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Sam Gagner set to return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
1 month ago
Days after I opined about Sam Gagner being a healthy scratch and what it would take for him to return to the Edmonton Oilers lineup, it appears the club is about to get him back in the mix.
After Oilers practice at Rogers Place Monday morning, Gagner led the team’s post-practice stretch, something team reporter Tony Brar said was a “clear indication he’s back in the lineup.”
His return, set for Tuesday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, will see him draw in on the Oilers’ fourth line alongside Derek Ryan and Connor Brown.
In Sunday’s The Day After, I wrote about how the Oilers might be better suited for one of Mattias Janmark or Connor Brown to draw out of the lineup in favour of Gagner. The latter two have had no offensive production this season, while Gagner, who has played in nearly half the games, has one less 5v5 point than Janmark and Brown do combined.
On top of that, Gagner’s 2.58 5v5 points per hour is second among all Oilers forwards, next to Connor McDavid, while his 1.44 5v5 goals per hour are second among Oilers forwards to only Zach Hyman.
Gagner’s nine 5v5 points this season are more than all of Derek Ryan (48 GP: 3-3—6), Mattias Janmark (38 GP: 1-5—6), Connor Brown (41 GP: 0-4—4), Dylan Holloway (21 GP: 2-1—3), James Hamblin (31 GP: 2-1—3) and Adam Erne (23 GP: 1-1—2).
Gagner’s return to the Oilers lineup should be permanent. While Janmark and Brown are both solid penalty-kill players, their inability to produce offence or drive play at 5v5 is a big issue.
Producing offence when McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are off the ice continues to be a significant issue for this Oilers team. With them on the ice together at 5v5 under Knoblauch, the Oilers score 4.34 goals per hour. That number dips to 4 goals per hour when McDavid’s on the ice without Draisaitl, and down to 3.04 goals per hour when Draisaitl is on the ice without McDavid.
But when neither of them is on the ice, the Oilers have scored a measly 1.73 goals per hour, a number nearly as bad as the entire Chicago Blackhawks, who, since Nov. 13, have scored just 1.68 goals per hour at 5v5, which is the worst rate in the league over that stretch.
What’s notable, however, is that when Gagner is on the ice at 5v5 when McDavid and Draisaitl are off the ice, the Oilers have scored 3.41 goals per hour. That’s a wildly impressive number and is what should motivate the Oilers to keep Gagner in the lineup, if even a league average 2.5 goals for per hour could be maintained with him on the ice.

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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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