Edmonton Oilers

Connor Brown is healthy and is back to Edmonton’s top line on Connor McDavid’s wing

Things have really started to turn around for the Edmonton Oilers. Even before the hiring of new head coach Kris Knoblauch, the Oilers started to return to their winning ways, now having won three straight games.

Knoblauch’s strategies are markedly different than Jay Woodcroft’s, and while time will tell whether they are actually better or not, he rolled out new line combinations at practice today, which signalled the return of Connor Brown.

Season-opening top line is back

Brown appears to be back to full health. He’s been inching his way back to the lineup in recent weeks and now he’s back in line rushes.

Knoblauch, who coached Brown and Connor McDavid together for the Erie Otters from 2012–2014, has reunited them on the top line ahead of their game against the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow.

Surprisingly, McDavid and Brown have only skated together for 21 minutes this season at 5v5. However, for both, playing with each other has yielded better results at 5v5. Here are their WOWY (with or without you) numbers courtesy of NaturalStatTrick.com:

Player 1Player 2TOICF%SCF%HDCF%xGF%
Connor McDavidConnor Brown21:2268.963.055.656.9
Connor McDavidw/o Connor Brown187:4059.156.556.052.6
w/o Connor McDavidConnor Brown84:1562.659.361.957.4

Across the board, both players perform better when they line up next to each other. The Otters connection still exists after all these years, and Knoblauch is once again pulling the strings.

Could this be the move that rockets both McDavid and Brown up the scoring charts? It’s certainly possible. In Erie, Brown and McDavid combined for 362 points in just two seasons.

Full Oilers line combinations

This move has shuffled both Warren Foegele and Sam Gagner down to the bottom-six. It is not clear if Gagner or Raphael Lavoie will play on the fourth line as both were rotating in on that unit in practice.

The full forward lines look like this:

Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Brown
Kane – Draisaitl – Hyman
Foegele – McLeod – Ryan
Erne – Hamblin – Gagner/Lavoie

On defence, things remain status quo with the seventh defender right now being recent callup Philip Broberg.

Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais

And, Stuart Skinner will start in goal, backed up by Calvin Pickard.

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