Oilers News & Rumors: Draisaitl, Turris, Kassian, Merzlikins, More

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, Zack Kassian was back on the ice for the team. How long before he’s ready to return? Kyle Turris has a lot of people talking after his game on Monday night, but the forward got some bad news Tuesday. I have a theory about Leon Draisaitl and his being paired with Connor McDavid again, and are the Oilers interested in a goaltender out of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization?

Kassian Spotted at Oilers Practice

On Tuesday, the Oilers tweeted out that Kassian was back on the ice. He was part of the fifth line, skating alongside Joakim Nygard and Dominik Kahun. It’s not clear how far he is from potentially returning and he could be easing himself back in, but it seems clear from where he was slotted at practice he’s not ready to hop back into the lineup just yet.

Kassian was injured in the first period of a game against Ottawa Senators on February 8 when he fought Erik Gudbrandson. He took a 31-second shift afterward, but left the game and didn’t return. It will be good to have another option for the Oilers, especially in games where the level of physicality needs to be turned up.

Turris Added to Covid Protocol List After Great Game

Turris has been added to NHL’s Covid Protocol list on Tuesday. He is now the second Oilers player to have been added this season, the first being Jesse Puljujarvi in what turned out to be nothing more than an inconclusive test.

This is terrible timing for the center/winger as he’s coming off his best game of the season for Edmonton. He had a couple great passes which resulted in an assist and said of his own game, “I thought I played better tonight, just creating chances. I haven’t been playing well, so I need to turn things around.” He added, “I feel like I’ve had better jump lately and I thought I played a bit better tonight.”

Kyle Turris Nashville Predators
Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The coach said of Turris’ game, “He was solid. That’s the Kyle Turris that I knew.” Tippett was very complimentary about what he thought Turris could bring coming over from the Nashville Predators last season but the forward hasn’t really delivered and has struggled to maintain his spot in the lineup. Tippett added, “It’s good to see him feel good about when he’s got the puck and finding ways to make plays and ways to make those plays count.”

McDavid With Draisaitl Has Two Positive Results

On the surface, pairing Connor McDavid with Draisaitl makes sense when the team is struggling for offense. It’s a go-to weapon for the coach and it worked on Monday night. But, I wholeheartedly believe Tippett’s decision wasn’t as much about finding a duo that clicked as it might have been getting Draisaitl out of a funk.

Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl
Edmonton Oilers Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl take part in training camp. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Even when Draisaitl is not playing well, he’s pretty good. That said, it’s noticeable how different his game is when he’s frustrated. Monday’s goal was Draisaitl’s first in eight games. More concerning was his body language and obvious level of frustration during his dry spell. He would force passes that weren’t there, throw his stick up in the air and there was an incident where he snapped back at a reporter for asking a fairly unnecessary question.

While none of these responses to a run of poor games is terribly abnormal, it had to be concerning for coach Tippett. This Oilers team is not nearly as effective when Draisaitl isn’t on his game and pairing him with McDavid — someone he’s extremely comfortable with — shifted his body language and full 180 degrees. You could see his game change knowing that he had a guy with him that could make plays and get him going again.

My guess is that this pairing doesn’t last long. If Draisaitl has a few strong games and he’s starting to produce again, Tippett will split the pair up, giving Edmonton two much more potent lines.

Oilers Interested in Merzlikins?

Elliotte Friedman writes in his latest 31 Thoughts column, “It might not be something that could happen until the off-season, but Elvis Merzlikins is the kind of goalie who makes sense long-term for Edmonton.”

Very interesting…