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MAIN CAMP: Oilers centres flex faceoff strength

The Oilers won 72 percent of their faceoffs against the Canucks on Tuesday, showing early improvement in a critical area for Head Coach Dave Tippett

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Drop the puck already.

Because the Oilers centres are having a time in the faceoff dot.

After two pre-season games, the Orange & Blue pivots have flexed in the faceoff circle, an area Head Coach Dave Tippett has been vocal about since joining the squad.

In Edmonton's 2-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, the team won 52 percent of their draws. Colby Cave led the way with a 62 percent showing, while recent signee Riley Sheahan was next in line at 50 percent.

Video: MAIN CAMP | Burdasov's Arrival 09.18.19

But on Tuesday against Vancouver, Edmonton went an unprecedented 72 percent in their faceoffs, digging in against some established National Hockey League regulars including Brandon Sutter - who is a career 49.2 percent average but won only a quarter of the draws he took - as well as skilled sophomore Elias Pettersson, who snapped back 46 percent of the pucks dropped before him.

"That's an area that has to improve with our team," Tippett said on Wednesday. "Even today we were doing drills with faceoff stuff. That's been a focal point for us."

Rookie Ryan McLeod won 80 percent of his faceoff attempts to lead the Oilers middlemen on the road in Vancouver but the three others didn't dip under 50.

Brad Malone was a percentile under McLeod at 79 percent, Cave continued his strong play with a 76 percent outing and Cooper Marody - in addition to netting a pair of helpers - dug out 55 percent of his draws.

"Last night basically three of the four (centres), other than Colby Cave, were all Bakersfield guys last year. They know that's a way for them to get noticed if they come up here and are good on the faceoffs," Tippett added.

McLeod, who owned a 50.3 percent average over his four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, has been applying the advice Tippett and Co. have been sharing at Main Camp.

Video: MAIN CAMP | Dave Tippett 09.18.19

"Using my whole body instead of just my arms," McLeod, when asked what techniques the Oilers coaching staff have been teaching, said. 

"Just using my feet more is the biggest thing and tying up the stick."

The 19-year-old considers anything over 60 percent a good day of faceoff-taking, so ending the night at 80 percent left him overjoyed.

"When it's 80 (percent), you obviously had a good night," he said. "I was really happy with it."

Despite the fact that the Oilers dominated the dot, Vancouver's winning goal stemmed from one of the few faceoffs Edmonton lost.

Sutter won a draw in the Oilers zone then headed to the net, re-directing Alex Edler's point-pass to make it a 3-2 score.

Nonetheless, Tippett came away impressed with his club's concerted effort in the circle.

"That was part of our game that was good," said Tippett. "It's too bad we gave up the winning goal on a lost one but that was more coverage.

"It's a focal point that will continue with us."

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