Oilers News & Rumors: Ceci, Russell, Puljujarvi, Season Quarter Mark

In an Edmonton Oilers news and rumors update, the team got unfortunate news when it comes to Cody Ceci who has been placed in COVID protocol. However, there is good news with one of the Oilers defensemen in Kris Russell, who ranks tops among the team’s blueliners in an interesting and unexpected category. Head coach Dave Tippett talks about Jesse Puljujarvi having the skill to drive his own line and the Oilers are doing pretty well after getting to the quarter mark of the 2021-22 NHL season.

Ceci Placed in COVID Protocol

The Oilers have announced that Ceci was added to COVID protocol, Duncan Keith was placed on IR and Markus Niemelainen was recalled from the Bakersfield Condors. Should Ceci be out any significant amount of time, this is not good news for the Oilers who are already down a number of defensemen and playing shorthanded.

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The Oilers’ practice on Tuesday was canceled after learning about Ceci’s status and it will be a test for the team without their top shut down d-man on the right side. He was providing some veteran stability for a young and inexperienced partner like Philip Broberg.

Russell Leads Oilers in Puck Moving Stats

The Athletic took a look at puck-mover skills from defensemen in the NHL last season and their ability to move the puck out of all three zones. Russell was among the league leaders. Considering Russell has been a polarizing player in his time with the Oilers and is known for blocking shots (he set the all-time NHL record this past weekend), this is quite the surprise.

Harman Dayal and Dom Luszczyszyn write:

Rounding out the list, we have Kris Russell, who was the poster boy of analytics debates for a number of years. Former Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli cited Russell’s exceptional puck-moving numbers in Edmonton’s internal data collection some years ago to refute criticism his player was taking in the public analytics community. Years later, the hard-nosed defender is still standing strong in this category.

source – ‘By the Numbers: Ranking the NHL’s top 25 puck-moving defensemen’ – Harman Dayal and Dom Luszczyszyn – The Athletic – 11/30/2021

Needless to say, Russell playing well and being an important part of this Oilers roster is extremely helpful since the team has been hit hard by injuries.

Puljujarvi to Drive His Own Line

As our own Brian Swane wrote about today, Puljujarvi being placed on the third line for the team is not a demotion, despite what some fans think. Sure, it’s easy to get frustrated when the loveable Bison King appears not to be getting the best playing partners and chance to produce offensively, but this is a test by the head coach to see if he can drive his own line. So far it’s worked as he scored his first goal against the Vegas Golden Knights since November 9th.

Edmonton Oilers Celebrate
Jesse Puljujarvi #13 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a goal against the Vancouver Canucks with teammates Darnell Nurse #25, Connor McDavid #97, Leon Draisaitl #29 and Tyson Barrie #22 (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Puljujarvi is one of the few players who have the talent not to simply be a passenger and Tippett wants to see if the big winger can take control of a line and give the Oilers depth in their top nine with a scoring punch in each trio. Should it not work, the Oilers can always move him back up to play with Connor McDavid. This is also likely not permanent.

There’s nothing wrong with testing out what a young player can do or become and finding out when you have a point cushion in which to play.

Oilers After the Quarter Mark

Through 20 games, the Oilers have a 15-5 record. Operating at a.750 clip is hardly anything to complain about for a team that seems to be finding ways to win despite injuries. Down their entire left side of the blue line, having lost their starting goaltender and with a bit of forward depth off the roster, the Oilers aren’t always outplaying each team they play, but they’re netting two points more often than not.

The good news is, Edmonton should be getting some of the key pieces of their roster back. Duncan Keith is on IR but could be back sooner than later. Darnell Nurse just needs to be cleared by medical staff but sounds close to a return. Devin Shore is skating, as is goaltender Mike Smith and even Dylan Holloway is back on the ice after surgery.

The team’s best players are being their best players and leading the NHL in terms of scoring and the new acquisitions are performing well. Young players like Evan Bouchard, Stuart Skinner and Broberg have filled in well and GM Ken Holland’s offseason plan seems to be playing out as intended.

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