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BLOG: Klefbom-Schultz pairing could draw big responsibility

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

Oscar Klefbom switches from the right to the left, moving from his off side to his strong side, as he also moves up the depth chart to be paired with Justin Schultz tonight against the Anaheim Ducks.

Klefbom and Schultz will step on to the ice as a young defensive pairing but that will not stop them from seeing action against the prolific offensive players such as the likes of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

It’s a tough task for Klefbom, 20, who’s played just eight NHL games thus far.

“I think in little bits and pieces,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “I don’t want to shield him right away from it all. I think we’ve protected (Klefbom’s) minutes fairly well, at least at home. On the road, you’re at the mercy of the other coach and the change. But tonight, those two will see that line a little bit or we’re going to go after them with (Andrew) Ference and (Jeff) Petry. If that’s not working out, then we won’t hesitate to move to the other ones. It’s almost like he’s slowly moving up the food chain right now. He’s going from the third and the fourth line guys and now he’s going to see, for sure, second line guys with some real speed on (the Anaheim Ducks) second line. But he will get some shifts out there and I think it’s important. I don’t want to turn this into he’s playing against guys like that the whole game but I certainly want him to feel it a little bit and experience it.”

Eakins was asked if this pairing might be a premonition of the future for the Oilers. With Klefbom being the high-profile prospect that he is and Schultz being the talented player he is, it would seem they’re destined to play near each other on the depth chart. Also, with Schultz being the offensive playmaker he is and Klefbom able to play a more stay-at-home role, it could be something that works for the Oilers in the future.

“Maybe,” Eakins said. “With the way Justin plays, I think it’s important to have a guy with him that’s safety first but can move the puck and be part of the offence as well. But the one thing I already shared with Oscar this morning was, your partner is going to join the play and you have to be aware of where he’s at at all times and your job is to make plays, gap up but your job is also to make sure that you’re not joining when he’s already gone.”

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