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BLOG: Fourth line contributions

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers line of Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu is an ongoing topic of discussion. Their play has been excellent so far this season. The system that the Oilers coaching staff employs seems to fit their style very well. They’ve been able to contribute with solid defensive play and consistent offensive pressure.

“I think we all compliment each other real well,” Hendricks said. “I think the system that we run, that the coaching staff has put in place really helps us. It gives us the ability to skate and pressure teams all over the ice. We don’t sit back at all, we try to make them move the puck as quickly as possible, which causes turnovers. That allows us to jump on it. We talk as a line too and we still think we can be a lot better.”

One area the three forwards might want to improve upon is just putting some of those generated chances into the back of the opponent’s net. Aside for a late third period goal in a game against LA that was out of reach and a shorthanded tally, that line has been kept off the board.

“It seems like we’re hitting posts every night,” Hendricks said. “Last night, I had a real good chance off Gordo’s rebound late in the third. Niskonen just kind of threw his stick out there and it hit his stick. I think I had an empty net. We don’t really want to worry so much about goals. We want to produce, we want to help the team statistically but we can’t start pressing or trying to do things differently trying to score goals.”

Not recording a lot of goals doesn’t mean those players aren’t contributing offensively. The little things they do to create chances and set the Oilers up for offensive zone starts helps the team in the end.

“We want everybody to provide offence just the same as we want everybody to provide defence,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “Can some do it better than others? Yeah, absolutely. Their great strength so far this year has been to be able to start in their own zone and then end up in the other team’s zone with chances or shot attempts. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting the attempts in the other zone or if you’re just cycling the puck, hanging onto the puck or winding down the clock. The more that we’re in their zone, the less they’re going to score in ours for sure. Then that equates to the less we have to get to win the game. They’ve been very very effective. All three guys on that line are important to our hockey team, all three guys are critical penalty killers for us. They’re serving a number of purposes. They’re able to get us o-zone time, they’re doing some heavy lifting on draws in our zone, they’re killing penalties and then, at times, they’ve got to go out and play against another team’s top line as well.”

Of course that line would like to pot a few goals here and there. But hemming the opponent in their defensive zone has been a solid way to contribute here at the start of the season.

“In a lot of games, that can be just as beneficial,” Hendricks said. “We hem them in, force them to ice the puck, we get an offensive zone draw and we can get our young guys out there, our offensive guys. In our opinion, that’s just as good, well not quite as good as good as scoring a goal, but it feels pretty good to do that too because (the offensive guys) are going to have a great opportunity that shift. We know that.”

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