Oilers’ 3 Burning Questions Before Game 5 vs Kings

Game 4 of the series between the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings did not start the way the Oilers had hoped. They came out flat and fell behind 3-0 early. However, in the second period, some players were benched and there was a goaltending change that sparked the three-goal comeback that allowed the Oilers to tie the series at 2-2, heading back to Edmonton.

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The series is far from over, as the Kings have shown they can bounce back and are a stronger team than they were last season. After a solid come-back win, what will change or remain the same for Game 5 to keep the Oilers’ momentum rolling?

Do the Oilers Go Back to 12-6?

The first burning question is how the Oilers will build their lineup for Game 5. They started the series with 12 forwards and six defencemen, but then Mattias Janmark got injured and won’t return for the rest of the first round. The Oilers then switched it up and instead of dressing Devin Shore, they decided to dress Philip Broberg and go with 11 forwards and seven defence, which they had done for most of the season.

This is worth mentioning because Vincent Desharnais didn’t look good in Game 4 and sat on the bench for the second half of the game. It’s a waste to have someone sitting on the bench, meaning the Oilers could switch it up and dress someone who will play, and it would not surprise me if Desharnais is scratched for Game 5.

Vincent Desharnais Edmonton Oilers
Vincent Desharnais, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

So, who takes his spot? My best guess is the Oilers will use 12 forwards and six defensemen. After Desharnais was planted on the bench, Broberg played a lot more and was up to the challenge. He has taken some major strides this season and is fully capable of handling ice time as the sixth d-man. In this case, Dylan Holloway, who was recently recalled from the Bakersfield Condors, should come in. He played well on his return from injury and has already spent time with the Oilers this season. He plays hard and physically and could complement the fourth line well.

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The problem with going back to six defencemen is that Darnell Nurse played better with a little less ice time and responsibility. Even though Mattias Ekholm has helped to an extent, the Oilers can’t afford to sit Nurse. Either way, the Oilers’ highest-paid defenceman has to bounce back, whether the team dresses six or seven defenders (from “Can the Oilers’ Darnell Nurse rebound from bout of terrible play?”, Montreal Gazette, Apr. 24, 2023).

Who Starts in Net – Skinner or Campbell?

The Oilers made a change in Game 4 that very few expected and even fewer thought would go over well. After starting most games in the second half, down the stretch, and in the first four playoff games, Skinner was pulled for Jack Campbell after the team went down 3-0 in Game 4. The veteran, who has struggled for nearly the entire season, stopped 27 of 28 shots, including a potential series-saving breakaway, and the Oilers won.

Jack Campbell Edmonton Oilers
Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

From the outside, the decision might seem tougher than it really is. Skinner is the starter in Edmonton and has provided many more good games than not. The same can’t be said of Campbell, who had a save percentage .025 lower than the Oilers’ rookie this season.

Related: 3 Ways Oilers Can Take Stranglehold on Series vs Kings

Skinner is the fresh goalie, has played regularly, and was the Oilers’ first choice heading into the playoffs. He was pulled to spark the team after a poor start. Though Edmonton knows what Campbell can continue to do and could play the hot hand, he and Skinner haven’t shown enough to warrant a different look in net in Game 5 (from “Nugent-Bowman: Oilers should start Stuart Skinner, not Jack Campbell, in Game 5”, The Athletic, Apr. 24, 2023).

How Will the Oilers’ Lines Look?

There is a good reason to move Kailer Yamamoto out of the top-six and onto the third line, but also a very good reason not to. Though Yamamoto should start in the top-six, things could change mid-game, as we’ve seen before.

Kailer Yamamoto Edmonton Oilers
Kailer Yamamoto, Edmonton Oilers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Yamamoto has had many opportunities to produce and just hasn’t. Most of the Oilers’ top-six has been hard to find and hasn’t produced as they did in the regular season at five-on-five down the stretch, making this series closer than it should be. If someone isn’t playing or producing, like Yamamoto, it is logical that they should be demoted and someone else given a chance.

The reason why he should stay put isn’t because of his play, but because the third line has done their job well and looked great together. The Kings have a more dangerous third line this season, which puts pressure on the Oilers to match it. Nick Bjugstad, Ryan McLeod, and Warren Foegele have played with a lot of energy and kept pucks in the offensive zone, creating chances. Although no offence has come from it in this series, the third line can’t afford to get weaker when the Kings have three solid productive lines running.

The Oilers are right in this series, and the decisions made before Game 5 could have a big impact on which way the series swings. The best we can hope for is that the team makes the right ones, and the Oilers can again advance past the Kings in the first round.