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Oilers Makes Significant Line Changes Ahead of Game vs Blackhawks

The Edmonton Oilers and head coach Kris Knoblauch are making some significant line changes ahead of Thursday’s game vs the Blackhawks.

Oilers’ head coach Kris Knoblauch has displayed remarkable consistency since taking over the team. A calm presence who doesn’t put his players in a blender and drastically shuffle things up when the Oilers are down in games, his demeanor has trickled down to the Oilers players. So, to see the coach make a pretty significant line changes at practice on Thursday, and ahead of the game versus the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s a bit surprising. This, especially during the Edmonton Oilers’ 14-game winning streak.

Despite the adage of not fixing what isn’t broken, recent line adjustments suggest the coach is willing to make major changes. Reported by Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, the Oilers’ top six forwards underwent a shakeup in Thursday’s practice. The top line now features the formidable trio of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Zach Hyman, while the second line comprises Evander Kane, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Warren Foegele.

It’s not like this is the first time the coach has paired McDavid and Draisaitl during games. But, this is the first real significant shift he’s made starting them on the same line, especially during a team that the team is rolling. Each has found chemistry with different linemates, so this wasn’t a move made out of necessity. It appears the coach wants to try something, perhaps seeing an opportunity to shift the way the team is starting games.

Oilers Shouldn’t Get Complement Despite This Franchise-Record Winning Streak

Winning 14 consecutive games, the surprising strategic adjustment by Knoblauch may signal an attempt to inject energy from the opening moments, addressing recent challenges in early-game performance. Edmonton keeps winning, but their sluggish starts have been slightly concerning. It might be time to have his two leaders and All-Stars send a message in the first few minutes.

Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers lines
Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl Edmonton Oilers lines

With depth in their lineup, the Oilers, even without Corey Perry, have the flexibility to experiment. Facing a struggling Chicago team, seizing the opportunity to dominate early could be a strategic advantage. The third line sees Ryan McLeod centering Dylan Holloway and Connor Brown, while the fourth line features Derek Ryan, Mattias Janmark, and Sam Gagner.

Calvin Pickard Gets the Start in Goal

Defensive pairings remain unchanged, but Calvin Pickard gets the nod in goal for the first time since January 11. He’s been solid, but a little run support never hurts. If the Oilers can jump out to an early lead, it will take the pressure off, allowing the team to start playing that shutdown, shot-suppression game they’ve been so good at to close games.

As the Oilers look to extend their record-setting winning streak to 15 games against the injury-plagued Blackhawks, the timing appears opportune for a strong start.

Next: Oilers Host Likes Blockbuster Trade Idea For Flames and Oilers



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