With Duncan Keith out, will Oilers go with raw rookie as No. 1 left side d-man? Likely

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This in from the Edmonton Oilers: “Coach Tipp says Duncan Keith will miss tonight’s game in Arizona & is considered day-to-day with an upper-body injury. William Lagesson will come in.”

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Keith is day-to-day with an upper body injury, the coach said.

My take

1. With Keith out, will the Edmonton Oilers go with rookie Philip Broberg as No. 1 left side d-man against Arizona tonight? That is likely the case.

2. Last week the Oilers had Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith and Slater Koekkoek as their top three left shot d-man, with Nurse acting as the No. 1 d-man on the team. Against Arizona tonight, the left side defence will be Broberg, Kris Russell and William Lagesson.

3. This year in Bakersfield, Broberg acted as the team’s No. 1 d-man, playing heavy minutes at even strength, as well as on the penalty kill and power play. He played ahead of Lagesson and if Kris Russell were on that team Broberg would likely have played ahead of him as well.

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4. In Edmonton, Broberg has been paired with Cody Ceci, who is now the team’s best d-man. They were the second-pairing behind Evan Bouchard and Keith, but with Keith out and Bouchard mired in a bad defensive slump, it seems reasonable that Coach Dave Tippett will go with Broberg and Ceci in the top pairing.

5. Broberg has played well in his two games with the Oilers but if there’s one thing we know about rookie d-men it’s that they will play well for a run of games, then play poorly for a run. We see that with Bouchard now, who looked fantastic in his first ten games but has struggled mightily in his last eight.

6. In his first ten games, Bouchard played 177 even strength minutes, making 12 major contributions to Grade A shots on net and 14 major mistakes on Grade A shots against. In his last eight games, Bouchard has played 148 even strength minutes, with 11 major contributions to Grade A shots but 33 major mistakes on Grade A shots against. In other words, he’s gone from making 1.4 major mistakes on Grade A shots per game at even strength  to 4.1. per game. He’s really, really, really struggling on defence but that’s to be expected of a young d-man. What’s crucial now is that he and his coaches simplify his game, focus on the defensive end of things and build him back up.

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7. Will Broberg go through a similar defensive slump? Almost certainly. It’s all part of the growing pains of young d-men. The key for a player like Bouchard now is that he get some easier minutes, which should not be a problem on the right side, as the Oilers have two veteran right shot d-men in Ceci and Tyson Barrie. The vets can face the tougher minutes for the next few games. The good news for the Oilers is that Ceci has been solid defensively all year and Barrie has been playing much better in recent games in his own end. He’s taking more of a “defence first” attitude evidently, not taking so many chances on o-zone and n-zone pinches, which is where he often gets himself into trouble.

8. In his first ten games, Barrie made 21 major mistakes on Grade A shots against. That’s 2.1 major mistakes on Grade A shots per game. In his last eight, he’s made just 13. That’s just 1.6 per game. Barrie is doing better on defence by not taking chances and his offensive play hasn’t suffered. if Bouchard is looking for a model on how to improve, he need only look at Barrie.

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Protesters commandeering equipment to stop drilling under a waterway at the Coastal GasLink site. PHOTO BY MICHAEL TOLEDANO /SUPPLIED

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