Lucic dropped from McDavid’s line, as McLellan shakes up ‘hit or miss’ forward combinations

Getty
4 Comments

After three straight losses, Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan has made some changes with his forward combinations.

That means, for now at least, that Milan Lucic is no longer on a line with phenom Connor McDavid.

Say this about McLellan early on this season: He hasn’t been afraid to shake things up on rather quick notice.

After the team’s first loss — a 6-2 home defeat to the Buffalo Sabres — McLellan blasted the effort of his players, which certainly seemed like a tactical decision from the coach to put everyone on notice that such performances will not be tolerated.

Based on reports Friday, Patrick Maroon has been placed onto the wing with McDavid. Rookie forward Jesse Puljujarvi was on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot. Meanwhile, Lucic was moved on to the wing with Leon Draisaitl and Zack Kassian, which has the potential to be a punishing physical trio along the boards and on the forecheck.

McDavid’s line, the coach pointed out on NHL.com, has been getting chances, but they’ve also been giving up more chances. Hence the changes.

“It’s up front where we’ve been hit or miss with different lines on different nights. One line is clicking and two others aren’t,” said McLellan.

The Oilers are off to a pretty good start, with seven wins in their first 11 games. They lead the Pacific Division with 15 points, three clear of San Jose.

McLellan has never given the impression that he’s content with how things are going in Edmonton this early.

The Oilers have a franchise player in McDavid and talented forwards around him. But the coach has been consistent with his message that the Oilers must be better defensively, saying last month: “We’ve tried to out-score our mistakes and that’s not happening.”

The Oilers, currently on a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference, play the New York Islanders on Saturday.