New Forward Combinations
Hall-Draisaitl-Kassian, Yakupov-McDavid-Eberle, Korpikoski-Letestu-Pakarinen, Hendricks-Lander-Cracknell, Gazdic-RNH (INJ)— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) March 1, 2016
With Benoit Pouliot on the sideline with a shoulder injury (it took him awhile but he's officially an Oiler now), Jujhar Kharia sent back to Bakersfield, and Adam Cracknell claimed off waivers, the Oilers needed to rework their forward lines a little. When all the pieces had been fit into place it's Nail Yakupov who moves up onto the second line to skate alongside Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle; this is the same spot where Yakupov finished Sunday night's game against the Islanders after Pouliot left the game with an injury.
Three of these four lines I don't hate. I'm not sold on Zack Kassian being able to keep up with Taylor Hall and Leon Draisaitl but I'm willing to see how it plays out. The Oilers don't need to win games, so they might as well see what exactly he can do over the course of the last 18 games of the season, and if it blows up in thier face on any given night, well that's better for the draft. Likewise the second line is solid and the fourth line, with the red hot Anton Lander, should be able to stay above water. The third line though, there's a lot of ugly on that line. I feel bad for Iiro Pakarinen getting drawn into the black hole of suck that is the rest of that line.
Yakupov on the Second Line
"He's been waiting for this opportunity & we're giving it to him. We expect big things." Coach McLellan on Yak joining McDavid & Eberle— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) March 1, 2016
Is this Yakupov's last best chance with the Oilers? It might be.
Coming out of the gate this season he and McDavid appeared to have some real chemistry. The two were putting up points and finally Yakupov looked like the player that fans wished he would be and that the Oilers need him to be. And then McDavid broke his collarbone. And then Yakupov was injured on a faceoff because if he didin't have bad luck he wouldn't have any luck at all. Since returning from that injury Yakupov hasn't scored much at all and has gone back and forth between looking great and looking terrible. He's spent a few nights on the fourth line as a result.
At this point management has to be growing tired of waiting for Yakupov to be come more than just a player with some great tools, this is why hearing his name pop up in trade deadline rumours is in no way surprising. But if the Oilers were to trade Yakupov now they would almost certainly be selling low, trading him on whatever potential he has left. And for a team needing a lot of pieces, selling low is less than ideal. But if Yakupov can show that he can play on the second line as a complimentary player it gives the team more options.
18 games might not change how GMs around the league view him, but maybe it would be enough to convince Oilers management that dealing another winger isn't as big of a risk as it might otherwise seem. That only works though if he can show that he belongs on the second line. And that starts tonight.
Talbot Gets the Start
Cam Talbot first off for the Oilers. #EDMvsBUF— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) March 1, 2016
It looks like the Oilers will be going with Cam Talbot between the pipes tonight. This will be Talbot's eighth straight start; his last game off on February 13 when the Oilers hosted the Jets and Laurent Brossoit got the start. After tonight the Oilers travel to Philadelphia and Columbus for back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday. It seems like that Brossoit will get the start in one of those two games.