The Edmonton Oilers will take on the Toronto Maples for a home-and-home on Thursday and Saturday night. Now 3-5 on the season, there are some concerns for Oilers fans as the team tries to shuffle their roster around a little and find more consistency on defense, plus some scoring from the bottom half of the roster. More than that, the Oilers have a serious goaltending question that requires a solution as the team gets set to play three games in four nights.
If it wasn’t enough that the Maple Leafs come into Edmonton as the Scotia North Division leaders, the Oilers have their own issues to contend with. Yes, Edmonton’s got to try and contain the NHL’s leading scorer in Mitch Marner and a healthy Auston Matthews, but their own roster is struggling to stay consistent and their netminder has to be getting tired.
Head coach Dave Tippett said there were two ways to defend players like Matthews and Marner: either keep possession of the puck or defend hard. In an effort to keep things on the rails, he’s making a few changes to his blue line and Leon Draisaitl noted the Oilers will try to avoid opening it up against the Maple Leafs. In other words, another tight checking game may be the best way to beat this Leafs team.
Limiting shots could become critically important, especially for goalkeeper Mikko Koskinen, who could be looking at games 9, 10 and 11 on the season by the time Sunday night comes and goes.
Oilers Have a New Goalie In Town
As for how the Oilers will handle the workload for Koskinen on Saturday and Sunday, the team did get some potentially good news as Troy Grosenick is skating with the team after being picked up on waivers.
Tippett said, “He’ll get a full practice with us tomorrow and then we’ll reevaluate where he’s at after that.” It’s not clear if the Oilers will try to run Koskinen through the gauntlet of games or give one of Stuart Skinner or Grosenick a look against the Senators.
At some point, this Oilers team is going to have to give Koskinen a rest. The job he’s done is commendable, but he can’t play every game and sooner or later, his performances will slip.
Roster Juggling Still Going On For Oilers
While the team tries to figure out a goaltending issue that’s plauged them since the start of the season, they’re also trying to find the right mix of forwards and defenseman. Tippett will bring Kris Russell out of the lineup and slot Slater Koekkoek back in for Thursday’s game.
The blueliner discussed the challenge of being a healthy scratch for the last game, but says he’s very happy to be back and he doesn’t mind moving around if it gets him the opportunity to play. With Koekkoek back in, the team’s pairings will be Darnell Nurse with Ethan Bear, Caleb Jones with Adam Larsson, and Koekkoek with Tyson Barrie.
So too, the Oilers will run with the below lineup at forward:
Perhaps no game at this point in the season is “must win”, but if the Oilers can pull out a victory and take their record to 4-5, going into back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday, it’s a whole lot better than being 3-6.
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