Oilers-Stars Game 3 Notebook: Henrique’s return gives McLeod a reset

NHL insider Elliotte Friedman joins the Jeff Marek Show to weigh in on the Oilers' decision to scratch Ryan McLeod in favour of Adam Henrique and why that choice could work as a shot in the arm for the young forward in hopes that he finds his form.

EDMONTON — We’re not sure what’s bigger news: That Adam Henrique steps back into the Edmonton Oilers lineup for Game 3, or that Ryan McLeod is the one being taken out of the lineup.

For now, however, the veteran trade deadline acquisition will step into the third line between Derek Ryan and Warren Foegele, while McLeod will get the ol’ Stuart Skinner re-set. A chance to watch a game or two, on a playoff journey that has seen McLeod go without a goal through 26 games the last two springs.

“It’s a re-set,” head coach Kris Knoblauch said. “Clouder is going to be part of this team, whether he comes in the next game, or…. We’re going to see him sooner than later.”

McLeod has provided zero offence as a third-line centre, with 0-0-0 in 14 playoff games. His work on the penalty kill has been good and his foot speed is a nice add to the Oilers’ lineup, but eventually a 3C needs to provide some offence and McLeod’s lines have been dormant through three rounds.

He’s not driving a thing offensively.

“Five-on-five he hasn’t been playing quite like he had been in the middle part of the season, January and February. It’s important he get a re-set,” Knoblauch said.

So, in comes Henrique, who limped through one ineffective game in Round 2 against Vancouver after injuring an ankle in Round 1 versus the Los Angeles Kings. He’s a veteran with far better hands — if slower feet — than McLeod, and a guy who has to be somewhere in this lineup if healthy.

“Penalty kill, even strength, face offs — he helps a lot,” said Connor McDavid. “Definitely somebody that we’ve missed.”

Henrique, 34, will be playing some catch-up. He’s played just one game since May 2, missing eight to injury.

“Jumping in the lineup, you have to find your own way, and find where you can be a difference-maker,” he said. “Watching from up top, it’s a different point of view. Things tend to slow down up top, and you can see a lot of plays.

“It’s certainly nerve-wracking watching from there, and it’s going to be nice to be back.”

Robertson just fine

Stars regular season scoring leader Jason Robertson is on a significant goalless streak of late, but head coach Pete DeBoer isn’t worried in the least.

“I know he hasn’t scored in 10 games but he’s a point-a-game player in the NHL,” said DeBoer of the 24-year-old Californian, who has three goals and 13 points in 15 playoff games this spring.

“He’s still contributing.”

To his point, Robertson has eight assists in that 10-game stretch, which included a five-game assist streak.   

“He’s ‘going,'” said DeBoer.  “He doesn’t need to ‘get going.’

“I think any coach in the league would take a point a game guy this time of year, especially with the trio of teams we’ve had to go through, how tough defensively Vegas was and Colorado.”

Robertson, who led the team with 29 goals and 80 points in the regular season, could get a huge boost as early as Game 3 Monday night if Roope Hintz returns to the lineup from an upper-body injury.

Hintz skated Monday morning with the team and was deemed a game-time decision by DeBoer.

If he plays, you can assume he’ll be reunited with Robertson on the top line, which should help both players.

“Roope helps anybody, on any line he’s on, or any special team,” said DeBoer of the team’s underrated first-line centre, who had 30 goals this season and had four points against Colorado in Game 2 of that series before going down with an injury two games later.

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Deal with it

What’s the biggest difference between a young team making its first playoff voyage, and an Oilers team that is playing its eighth series in the past three springs?

It’s the emotions. The swings. The realization that bad things are going to happen, and it doesn’t have to turn your world upside down the way it may have a of couple years ago for Edmonton.

“Sometimes you can play perfect defence, but there are such skilled players in the playoffs (that) you just can’t defend,” said Mattias Ekholm, a stable, veteran leader in this Oilers dressing room. “It’s all about the response — you just can’t sit and think about it too much.

“I feel like we’ve done a good job of turning pages, whether it comes in games or between games. You’re going to get scored on in the playoffs. That’s just a fact. It’s all about how you respond to it. Not wavering too much from your plan.”

That plan can sometimes include line matching, or trying to get certain forwards out against a particular defensive pairing. But as the playoffs wear on, we’ve learned over the years, those matchups often can sometimes become less and less impactful.

“Against a team like Dallas, I mean, what matchups are you really looking for?” asked McDavid. “They’ve got four lines that can play, they’ve got six d-men that can play. What matchups are you really looking for? I don’t think we’re matchup chasing.”

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Stars travel well

The Stars were the NHL’s best road team this season and have continued that by going 5-1 away from American Airlines Center this spring.

As far as why, look no further than the depth on a roster that is unmatched in the NHL, making line matchups a moot point, even with the superstars in Edmonton’s lineup. 

“We roll four lines at home and on the road and I think that’s what’s made us successful this year is that we can do that,” said captain Jamie Benn. “We’re confident with whoever we can put on the ice.

“We love coming into hostile territories and playing our game.

“We feel our road game is pretty good. Obviously this will be a tough test tonight, with these guys and their fans.”

The Oilers are 4-2 at home so far in these playoffs.

How They Line Up


Nugent-Hopkins McDavid Hyman
Holloway Draisaitl Kane
Foegele Henrique Ryan
Janmark Carrick Brown

Ekholm Bouchard
Nurse Desharnais
Kulak Ceci



Robertson Johnston Stankoven
Marchment Duchene Pavelski
Benn Seguin Dadonov
Dellandrea Steel Smith

Harley Heiskanen
Lindell Tanev
Suter Petrovic


* lines could change if Hintz returns

You can watch Game 3 on Sportsnet and Sportsnet+ beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET/ 6:30 p.m. MT.

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