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Oilers shake up defense group

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers plan on making a number of roster changes for their game Thursday against the Colorado Avalanche, but the reinforcements from Oklahoma City did not arrive in time for the morning skate.

Defensemen Martin Marincin and Corey Potter, along with center Anton Lander, were recalled from the Oilers' American Hockey League affiliate Wednesday, and despite flight delays the trio is expected to play.

"They got delayed [Wednesday] coming in," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "They're either in the air or may have landed already. They'll be available for [Thursday night]."

The Oilers are shaking up the lineup after being badly exposed defensively in a 6-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday. Defensemen Jeff Petry and Anton Belov will sit out for the Oilers, while Jesse Joensuu is expected to be the odd-man out up front.

"We preached about earning ice and accountability and all of those things," Eakins said. "But the next part of it is with [Petry] is that I think it's important he takes a step back now. It's to a point in the game where he's suffered a little bit as of late, that it's time to come, watch a game from up top [press box] take a break and reset."

Petry, who was playing on the Oilers' top defensive pairing with Andrew Ference, has struggled recently.

He missed an assignment against the Dallas Stars on Sunday, allowing Ryan Garbutt to slip in behind him for an easy tap-in. Petry also was beaten badly on a play by Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle in the loss Tuesday.

"The toughest part is not being able to be out there and help the team try to get a victory," Petry said. "I've been in this position before early on when I first came up. It's a matter of going up and watching the game.

"I did it early on, watched a few games, just to see how much more time you actually do have or how the play develops. I just have to try and take the positive out of this situation."

Petry hasn't been the only problem on the Oilers' blue line. Edmonton has given up more non-shootout goals [100] than any other team in the NHL.

"It's not just [Petry], it's the rest of the team too," Eakins said. "But I like that [Petry] stood up and said he was struggling and he was responsible. That's a hard thing to do. That shows me a ton of character.

"We're not mad at him, we're not upset with him. We expect more, he knows what more means and he understands the scratches."

With a lack of depth on the blue line, the Oilers have been forced to play Petry up in the lineup. This is the first season he has played on the top pairing. He's averaging a team-high 22:03 of ice time per game.

"He's a guy that the aspirations for him because of his size and his skating ability that we want to develop him into a top defender," Eakins said. "He's getting lessons on the job right now. We haven't been able to ease him into this role, he's in the role. He understands that, that's part of the conversation this morning. His aspirations are to become that guy and to be very good at it."

The Oilers are expected to go into their game against the Avalanche with three defensemen in Philip Larsen, Potter, and Marincin, who have spent time in the AHL this season.

Belov, a free agent signing out of the KHL this season, also will be watching from the press box.

"He's struggling," Eakins said. "He understood it. It could be a number of things with Anton. You can't forget this guy is a rookie in the League who gets thrust into a bigger role than maybe he should have been. But that's the game. If you're asked to take on bigger minutes you have to battle for it.

"I think he has battled but there is a lot going on when you have a rookie European in the League for the first time."

Here are the projected lineups for both teams for Thursday:


Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner - Nail Yakupov

David Perron - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Ryan Jones - Mark Arcobello - Ales Hemsky

Ryan Smyth - Anton Lander - Luke Gazdic

Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz

Nick Schultz - Corey Potter

Philip Larsen - Martin Marincin

Devan Dubnyk

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Jeff Petry, Anton Lander, Jesse Joensuu

Injured: Ilya Bryzgalov (neck), Boyd Gordon (upper body), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Richard Bachman (groin).


Gabriel Landeskog - John Mitchell - Nathan MacKinnon

Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - Maxime Talbot

Jamie McGinn - Paul Stastny - PA Parenteau

Patrick Bordeleau - Marc-Andre Cliche - Cody McLeod

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Tyson Barrie - Nate Guenin

Cory Sarich - Andre Benoit

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Nick Holden, Brad Malone

Injured: Alex Tanguay (knee), Ryan Wilson (back)

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