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BLOG: Pairing size with skill

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers rolled out some new forward lines at practice in Leduc. The common theme, which is a continuation of recent games, is size with skill. Zack Kassian was grouped with Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall. Leon Draisaitl and Jordan Eberle had Patrick Maroon on the wing.

“It’s important,” Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan said of blending the big with the skilled. “Those bigger bodies can hold onto to pucks and create time and space for some of the skilled players down low, but that needs to get done.”

McLellan said Maroon has done a good job of complementing skill, but the team needs to jumpstart Kassian’s game.

“I need to get back playing straight lines,” said Kassian. “I think when you play with two guys like that you need to get in on the forecheck, play physical, open up space, but at the same time play in straight lines and good things are going to happen out of that.”

On the other side of things, Hall sees his skill paired with Kassian’s size. That changes the dynamic for him too, while providing versatility to how the line can attack.

“You have to read the game,” said Hall. “You have to play hockey. You try to take advantage of everyone’s skill set. With Connor, you want to use his speed. If you can get the puck to him in open ice then that’s perfect. We can carry it in, but if you can’t then you want to lay it in and let Zack go to work, let his big body protect pucks, get in on the forecheck and get pucks back for us. That’s what happens when you play with different guys, you learn how to just play to their skill sets.”

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