There is a frenetic pace that has appeared in Nail Yakupov’s game that really isn’t required, which is one of the reasons the Edmonton Oilers rookie will slide onto a line with Eric Belanger and Ryan Smyth against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night at Rexall Place. The other reason is the Oilers are still desperately seeking five-on-five offence. In short, it is broke, so head coach Ralph Krueger is still trying to fix it. Teemu Hartikainen will move up to play with Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, while Smyth, a healthy scratch on Tuesday, is not only returning to the lineup, but is also going to get some power-play time. He’ll park himself in front of Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and look for rebounds and deflections, as he has so many times in the past. The thinking with Yakupov is that he could inject some offensive sizzle into the performances of Smyth, who has one goal in 12 games, and Belanger, who is still pointless. Conversely, the rookie could benefit from the experience the two veterans bring to the game. Yakupov ripped off five goals in his first eight NHL games, has now gone five games without scoring. “He just needs to relax a little more,” said Krueger. “It’s as if he’s trying too hard sometimes and nothing has been coming.” Krueger figures Smyth can chip in 10 goals for the Oilers this season and Belanger, too, has contributed points in the past, so they will have Yakupov to work with, at least for now.
Oilers shuffle lines in an attempt to create more offence
Edmonton Journal | Feb 16