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Who Plays, Who Sits In Oilers’ First-Round Series with Kings – The Hockey Writers – Edmonton Oilers

Stuart Skinner Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers now know their first-round opponent in the 2023-24 NHL playoffs. For the third consecutive season, it will be the Oilers vs. the Los Angeles Kings and while the Oilers have the edge on paper, there are some tough decisions ahead. A similar team to last season, there are some minor differences on this Oilers roster, not the least of which is a rookie head coach who will have some roster choices to make.

Looking at the forwards, defense, and goaltending, let’s project who starts and who sits.

The Stuart Skinner Show in Goal

Stuart Skinner will get the start for the Oilers. Hopefully, he’s not rattled by a four-goal outburst from the Colorado Avalanche in the final game of the season and gets off to a hot start, putting up better numbers than the 3.68 goals against average (GAA) along with a .883 save percentage (SV%) he posted last season. He’ll be backed up by Calvin Pickard, with Jack Campbell likely only getting a call if there is an injury concern.

Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Oilers will go as far as Skinner takes them. Pickard is capable and he’s had a great regular season, but if Skinner isn’t on his game, it will be a long series for the Oilers. Skinner is good enough to be the backstop Edmonton needs. He just needs to remain steady and his defense needs to help him out more than they did in the first period on Thursday. Another year of experience is his best weapon.

The Blue Line Is Set

The Oilers’ defense is pretty well set in stone. Mattias Ekholm and Evan Bouchard have been the Oilers’ best pairing by a mile. Both are having career seasons and they’ll get the most minutes. Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci will be another pair. If they can be effective, that will go a long way in determining how easily the Oilers handle the Kings. Vincent Desharnais and Brett Kulak will make up the third pairing, with Troy Stecher and Philip Broberg likely the seventh and eighth options.

Related: Oilers’ Knoblauch Must Avoid Previous Coaching Staff’s Playoff Errors

If there’s one change, it might be how much Desharnais factors into everything. If he’s playing well, the Oilers may run him out there a bit more. He’s earned the look with his play during the regular season. He may slot in should the pairing of Ceci and Nurse look overwhelmed.

The Offense Is Where the Real Questions Are

It’s the forward group where Knoblauch has to make some tougher choices. There is more depth in this group…

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