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Lineup Reversal for Oilers Proves Defense Pairing Flip a Total Flop

The Edmonton Oilers tried out new defensive pairings for a few games and it was a total flop. They are going back to their old pairs.

The Edmonton Oilers are reverting to their familiar defensive combinations after experimenting with unsuccessful changes. Head coach Kris Knoblauch confirmed that the latest defensive pairings in practice will be maintained for the upcoming game against Detroit. For Oilers fans who have watched the team go 1-2 since the All-Streak break, this will be a relief. Their experiment to switch things up was all but a flop.

Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard will be a pairing. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci will be another. And Brett Kulak and Vincent Desharnais are back together too. Some will argue the Oilers lack a blue-line superstar, but this unit and these pairings have found a way to be quite effective.

The decision to shuffle defensive pairings sparked speculation about the team’s motives. Some thought it could be an attempt to evaluate player capabilities in different roles or explore potential chemistry among blue-line partners. Others believed the Oilers might be contemplating a deadline trade involving a defenseman. The thought was to try out new pairings before a possible roster disruption if a regular player was removed or a new player was inserted.

Insider reports from Darren Dreger indicate that the Oilers are actively discussing defensive options, with Sean Walker and Chris Tanev listed as potential targets. The team might need to part ways with Cody Ceci or Brett Kulak to acquire a defenseman. However, Dreger emphasizes that Edmonton’s priority remains securing a top-six forward.

But, regardless of a pending trade or not, the Oilers have looked disjointed. Losing 4-0 to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, they struggled in their own zone and some of that can be attributed to poor defensive play. Granted, they didn’t score which is problematic, but during their 16-game winning streak, the Oilers defense had repeatedly held the opposition to two goals or less. A four-goal outburst by LA has to have been concerning.

Oilers defense pairings going back to successful mix

Defense Pairings Not the Oilers’ Only Changes

Sam Gagner is set to return in a notable lineup adjustment, slotting in on a line with Derek Ryan and Connor Brown during practice. The Oilers’ forward lines for the upcoming game include key combinations like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins- Connor McDavid- Zach Hyman, Evander Kane-Leon Draisaitl-Corey Perry, Dylan Holloway-Ryan McLeod-Warren Foegele, and Gagner-Ryan-Brown, emphasizing the team’s focus on offensive balance.

This group is getting one more chance to produce where they didn’t on Saturday.

With Stuart Skinner and Calvin Pickard tending the net, the Oilers aim to get back on the winning track before losing any ground they gained with their historic run.

Next: Oilers Now Know the Trade Deadline Ask for Jake Guentzel

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