Broberg, Puljujarvi set to play as Edmonton Oilers tune up for postseason

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Game Day 81: San Jose at Edmonton

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With the Oilers locked and loaded for a first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Kings set to begin in Edmonton next Monday, the NHL club still has to attend the formality of Games 81 and 82 of the regular season tonight and tomorrow. First up is the San Jose Sharks.

Tonight’s line-up

The Oilers used their last call-up of the post-deadline period to recall defenseman Philip Broberg, and he will draw directly into the line-up. Sounds as though he will take Chris Russell‘s spot alongside Tyson Barry on the third pairing. Not impossible that Russell will also dress and the Oilers will go back to 11 forwards and 7 defensemen, but the best guess here is that Jay Woodcroft will go with the traditional 12F/6D alignment, and moreover will roll the lines and pairings with fairly equal ice time, meaning more reps for the depth players and a relatively light night for the heavy lifters.

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Broberg is about the healthiest of a depleted defense corps in Bakersfield, which is currently enduring the absences of Markus Niemelenen, Dmitry Samorukov, Slater Koekkoek and Philip Kemp, all of whom have current NHL-class contracts. Broberg himself just returned to the line-up 3 games ago after missing a month with an injury, meaning this recall is perhaps a little earlier than the “perfect world” scenario. As things stand now, he is the first in line should the big club suffer an injury on the back end in the playoffs.

The good news is that Broberg picked up where he left off on the scoresheet, running his personal point streak to 6 games. On the season he has posted impressive boxcars of 4-19-23, +14 in just 31 AHL games, having spent time in Edmonton (22 GP, 0-2-2, -9) as well as on IR. Suggesting he is convincingly passing the test on one level, but he still has plenty to prove on the big stage. He’ll get another abbreviated chance to do just that in the next short while.

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Woodcroft was predictably coy on Darnell Nurse‘s health status at this morning’s avail, confirming only that he won’t play tonight. The coach repeatedly informed the media “we are taking care of today’s business” and refused to get drawn in to questions about tomorrow’s game let alone next week.

Brett Kulack was bumped up the line-up into Nurse’s spot alongside cody ceci last game and the pairing responded with an excellent outing. The second pair of Duncan Keith and Evan Bouchard has been playing strong hockey for awhile now, so there’s little chance that Woodcroft and defense coach Dave Manson will be tinkering with that combination any time soon.

Expect all 6 d-men to be within a couple of minutes of 20:00 ice time tonight.

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up-front, Jesse Puljujarvi has recovered from his illness to the point that he will return to action tonight after a 3-game absence. In fact he’ll return to his previous spot on the first line alongside Connor McDavid and Evander Kanemeaning Kailer Yamamoto will bump down to the second line with Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman.

The third line of Warren Foegele, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Derek Ryan will remain intact, and appears an extremely good bet to enter the playoffs as a trio. Foegele has played his best hockey of the season in the last month or so, while the 35-year-old Ryan has been rejuvenated since his conversion to the wing and has been absolutely flying out there in recent times.

Finally, Ryan McLeod will shift back down to the 4C position between Derick Brassard and Zack Cassianleaving Devin Shore holding the short straw up in the press box.

As with the defense corps, I anticipate the forwards to all be within plus or minus 3 minutes of 15:00 barring an unexpectedly heavy burden of special teams time.

mikko koskinen will get the start in goal.

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