. On top of that, Edmonton has controlled 56.86 percent of the shot attempt share, 57.77 percent of the expected goal share and 60 percent of the actual goals, outscoring opponents 9-6 with Gagner on the ice.
Play the man.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH– McDavid – Hyman
McLeod– Draisaitl – Foegele
Kane – Ryan – Brown
Erne – Hamblin – Janmark
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Pickard

Red Wings

Perron – Larkin – Raymond
DeBrincat – Compher – Kane
Rasmussen – Copp – Fischer
Fabbri – Veleno – Sprong
Walma – Seider
Chairot – Petry
Gostisbehere – Holl
Lyon
The Red Wings enter tonight riding a three-game winning streak, having gone 5-5 in their last 10. They are hungry to win, and hungy to get in a playoff spot this season. Coming into tonight, they sit just one point back of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and five points of the Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic Division.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The winning streak lives on, taking down their ninth in a row for the third time in franchise history.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Detroit has only given up one power-play goal in their last 10 games, killing off 22 of 23 penalties they’ve taken. That hot streak ends tonight, as the Oilers score on the powerplay.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME-DAY PREDICTION: Connor Brown is getting close to scoring. Over the Oilers’ last 10 games, he has the third-highest individual scoring chances per hour rate of 12.37. He scores tonight.

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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