Why Yakupov is still on the third line, despite Eberle injury

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Edmonton coach Todd McLellan wants to put Nail Yakupov in “situations to succeed.”

Oddly enough, those situations may not be in the Oilers’ top six, even after winger Jordan Eberle was lost to injury.

Tonight against Vancouver, Yakupov — the first overall draft pick in 2012 — will skate on a third line centered by Anton Lander, with rookie Anton Slepyshev on the other wing.

“I think we’re trying to create some chemistry with Anton,” said McLellan. “Believe it or not, Anton is our leading scorer (5G, 1A) through exhibition season. I’d want to play with that type of guy, if I had Yak’s skillset.”

But it also comes down to match-ups. Theoretically, playing down the lineup should keep Yakupov away from the opposition’s top players, who are more likely to be deployed against Taylor Hall, Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on Edmonton’s top two lines.

“In my opinion, Yak’s strength is with the puck and on the offensive side,” said McLellan. “He’s working on his defensive game. And sometimes who you match up against is important.”

Related: Where does Draisaitl fit for Oilers?