Samorukov, Broberg in, Kassian out as shorthanded Oilers return to practice

Samorukov, Broberg in, Kassian out as shorthanded Oilers return to practice

Author of the article:

Bruce McCurdy  •  Edmonton Journal

Defenceman Dimitri Samorukov takes part in Edmonton Oilers rookie camp at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019.
Defenceman Dimitri Samorukov takes part in Edmonton Oilers rookie camp at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

The Edmonton Oilers returned to practice on Sunday afternoon in Derek Ryan ‘s old stomping grounds, Clare Drake Arena.

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The roster remains in a state of flux, with a trio of personnel moves announced by the club:

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The additions of Philip Broberg and Dmitri Samorukov on an emergency basis brings the Oilers’ defence corps up to the minimum six required. The squad is currently missing no fewer than five (5) left-shot defenders: Kris Russell and  Markus Niemelainen are both injured, while  Darnell Nurse, Duncan Keith and William Lagesson are all in COVID protocol.

That leaves an ultra-thin corps on the left side of Slater Koekkoek along with Broberg and Samorukov, who will be making his NHL debut next game unless another defender is cleared to play. Samorukov, 22, was touted as a dark horse to make the Oilers out of camp this past fall after a strong showing in the KHL last season, but he broke his jaw in rookie camp, missed a bunch of time, and had a slow start in Bakersfield as he adjusted to a full facial shield. He’s played 15 games with modest boxcars of 1-2-3, -5.

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Right winger Zack Kassian is a new addition to the COVID list, where he joins Jesse Puljujarvi along with Nurse, Keith and Lagesson. Otherwise there is some good news at the forward positions where several players are on the verge of returning:

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Ryan McLeod and Devin Shore were the first Oilers to enter the protocol and both have now completed their mandatory 10 days on the list. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still technically a couple of days away but with the Oilers’ game at Calgary tomorrow having been postponed, he will be eligible to play by their next scheduled date, (currrently) Wednesday night in St. Louis. Zach Hyman is also good to go after missing three games with a shoulder issue.

All four participated in Sunday afternoon’s practice, as did coach Dave Tippett who spent his own time in COVID protocol. Tippett’s lines and pairings were structured as follows:

Foegele-McDavid-Hyman
RNH-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Shore-Ryan-Sceviour
Benson-McLeod-Turris
Perlini

Koekkoek-Barrie
Broberg-Bouchard
Samorukov-Ceci

Smith
Koskinen
Skinner

— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) December 26, 2021

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Hyman has played left wing all season, but appears set to switch to his natural side in the absence of RWs Kassian and  Jesse Puljujarvi , who remains under COVID protocol.

There is also some good news in net, where Mike Smith was a full participant in practice. Smith has missed the last 26 games with an ankle injury, during which time Mikko Koskinen and rookie Stuart Skinner shared the load. Today at least there was a three-headed monster in the pipes, and from a roster-space perspective there may indeed be room for all three while so many skaters are incapacitated. However, salary cap limitations are apt to rear their ugly head; indeed the Oilers may be in tough to get Smith’s $2.2 million cap hit on the active roster even if they re-assign a goalie.

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The salary cap issue is in a state of flux as the NHL has introduced exception rules for emergency recalls, and has reintroduced taxi squads of up to 6 players in the coming weeks up until the February schedule break. However, said taxi squad will be much more limited than the one that was in place in the 2021 season, when there was plenty of interplay between the TS and the regular roster. It might, howver, be a good spot for depth guys like Cooper Marody and Seth Griffith , veteran tweeners who already got one shot to step into the line-up and proved they were up to the task. Lagesson is another who might be better suited to the TS rather than yet more time in the minors.

Details of the newly-announced roster wrinkles can be found in this post by the excellent PuckPedia. My take from the very last part of which is that the Oilers will not be able to place Skinner on the taxi squad because he meets all 3 of the stated criteria therefore is ineligible.

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Finally, Oilers draft choice Luca Munzenberger was a standout in the opener of the World Junior Hockey Championship at Rogers Place on Sunday afternoon. Munzenberger scored Germany’s only goal and played a solid all-around game to earn his country’s player-of-the-game honours in a 3-1 loss to Finland.

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Follow me on Twitter @BruceMcCurdy

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