Oilers shuffle defensive pairings: Broberg to play with Ekholm, Bouchard with Kulak
Photo credit:© Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
By Cam Lewis1 month ago
After getting lit up for seven goals — including five in the third period — in a loss to the Minnesota Wild earlier this week, the Edmonton Oilers have shuffled their defensive pairings.
Philip Broberg will play the right side next to Mattias Ekholm while Evan Bouchard will move to a pairing with Brett Kulak. The Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci pairing will remain together and Vincent Desharnais will draw in as the seventh defenceman when the Oilers host the New York Rangers on Thursday night.
There isn’t one player to single out as responsible for Edmonton’s ugly 1-4-1 start to the season but Bouchard’s defensive play has left quite a bit to be desired. He has eight points through six games and is getting the job done offensively but has been on the ice for a team-leading nine goals against at even strength.
Bouchard will remain the team’s top power-play quarterback and he’ll get a break when it comes to even-strength usage and quality of competition when playing with Kulak. The Oilers need to work with Bouchard to iron out his defensive game and this change will take some pressure off of him for the time being.
This also represents quite an opportunity for Broberg. The young defender will get an opportunity to play more minutes alongside a very good veteran defenceman who can help mentor him. Broberg has suited up in five games and has averaged only 12:50 of time on ice per game so far this season.
The Oilers badly need the Ekholm and Broberg pairing to be able to suppress goals against at even strength. Nurse and Ceci are the only Oilers defenders who have broken even in terms of on-ice goal differential and they have the benefit of playing the most minutes with the team’s best forwards. A top-four defensive pairing that can be above water when playing with the team’s secondary forwards would be huge.
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