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Tippett Hints Oilers Will Rotate Their Defensemen Down the Stretch

Edmonton Oilers coach Dave Tippett notes that the team might switch up their six defenseman on a regular basis down the stretch.

Caleb Jones Edmonton Oilers
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One of the questions the Edmonton Oilers will be asking over the final 10 games of the 2020-21 NHL regular season is what approach is best to win as many games as possible, but also, what approach prepares them the best for the postseason? The Oilers have been one of the most productive North Division teams in the month of April and they have a chance to enter the postseason on a roll, but playing time for the entire roster becomes a factor.

Related: Gretzky Talks Chances McDavid Can Hit 100 Points This Season

Specifically, the blue line corps may see some changes over this last stretch of games. While the Oilers will be running Wednesday evening with the same six defensemen who played on Monday versus the Winnipeg Jets, Tippett suggested that could change as the campaign winds down.

Kris Russell sat on Monday and will sit again Wednesday. That said, he’s likely to play Thursday in a back-to-back situation. There’s a player like Slater Koekkoek who is coming back from injury and the Oilers will have a keen interest in seeing him play a couple of games before the playoffs and Evan Bouchard is still on the taxi squad and could be one of the Oilers four post-deadline recalls.

Tippett said in a media avail on Wednesday, “We’re going to take it game by game and just see where we’re at.” He added, “We want to have as many people ready and available as we can, so, as we go down the stretch here I don’t think you’ll see the same six every night.”

Players Need to Be Up To Speed

One of the factors the Oilers might be considering is just how quickly things can change when it comes to injuries. The Oilers found out that over the course of two games — specifically against the Montreal Canadiens — they can lose a couple of key players. In the case of Montreal, it was in the form of team physicality as Zack Kassian and Jujhar Khaira both went down. If Edmonton loses a couple of defensemen, that could greatly affect the decisions to deploy certain blueliners in certain situations.

The last thing the Oilers want to do is plop in a defenseman who hasn’t played in weeks and then ask them to be up to speed in a seven-game series.

Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers Defenseman photo via Oilers Twitter

Does this mean the Oilers might slot Evan Bouchard into the lineup more often? While Tippett didn’t specifically drop Bouchard’s name, one has to wonder if he gives it some serious consideration. The likelihood is that the Oilers will play the Jets in the first round of the playoffs. Wins and losses over the next few games won’t change that. And, while home ice advantage will play a bit of a factor, getting Bouchard some ice time might be high on the priority list as well.

In a situation where the Oilers need to call upon Bouchard, he’ll need to have played a couple of games first. Even if it’s just three or four, it could make a world of difference to how effective he is should Edmonton need to slot him in.

Next: Breaking Down McDavid’s Odds to Hit 100 Points in 2020-21

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