The Oilers have struggled to produce offence in their last two games, scoring just a pair of goals combined in losses to the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. As a result of the dry spell, Coach Todd McLellan shook up the forward combinations during Friday’s practice in Denver.
The top trio featured Taylor Hall with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl, while Matt Hendricks skated between Teddy Purcell and Jordan Eberle. McLellan said the Oilers 4-0 shutout loss in Chicago on Thursday signalled he may need to spur his scorers with a fresh formation.
“Last night I didn’t think we got very good performances out of some of our upper-end players,” said the bench boss, adding he may try a variety of combos depending on how Saturday’s game against the Avalanche progresses. “It’s a starting point, and it could change quickly.”
Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle had been getting into a bit of a groove together during the team’s six-game winning streak, but the centre acknowledged a shakeup may be just what the doctor ordered to snap the mini losing skid.
“When you’re struggling to score, I think change is always a good thing,” RNH said. “Especially with the group we have here, guys can play with each other, guys are comfortable playing in all sorts of combinations. We’ve got to take it upon ourselves to go out there, make a difference and find chemistry right away.”
Draisaitl had been playing between Hall and Purcell, but he’ll likely move back to the right wing with Hall and RNH, a change he's made before and enjoyed success with.
“It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment, but it shouldn’t take too long,” said the German sophomore, who ranks fourth in the NHL in points per game, with 23 in 27 since his recall from AHL Bakersfield. “I’ve played with them before, and I think we play really well together. Hopefully it’ll give the team a push.”
Both Draisaitl and RNH said there’s an added level of comfort having two centres on a line. If one guy is struggling in the face-off circle, the other can slide right in for the draws.