The expectations are clear for new Edmonton Oiler David Desharnais. Play third line centre. Be strong on the puck. Be a playmaker.
If the team continues on its current path towards its first playoff berth since 2006, Desharnais will have to help in other ways, too. With 38 post-season games to his credit, he’s played in the third-most playoff games of any current Oiler (Lucic 101, Pouliot 54).
“I don’t talk too much, but I talk with my play and I talk when I’m on the ice,” said Desharnais, who practiced with the Oilers for the first time on Thursday.
“He has played a lot of games in an environment that can be stressful,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “He’s been in the playoffs and had some success and failed as a team, not as an individual. He brings that to our locker room. We don’t have a lot of that.”
Desharnais’ addition will give McLellan some flexibility with his lineup. It makes it easier for him to leave Leon Draisaitl as the first-line right winger with Connor McDavid, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Desharnais, and Mark Letestu filling the other centre spots.
“Smallish guy, but he competes. He goes to dirty areas, comes up with pucks, and uses his speed,” said Letestu of Desharnais. “He’s a good pickup for us.”
The line combinations at practice were:
Maroon – McDavid – Draisaitl
Lucic – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Slepyshev – Desharnais – Kassian
Hendricks – Letestu – Khaira
Benoit Pouliot, Iiro Pakarinen, and Drake Caggiula rotated in as the extra wingers.
The Oilers will open up an eight-game homestand Saturday against the Detroit Red Wings. (jrw)