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Jim Matheson: Woodcroft good with stable if dear third blueline pairing

“I really feel snug in the event that they’re on the ice towards anyone. Within the pre-season on the highway, they’ve drawn the hardest assignments towards sturdy lineups.”

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At current, the Edmonton Oilers haven’t any agency second D pairing as a result of Mattias Ekholm is nursing a hip situation — relaxation straightforward, he would play if it was sport 6 towards Vegas within the playoffs — so no check drive with Philip Broberg to see how that appears.

We do have a No. 1 pairing with Darnell Nurse and his new companion Evan Bouchard and a 3rd with Brett Kulak and Cody Ceci with 4 exhibitions left till the Oct. 11 opener in Vancouver, although, with the Kulak-Ceci pairing intriguing.

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It’s a tad costly at a mixed $6 million in as we speak’s fiscal panorama, however it’s not likely out of whack for those who take a look at Vegas’s Stanley Cup successful 5-6 partnership of Zach Whitecloud and Nic Hague.

The NHL’s greatest third pairing D makes $5.04 million.

And Vegas had the NHL’s deepest back-end final season, additionally the successful system by spreading the minutes fairly evenly amongst their high six from Hague’s 18:34 and Whitecloud’s 18:42 to Alex Pietrangelo’s excessive of 23:25 of their 21 playoff video games as a result of he’s on the PP and PK alongside along with his even-strength work. Rounding out their high six, Shea Theodore was 20:08, Alec Martinez 19:29 and Brayden McNabb 19:09. They didn’t conceal any defence pair.

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The Oilers mainly had 5 D: Nurse and Bouchard at 23 minutes, Ekholm at 21.8, Ceci at 19 minutes and Kulak at 16.3. Vinny Desharnais (13.6) and Broberg (a shade beneath seven minutes) have been the sixth and seventh choices in Jay Woodcroft’s playbook within the playoffs. With the pinnacle coach typically going with 11 forwards and 7 D at instances Broberg was typically a spare half.

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A lot completely different from Vegas, who might play any pair vital minutes.

Once more, Ceci ($3.25M) and Kulak ($2.75M) is so much for ostensibly a 3rd pair, however that’s the wage cap downside for GM Ken Holland, not coach Jay Woodcroft’s math.

“I really feel snug in the event that they’re on the ice towards anyone. Within the pre-season on the highway, they’ve drawn the hardest assignments towards sturdy lineups. Kulak is a superb skater and Ceci has expertise and performs the sport laborious. If that’s your third pairing, you’re not making an attempt to shelter them on any night time,” stated Woodcroft.

He want to play his defence pretty even minutes, spreading the love round. Perhaps Ceci and Kulak within the 18-minute vary. In an exhausting NHL world, not having any D play 25-26 minutes like, say, Nurse right here, is likely to be preferable.

Brett Kulak
Brett Kulak (27) Second day of 2023 Edmonton Oilers coaching camp at Rogers Place on Sept 22, 2023.Photograph by Shaughn Butts-Postmedia Photograph by Shaughn Butts /Shaughn Butts

Except you’re Cale Makar.

Equal alternative for every body.

“You then’re not worrying about O-zone or D-zone. That’s a very good factor. In Kulak and Ceci’s case, they’re at that life stage the place they know who they’re and we’ll see the way it performs out,” stated Woodcroft.

“In an ideal world, all of the defencemen play 20 minutes an evening and so they’re of equal potential. For me, ideally you need to unfold the minutes out amongst many, however groups are constructed in numerous methods. We’ve to seek out our means,” he stated.

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Ekholm turned Bouchard’s sport round late final season, made him play with extra urgency when he didn’t have the puck. Now, they hope Ekholm will be the defence whisperer to Broberg, who, via his 69 NHL video games, has been a secure, no-event participant. Not the dynamic junior he was in Sweden. He wants to indicate extra.

Defencemen, as Glen Sather used to say time and again, have to have one ingredient of their sport bounce off the web page (wonderful shutdown D, puck-mover, point-producer, bodily presence) to be a top-4 man however Broberg, aside from being a high quality skater, nonetheless is a piece in progress. With Oscar Klefbom’s unlucky shoulder issues which KO’d his profession at 27, the Oilers have been ready to see if Broberg can present some trace that he could also be a alternative however thus far that hasn’t occurred.

‘We had a plan’

Not having Ekholm to work with Broberg in pre-season to see if there’s a way of a partnership earlier than the actual firing begins Oct. 11, has scuttled issues.

“We had a plan,” stated Woodcroft, “however the actual world occurs and it’s important to react to that. With Philip, it’s on him, no matter whom he performs with. He has to put down one other good sport and we’ll see if he does.”

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Can Ekholm play any exhibitions?

“I would really like him to however we don’t at all times reside in an ideal world. His job is to place good days on high of different good days (health-wise) and he’s. We’re making an attempt to be sensible with him,” stated Woodcroft, who assured Ekholm would play if it was the playoffs, not pre-season.

However, the second pairing could be very a lot in flux as we speak.

Not so the Kulak-Ceci duo with Ceci needing a bounce-back 12 months.

Ceci had a superb first season (2021-22) as Nurse and Duncan Keith’s companion, together with the primary two rounds of the playoffs towards Los Angeles and Calgary however his regular play dropped off final season as he soldiered via with an undisclosed damage.

The Nurse-Ceci pairing wasn’t constant sufficient within the common season and within the playoffs Nurse had a number of completely different companions, for varied shifts. The Oilers have been outscored 8-1 with Ceci on the ice within the Vegas six-game ouster, which is why Ceci perhaps will likely be extra snug in a 5-6 position and would possibly simply match higher with the underrated Kulak, who was terrific within the playoffs.

This ‘n that: The Oilers are taking 30 gamers to Vancouver and Seattle for video games Saturday and Monday with Ekholm, centre Ryan McLeod (smooth tissue leg) and PTO Sam Gagner (double hip surgical procedure) who hasn’t performed however will probably be signed and open in Bakersfield to get video games…They trimmed their roster Saturday placing winger Drake Caggiula and Greg McKegg on waivers to get them to Bakersfield. Goalie Olivier Rodrigue, winger Carter Savoie and D Noel Hoefenmayer don’t need to clear and are going to the farm on mortgage, together with PTO D Alex Peters.

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