Oilers snapshots: Edmonton struggling for answers up front

CHICAGO — Nobody was realistically expecting Yohann Auvitu to be a solution to any of the issues plaguing the goal-starved Edmonton Oilers up front.

But the fact head coach Todd McLellan played the defenceman at forward Sunday in Chicago shows just how bare his cupboard is when it comes to options.

Auvitu played 8:10 over 10 shifts and finished minus-1 with two shots on net. There were no big surprises, good or bad.

“Tough task for him, hard to go up front against a skilled team like that that’s aggressive along the walls,” said McLellan. “I thought he created opportunities for he and his linemates and a couple of times he learned how hard it is to play forward as far as the shift length goes, he got caught out a little long.

“We’ll see if we continue with that experiment or not.”

If you are Drake Caggiula or Anton Slepyshev, it has to be very humbling to sit out in favour of a converted defenceman with four career NHL goals.

And it was meant to be. McLellan isn’t happy with either player, although the same can be said for most of his team right now.

“I look at (Chicago forwards) Vinnie Ninostroza and Ryan Hartman and those types of players, smaller, quick darters who protect pucks,” said McLellan. “That can be Drake. And Anton has to be productive when he goes in the lineup.

“You either have to be productive offensively or defensively, preferably both. But you can’t be missing in both situations. We expect more from both of them.”

Strange but true

As expected, the Oilers penalty killing has been stellar on this trip, killing five-of-five penalties in Dallas and Chicago.

At 85.5 per cent, it is the fourth-best penalty-kill unit in the league on the road, but get the same guys anywhere near Rogers Place and it’s an instant train wreck. Their 55.4 per cent mark in Edmonton is the worst home ice success rate in NHL history.

“We’re taking heat at home, but top four in the league on the road,” said Zack Kassian, who is as baffled by the numbers as anyone. “It doesn’t even make sense. I didn’t even think that was possible.

“We’re doing it on the road but we can’t do it at home. I don’t have any answers. It’s an insane stat and it’s frustrating.”

Bad timing

The straw that broke Edmonton’s back Sunday came with 9.2 seconds left in the second period, after a bad read from Darnell Nurse at the Chicago blue-line resulted in a two-on-one goal from Brandon Saad.

The Oilers had turned in a good road period, cutting the deficit to 2-1, when the late one let the wind out of their sails.

“It certainly didn’t help,” said McLellan, who wanted to see a more conservative approach with 15 seconds left in the second period of a one-goal game. “With that amount of time left you have to play hard on the puck, get it deep and behind them.

“And then on the back-check, you have to be hard and strong there. We got beat …read more

Source:: Edmonton Journal – Sports


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