3 Key Roster Changes Needed to Get Oilers Back In Series w/ Avalanche

It’s certainly not ideal that the Edmonton Oilers are down 2-0 versus the Colorado Avalanche in their Western Conference Stanley Cup Playoff series. The Oilers haven’t played anything close to a full 60 minutes worth of hockey in this series but the good news is, it’s far from over.

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Heading back home, the Oilers have a chance to climb back into this series and make a contest of this matchup. That said, there are a few things they’ll need to do though if they want to avoid going down 3-0.

Run 11-7

It’s worked well for the team in the past and it makes sense for the Oilers to shelter a clearly hobbled Darnell Nurse. Nurse won’t ever admit that his injury is affecting his play but it’s clear he is getting chewed up and exposed because he isn’t 100%. This isn’t to excuse some critical lapses in focus and the combination of the two things means it’s potentially time to limit his minutes and use him where he’s most effective.

Darnell Nurse Edmonton Oilers
Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Playing him over 20 minutes a night while struggling doesn’t seem to be working for the Oilers as they try to contend with a faster and more skilled team in the Avalanche. Perhaps it’s time to get Nurse some help and that means swapping out a forward for a defenseman and running with seven d-men. Not only will this protect Nurse, but it will also limit the minutes of other blueliners and keep them fresh and up to the task of keeping pace.

Related: Oilers’ Nurse is Struggling & Needs to Play Less Minutes

The question about who to slot in is a real one: go with the veteran in Kris Russell or with the rookie in Philip Broberg?

Inject Some Offense Into the Lineup

The Oilers aren’t exactly rolling four lines. While the team got scoring from every line in Game 1, 14 goals per game are likely not the norm as this series progresses and as such, it’s probably a better idea to go with the forwards who are regularly producing. If players like Zack Kassian or Josh Archibald are rarely going to see the ice, it might be time to inject someone who can play and keep up in a top-six role for the team, specifically if Kailer Yamamoto is going to miss any time.

Dylan Holloway Bakersfield Condors
Dylan Holloway, Bakersfield Condors (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

A player like Dylan Holloway might be a good fit. He’s not seen any time for the Oilers and throwing him into a playoff game for the first time with the Oilers in a must-need situation might be a lot to put on the shoulders of that young man, but he’s potentially the best bet to spark the offense on a line that hasn’t been doing much. Even if he doesn’t play a lot, the minutes he does play could be impactful.

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The alternative is slotting in someone like Devin Shore, Derick Brassard, or Kyle Turris. That doesn’t move the needle much for the top nine.

Play McDavid and Draisaitl Together to Start the Game

It’s not the ideal plan when looking at a long-term formula for offensive success, but for a couple of games where the Oilers absolutely need wins, playing Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid on the same line is the way to go. Head coach Jay Woodcroft elected not to start Game 2 with that pair and the Oilers offense didn’t generate much. Edmonton needs to jump out to an early lead in Game 3 and these two offer the Oilers the best chances of doing so.

For Edmonton, it’s all about winning that next game. McDavid and Draisaitl together are dangerous. They can outplay any line and if Woodcroft rotates between Evander Kane and Zach Hyman as their wingman, it seems hard to imagine Colorado keeping the Oilers off the board for a second-straight game.