EDMONTON, AB - Ty Rattie will play on the top line with Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins when the Oilers (21-20-3) host the Arizona Coyotes (19-21-3) at Rogers Place on Saturday night.
At least for the opening shift.
"I'm going with that combination for the first shift. We'll see how it works," Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said pre-game.
The Airdrie, Alberta product's promotion from the press box to the first line tonight highlights a shuffling of lines by the bench boss at the morning skate as the Oilers look to find extra scoring against a Coyotes team depleted by injuries.
"The four guys in Chiasson, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins and McDavid are interchangeable," Hitchcock added. "We'll see how it goes. If it looks proper than we'll keep rolling it, if not we'll make changes."
Milan Lucic will join Leon Draisaitl and Alex Chiasson on the second line.
Arizona will be without goaltender Antti Raanta and leading goal-scorer Brad Richardson (11 goals), leaving Christian Fischer as the only healthy 'Yote with double-digit goals. Clayton Keller leads offensively for the visitors with 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 43 contests.
The Coyotes have 210 man-game lost to injury or illness this season, good for third-most in the NHL. They currently hold the league's best penalty kill (88.5 per cent) and have scored 11 shorthanded goals this season, with Keller notching four.
The Oilers trounced the Desert Dogs 3-1 earlier this month on January 2, ending a six-game losing streak thanks to a three-point night from McDavid.
"They start pretty fast," Darnell Nurse, who played a team-high 31:49 last time out in a 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers, said. "Even when we played them in Arizona they had a good start, so it's going to be important for us to come out and be ready to go off the hop. They're a team that can definitely make you pay if you don't start on time because they do have the ability to shut you down after they get the first couple."
FAMILIARITY FOR RATTIE
Rattie was a healthy scratch against the Panthers on Thursday, but has been elevated to the first line to begin tonight's game beside familiar teammates in McDavid and Nugent-Hopkins.
"The three of us finished last year together and started this year together, so we're pretty familiar and pretty comfortable playing with each other now," Nugent-Hopkins said of his new linemate. "Hopefully we should just be able to pick it up where we left off. We've got to find that chemistry right away."
Rattie recorded nine points in 14 games at the end of last season with the duo, and is looking to rekindle their chemistry tonight when the puck drops. The winger has two goals and five assists in 27 games this campaign.
"It's exciting," Rattie commented of the opportunity. "Obviously they're two very good players and two players who know how to put pucks in the net. We've had success there before, so just carrying that forward and getting the big win."
Working from the red line in, taking care of the D-zone and board play were the main areas of improvement that Hitchcock has addressed with the 25-year-old.
"Just taking advantage of the opportunity that's at hand," Rattie said. "I think you've got to do anything you can to help the team win and if you don't they'll find someone else. There are other players who want to be in that spot and I'm looking forward to it and trying to take advantage of it."
Opportunity is aplenty tonight in the Oilers top-six, says Hitchcock.
"If I was a player who got to play on one of those two lines, I'd be pretty excited," he said. "I look at it as an opportunity they need to take advantage of, so to start the game we've got Lucic and Rattie, but depending on how the game goes we got lots of flexibility there."
Cam Talbot gets his second-consecutive start in goal for the Oilers after making 25 saves on 28 shots in Thursday's win.
TV: 8:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet and Hockey Night in Canada
This is the second meeting between the Oilers and Coyotes this season after Edmonton came out as 3-1 winners in the first contest on January 2.
The Oilers host the Coyotes again on February 19 before wrapping up the season series back in Arizona on March 16.
Oilers team scope:
Captain Connor McDavid scored with eight seconds left in regulation then sniped in the shootout to lift the Oilers to a 4-3 SO win over the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
The Oilers are in the middle of a three-game home set, having started it with the win on Thursday. Prior to coming home, the Orange & Blue began 2019 on a Pacific Division road swing, with their first game of the new calendar year being against the 'Yotes. The club was able to escape Arizona with the W, snapping a six-game skid in the process.
Edmonton finished their trip 2-2-0, capturing victories over Arizona and the Anaheim Ducks but falling to the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks.
The squad is 3-7-0 in their last 10 outings and sit two points out of the final Western Conference wild card position.
Coyotes team scope:
The Coyotes are in the middle of a three-game road trip, beating the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 in OT on Thursday.
Brad Richardson leads the 'Yotes in goals with 11 while Clayton Keller paces the team for the lead in points with 30.
Injuries have hampered the club of late, as leading-scorer Richardson is out, in addition to six other key Coyotes being sidelined. Arizona is sixth in the Pacific with 41 points and 5-4-1 in the last 10 games.
By the Numbers:
Connor McDavid is fifth in National Hockey League scoring with 66 points (26G, 40A) in 43 games, while his Team Pacific teammate Leon Draisaitl is 12th with 54 points (23G, 31A) in 44 matches. ... The Oilers are 6-8-1 versus the Pacific this season. ... Edmonton is 9-3-0 when leading after the first period and 11-1-1 when leading after 40 minutes.
The Coyotes have scored 29 third-period goals this season, ranking 31st in that regard. ... Arizona does boast the League's best penalty kill with an 88.5 percentage, allowing just 15 goals on 131 attempts. ... On the road, the 'Yotes PK is second overall with an 87.3 percent clip.
OILERS - Alex Petrovic (concussion) is day-to-day; Kailer Yamamoto (upper body) is day-to-day; Oscar Klefbom (hand) is out indefinitely; Andrej Sekera (Achilles) is on LTIR.
COYOTES - Christian Dvorak, Jason Demers, Antti Raanta, and Nick Schmaltz are all on IR with lower-body injuries; Brad Richardson (upper body) is on IR; Michael Grabner (eye) is on IR; Josh Archibald (personal reasons) is day-to-day.