"You're going to have to wait and find out" — Knoblauch on Oilers' Game 3 line-up

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Playoff Game Day 4.3
Florida at Edmonton

Tonight Edmonton will host its first game in the Stanley Cup Finals in 17 years 362 days. Many local fans will have happy memories of that occasion, a 4-0 shutout of Carolina Hurricanes in as complete a game as the local squad played that entire playoff season. Alas, it only served to tie the series at 3 games apiece, and the plucky Oilers ultimately fell just short in Game 7 in Raleigh.

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As is the case in 2024, the Oilers started that series on the road, dropping both. They likely deserved a better fate in Game 1, got smoked in Game 2, and returned home in an 0-2  hole, just as now. The Oil prevailed 2-1 nail-biter in Game 3 to get back into it.

They’ll need a similar result tonight, by whatever score it takes.

The home squad is a little beat up after 20 games, with major questions hanging over defender Darnell Nurse (who played just 4:20 in Game 2) and forward Evander Kane (10:33). It follows that the first question of coach Kris Knoblauch at this morning’s availability was about the availability of both, along with forward Corey Perry (scratched in Game 2). The coach responded with an enigmatic smile and cryptic comment: “You’re going to have to wait and find out.”

RELATED: Oilers prepare for Game 3 with status of Nurse, Kane in doubt

Best guess based on parsing available information is that Nurse will play, Kane likely not. The tell on Nurse was the presence of Ben Gleason, an obvious placeholder, in his spot alongside Vincent Desharnais yesterday. If the Oilers were seriously planning a game without Nurse, Cody Ceci would surely have been in the top six with Philip Broberg shifting to his natural left side.

Then there’s this from the Edmonton Journal‘s Jim Matheson after this morning’s game day skate:

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Knoblauch has been reluctant to use the 11/7 deployment over his time in Edmonton. Given the uncertain status of Nurse, however, an extra d-man makes sense. As good as Evan Bouchard has been these playoffs,  his ice time of 30:40 in Game 2 was a very tall ask, and he appeared to tire in the late going.

It’s not as if Edmonton had been getting a whole lot out of their depth forwards, or even their middle-tier ones. Just 5 Oilers attackers have scored as many as 5 points in the playoffs. In Game 2, just 3 of the 12 forwards mustered so much as a shot on goal.

It’s worth noting that the right-shooting Carrick is the only Oiler to achieve a modicum of success on the faceoff dot so far in the series (8/12=67% in Game 2). Otherwise, the team has recorded a dismal 46/113=41% at the discipline, with only Ryan Nugent-Hopkins above the water line at 7/13=54%. Leon Draisaitl is close at 49%, but Ryan McLeod (36%), Connor McDavid (33%) and Adam Henrique (25%) are all getting fed. The club’s other right-shot faceoff man, Derek Ryan, has yet to suit up in the Finals, though he might get in tonight if Knoblauch chooses to go the 12/6 route.

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Best guess here is otherwise.

Tonight’s projected line-up

Projected lineup G4.3 vs FLA

That gaping hole at 4C invites extra shifts from McDavid and Draisaitl, with Nugent-Hopkins, McLeod and Henrique also available to slide into the role for a shift here and there.

On the back end, the availability of Ceci will provide some cover for Nurse and also deliver further depth on the penalty kill.

All of which is speculation, of course. We’re going to have to wait to find out.

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