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BLOG: Lucic slotted on top line with McDavid and Kassian

Oilers winger expected to flank Connor McDavid versus Arizona on Saturday

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Sporting a bloodied-up nose and red sweater burn marked around the back of his neck on Friday, Milan Lucic portrayed the archetype checker.

But during practice, the Oilers winger was skating alongside Connor McDavid and Zack Kassian on the club's top line, and is expected to employ that spot Saturday versus the Arizona Coyotes. 

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"Lucic is playing very well since he's come back, so we want to take advantage of that," Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "As long as the puck stays in front of him, he's going to open up space and, for whatever reason, when he plays with a centre who plays with tempo, he plays with tempo."

The Oilers bench boss reiterated what Looch has to do to complement the unit.

"Just keep pushing the puck in front of him," Hitchcock added.

Hitchcock likes spreading out his centres - McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - down the middle based on his team's upcoming opponent, and as a result, the three will each play pivot on their own line.

"They got an opportunity to make other people better," Hitchcock said of his three middlemen Friday at Downtown Community Arena. "We like the way some of the guys are playing. Strength-wise, when you don't have the matchup and you don't get the match on the road, we're going to have to get other people participating. We like what we see, especially when we looked at it at practice today."

Video: RAW | Milan Lucic 03.15.19

Lucic's last tally came on Jan. 19 against the Flames. The forward has five goals and 17 points in 68 matches in 2018-19, summarizing the details he needs to pay attention to in order to find success with his new linemates.

"Just play fast, play hard, be good on the boards - especially on the breakouts - and get it in the hands of the guy that knows how to make things happen," he said. 

"It's a lot of fun when you get a chance to play with No. 97."

The veteran has watched Kassian contribute with McDavid and Draisaitl in recent weeks, and plays a similar style as the grinder.

"He's starting to believe his skill set and his finish," said the 30-year-old. "I'm not that surprised that he's had the success he has. He's actually got a really good hockey sense for a guy that's known more as a checker and mucker."

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