Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch hints at a major shakeup of the defence pairings

Edmonton Oilers Philip Broberg
Photo credit:Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Mazzei
19 days ago
Less than 24 hours after the Oilers lost Game 3 off the backs of a disastrous second period, Kris Knoblauch spoke with reporters Tuesday morning to reveal that he was considering making a big change to the defensive pairings.
This comes from today’s practice where Darnell Nurse was notably absent while Philip Broberg skated alongside Vincent Desharnais on the second pair. It is certainly possible that it could just be a case of Broberg being a placeholder and this could all end up being a nothing burger. Still, the fact that Knoblauch alluded to the Swedish blueliner potentially slotting in tomorrow is certainly noteworthy.
It is no secret that Nurse has struggled mightily in these playoffs, which was evident in the late stages of Game 3 where he was on the ice for Dallas’ go-ahead goal and the game-winner regardless of whether he was on the ice with Desharnais or Cody Ceci. While he has long been a serviceable member of the blue line, it is fair to question why the Oilers’ coaching staff continues to throw him out on the ice in critical situations despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting he has been a net-negative.
Considering that Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm have surpassed him on the depth chart and that Nurse could potentially be a healthy scratch for the first time in these playoffs leaves one to wonder where things stand for him long-term in Edmonton. His $9.25 million cap hit will make any hypothetical transaction difficult to execute, but his two assists through the first 15 games of the playoffs are not good enough for the highest-paid blueliner on the Oilers.
Perhaps a game or two up in the press box could be just what the doctor ordered to help get his game back on track and there is little risk involved for Knoblauch to go this route right now. After all, this is not the first time in these playoffs he opted to go for a seismic change to the lineup in Game 4 while his team was trailing 2-1 in a series. Whether or not it will work should he do it remains to be seen, but trying out Broberg could bear fruit instead of trotting out an overwhelmed Nurse and hoping he figures it out this time.
With Edmonton three wins away from clinching a spot in the Finals, they will need to give themselves the best chance they can at upsetting the Stars. If that possibly means going for a bold lineup change to the backend, so be it.
We shall see if Knoblauch goes with the big changes in Game 4 on Wednesday. You can catch the action on Sportsnet and CBC with puck drop scheduled for 6:30 p.m. MDT.

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