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The Day After 65.0: New guys leading the way for the Edmonton Oilers

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
3 months ago
Sam Carrick didn’t take long to acquaint himself with Oilers fans.
In his debut with the team on March 7th, it took all of four shifts for him to drop the gloves with one of the game’s most technical fighters, Columbus Blue Jackets winger Mathieu Olivier. It came off a faceoff when the latter jabbed at Mattias Janmark, so Carrick obliged and the gloves flew off faster than the puck hit the ice. Then, in his fourth game with the team, he got his first goal: a great play down low in front of the Colorado Avalanche next to keep the Oilers in it.
And then Tuesday night, early into the Oilers’ 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens, it was another scrap, but this time one he fared well in dropping the gloves with Michael Pezzetta. The Habs winger laid a hit on him near the boards that Carrick didn’t like, and off they went.
It’s all the sign of a player who knows his role, but one that allows him to be a bit more versatile.
“Not only the fight, but I thought he was so good with the puck tonight,” said Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch. “There was a lot of time we were in the defensive zone, pucks on his stick and where a lot of guys would panic, I thought he made a lot of really good plays to get us out of trouble.
“We used him on the faceoffs for a lot of key situations. Penalty kill, he won off that, defensive zone, it’s nice having that kind of role with our team.”
Carrick’s role is growing, and the more I see, the more I think of him as a Matt Hendricks-type player. They’re similar in size at 6’0″ and around the 205 lb. mark. Neither effective play drivers, but both fourth-line role players who aren’t going to get scored on a ton, can play the physical game, and will chip in a little bit of offence here or there.
But he’s not the only one experiencing an expanded role. While Adam Henrique played his first game in Edmonton on the wing, it didn’t take long for him to move back up the middle, where he played last night alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan. It paid off, as he got his first goal with the Oilers in the second period, driving to the net and managing to deflect one in.
“Of course you want to score. Coming into a new team, you want to find a way to contribute,” Henrique said, adding, “but I think for me, the focus is you want the complete game to be there. We’ve had some high-tempo games, and I’ve felt great in those games, and making sure (I’m) adjusting well to the system.
“The guys have done a great job talking to me through everything, so I felt my game has been there. It’s certainly nice to get on the board tonight. We can’t give up that first one in the third period, I thought the first shift as a line.”
It’s not just more responsibilities at 5v5. It’s also time on the penalty kill and on the Oilers’ second power-play unit, where Knoblauch says Henrique’s versatility shows.
“As a coach, you’re always trying to find out how to use somebody,” he said. “Those responsibilities are getting more and more (for Henrique). Everyone’s 5-on-5 minutes are pretty similar, (but) the extra ice-time comes from special teams. Now, he’s on the second power play unit, which gets a bit of time, now we’re using him on the penalty kill.
“Now, tonight, he was kind of a shutdown role, so there’s a few more shifts. A player like that, coach likes and wants to use more and more as you get to know him.”
And in Henrique’s eyes, he just wants to contribute in any way he can as the Oilers hope to go on a deep run.
“Coming into a new team, you want to be able to adjust quick, and try to settle in somewhere in the lineup,” he said. “Things do change, and sometimes minutes are less, or there’s no power play, or you’re on the penalty kill, or on the third or fourth line. But it makes the team deeper and makes the team more challenging as a whole. Certainly something we’re willing to sacrifice to make this team better, and go on a run.”
Two points was just what the Oilers needed, no matter how they got it. Much could be said about nearly choking a two-goal lead to a bottom team in the Canadiens, but the overarching story is the fact they got it back. They didn’t let it slip away, and a lot of it was thanks to Calvin Pickard, whose .920 save percentage last night helped keep the Oilers in the game all night long. Just long enough for the power play to finally click and Leon Draisaitl to score the game-winner in overtime.
Edmonton will welcome the Buffalo Sabres to town Thursday, 12 days after dropping a 3-2 decision to them in the shootout.

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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