Dmitry Kulikov is currently in the midst of a seven-day quarantine period and will miss, in the words of GM Ken Holland, four games before joining the Edmonton Oilers for game action late next week. Kulikov, a veteran NHL defenseman of over 700 games, brings a steady shutdown presence to the Edmonton blueline.
Where Kulikov will play, no one knows for sure. The Oilers have Darnell Nurse as their top left shot option, but lots of uncertainty behind him. Both Caleb Jones and William Lagesson have had up-and-down developmental seasons, while Kris Russell has played hard but struggled at times. Could Kulikov, who thrived with P.K. Subban in New Jersey, play with someone like Ethan Bear?
Or, will Kulikov form a nasty shutdown pairing with veteran Adam Larsson. Larsson, after all, has had a rotating door on his left side all season long.
“He will bring a lot,” Larsson said of Edmonton’s newest defenseman on Tuesday. “Going into a last push here before the playoffs, you need depth and he’s a veteran guy that’s been in the playoffs a good amount of times. He knows what it takes, is a veteran presence and you can never have too much depth when going into a playoff run.”
Not only will Kulikov add depth, shutdown ability and penalty kill prowess to the group, but he’ll also be a strong option to pair up with Larsson. The Swede acknowledged the fact he’s had a few partners already this season and that Kulikov could be next in line.
“I’ve been having a lot of partners this year. Personally, it’s been working pretty good with most of them,” Larsson admitted. “Whoever he comes in and plays with, I’m sure we will all support him and help him the best we can to get right into our group and our systems. I haven’t really talked personally to anyone about how it’s going to look moving forward. I’ve played with Rusty (Kris Russell) the past couple of games and really liked that pairing. We just have to keep grinding away.”
While see if Larsson keeps grinding away with Russell, or if the big Russian becomes his new partner on the blueline.