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Bouchard on scoring pace unseen for an Oilers defenceman since the 1980s

Edmonton Oilers' Evan Bouchard, second rom right, celebrates an overtime goal with teammates Leon Draisaitl (10) and Derek Ryan (11) during the third period an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars in Dallas, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero) Edmonton Oilers' Evan Bouchard, second rom right, celebrates an overtime goal with teammates Leon Draisaitl (10) and Derek Ryan (11) during the third period an NHL hockey game against the Dallas Stars in Dallas, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Evan Bouchard is on a roll that the Edmonton Oilers haven't seen since the 1980s.

The 24-year-old defenceman is on pace to score a point a game this National Hockey League season, a level a defenceman playing for the Oilers hasn't reached since Paul Coffey recorded 67 points in 59 games played in the 1986-87 season.

Heading into Wednesday's 8 p.m. game against the visiting Boston Bruins, Bouchard has scored 14 goals and 39 assists for 53 points in 52 games played to sit fifth among NHL defencemen.

That's good enough for seventh on the Oilers' all-time top scoring performances in a season. He's three points behind Chris Pronger's 56 points from 2005-06. Coffey holds the top six positions on the list, including a team record 138 points (48 goals, 90 assists) in 1985-86.

Bouchard scored 40 points last season in 82 games played, 43 the season before in 81 games.

Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch says he's been nothing but impressed by Bouchard's play both offensively and defensively ever since he took over behind the bench in mid-November and that the blueliner's stats "say a lot about how he is playing."

"Sometimes numbers lie, but this one, it definitely doesn't," Knoblauch told media on Wednesday at Rogers Place after the team's morning skate.

He said Bouchard's success goes beyond being "able to move the puck up really well" and unleashing a shot -- be it a so-called 'Bouch bomb' slap shot or what Knoblauch called "little sifters" of a wrist shot -- from the point.

"His defensive details are good," Knoblauch said. "His feet are moving. He's able to check a lot better. Him and Ekholm have done a heck of a job on that aspect of it."

Oilers star and captain Connor McDavid told reporters he thinks Bouchard, who's on pace to score more than 20 goals this season, should shoot more often.

"We tell him when he gets a chance to shoot it, he should pull the trigger," McDavid said. "Nobody shoots it quite like he does. That being said, he's such a smart player and you can see his playmaking ability, too, and he uses it as a deception now and then to make another great play."

A modest Bouchard says team success reflects on individual success.

"When the team's doing good, individuals usually do good and that's kind of what's happening right now," he said to media.

Bruins a big test

Edmonton has hit a more challenging part of their schedule, with seven of their next 10 games against teams either in a playoff position or within three points of one.

Two of those games are against the Bruins, who with a record of 33-12-11 for 77 points, were tied for second -- one point out of first -- in the Eastern Conference and third in the overall league standings heading into Wednesday's game.

The Oilers come into the contest sixth in the Western Conference with 67 points but with four games in hand on Boston.

Knoblauch says there's "no secret" to the Bruins' success both this season and long-term.

"Their special teams are very good, their five-on-five play is very structured," said Knoblauch, adding he's expecting Wednesday's game to be similar to Edmonton's recent overtime win over the Dallas Stars.

"You look at the teams that have success for a long period of time, special teams, goaltending and structure five-on-five. I anticipate it's going to be a very similar game to what we saw in Dallas: a very structured game. There were very limited opportunities five-on-five. What opportunities there were were on the power play for each team."

McDavid said he's impressed with the Bruins' ability to sustain a high level of play despite changes to personnel.

"Obviously, they've done such a good job year after year building a winning culture, and it shows," he said.

"They lose a big part of their team in those two centremen (Bergeron and Krejci) and they bring in guys and continue rolling along. It's really impressive."

Notes

  • Knoblauch said a recent dip in the Oilers' fortunes while killing penalties is due to positioning. "Right now, I just see so many of our sticks in the high lane instead of the low lane. A defenceman stepping out, probably being a little too passive instead of getting out an extra two or three feet to get in the shooting lane, he's a little bit passive, which allows a shot."
  • Oilers are two wins away from setting a new franchise home winning streak record. The current mark is nine, which was set twice (2016-17 and 2021-22). Edmonton's last home loss came Dec. 16 against the Florida Panthers, starting their current winning run at Rogers Place on Jan. 2, a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.
  • Top 6 Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is questionable for Wednesday's game as he's sick, Knoblauch said.

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