EDMONTON, AB - Joakim Nygard looks like he's coming on in the eyes of Head Coach Dave Tippett.
A goal and assist in Sunday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres was the Speedy Swede's first multi-point game in the NHL, and a quest by Tippett to achieve equilibrium in his lines at Monday's practice had the winger flanking Connor McDavid's left side on the top line with Zack Kassian.
"I'd like to see our lines have some more balance," the bench boss said. "We've got a stretch of games coming up here where we're going to need contributions throughout our lineup, and Nygard is a player to me that's starting to get some confidence."
"He had a real strong game last night, so we're looking to add some balance to our group."
Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 12.09.19
Nygard recognizes the opportunity comes at a crucial time with the Oilers expecting eight hard-nosed contests before the Christmas break, bidding to string together a few victories after having alternated wins and losses for much of the last month.
"It's a great opportunity for me with two really good players," Nygard said. "I have to play my game. Obviously (McDavid's) going to have the puck a lot, but I'm just going to try and make some space, win some pucks, win some battles and go hard to the net. That's the thing we talked about - go to the net harder."
"It's a great opportunity for me, and we want to bounce back tomorrow."
Nygard's elevation meant Leon Draisaitl would join Jujhar Khaira and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the second line, with James Neal swapping to the right side of a trio with Gaëtan Haas and Patrick Russell. Riley Sheahan, who scored his first as an Oiler against Buffalo, centred an unaltered line with Markus Granlund and Josh Archibald.
Video: RAW | Joakim Nygard 12.09.19
On Monday morning, the Oilers also recalled defenceman Caleb Jones and assigned Joel Persson to the Bakersfield Condors in anticipation of hard matchups in their next eight contests - including dates with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the reigning Stanley Cup champion St; Louis Blues, and a back-to-back with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Montreal Canadiens.
With the duo of Ethan Bear and Darnell Nurse seeing success as a defensive pairing this campaign, the 22-year-old recall is expected to rotate in alongside either Adam Larsson or Kris Russell depending on the opponent in these heavier-set games on the horizon.
"It'll go game-to-game on how we're looking at matchups, and we have some heavy games coming up," Tippett said. "We feel like Caleb is a bit more of a defender, so we're going into these games knowing they're going to be hard, heavy games."
"Caleb came up and played some good games for us, and Larsson I like his defending mindset. But game-to-game, there are certain matchups we're going to be looking at that will probably shuffle some guys around."