The Edmonton Oilers got some good news on Sunday when defenseman Ethan Bear returned to practice. Bear, who has been out since taking a puck to the helmet 15 days ago, skated on the right side of the third pairing at practice. That was notable, because previously Bear was a mainstay with Darnell Nurse on the club’s top pairing.
Also notable? His partner wasn’t veteran Kris Russell. Rather, it was rookie Evan Bouchard, a right-shot defenseman who shifted over to the left.
“We wanted to scrimmage a little bit today with a couple of days off. We threw Bouchard over there,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after practice. “He’s played some left before in junior, so we just wanted to have a look at him in the scrimmage today and see how things go moving forward.”
The Oilers won’t have too much time before deciding whether or not Bouchard can play on the left in a game. They’ll host the Winnipeg Jets tomorrow night in a contest that opens a critical four-game stretch.
“I’ve had more guys over the years that are left-handers that can play right than right-handers that can play left,” Tippett continued. “Some of it comes down to foot position and being able to open yourself up. Not being locked into just going straight up the wall. There are a few tactical things that come into play that you have to look at. You just have to make sure a player is comfortable with that. We’re early in the process here, we’ll see how things go.”
With Nurse and veteran Tyson Barrie settling in as a duo, and William Lagesson and Adam Larsson shutting everything down, there isn’t much of a choice if Tippett wants both Bouchard and Bear to play. We’ll see if he’s willing to trot them out together in game action, or if Russell or Slater Koekkoek draw back in.