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'He's helped me': Oilers' Bouchard blossoming since arrival of new partner Ekholm

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Getting more power play time with some of the best hockey players on the planet has certainly helped but Evan Bouchard also credited a new teammate Wednesday for his recent resurgence.

The 23-year-old Edmonton Oilers defenceman is playing more – and putting up more points – since being paired with Mattias Ekholm on March 1 against Toronto.

Bouchard has nine points in 10 games since then and is averaging more than 21 minutes of ice time.

Prior to playing with Ekholm, and taking over for Tyson Barrie on the top power play unit, he had 21 points in 61 games and averaged about 17 minutes per game.

"The more you play, the more confident you are, the more confident you feel," Bouchard told reporters Wednesday.

"And to have a partner there like [Ekholm] supporting me, it really makes me feel more confident in how I want to play to my abilities and he's helped me out a lot."

Ekholm has also played better since joining Bouchard.

After recording just one assist in his previous 10 games with the Nashville Predators, Ekholm has nine points in 10 games as an Oiler.

The big defenceman, known more for shutting down skilled opponents, also scored two goals Monday night in a 5-4 overtime win against San Jose.

"He's definitely a great teammate. He's a presence out there. You kinda know when he's on the ice, physical play, steadiness, even the offensive contributions," Bouchard said.

"Last game he was massive offensively and defensively and I think it's really paying off here with the team."

After Barrie was included in the Feb. 28 trade for Ekholm, head coach Jay Woodcroft said the team needed Bouchard to step up and play more. He has, with solid results.

"Ekholm's effect on Bouchard, that can't be lost on anybody. I think that pairing has been very good. They've been moving pucks," he told reporters.

"We know what we're getting every day from Mattias Ekholm. I think, as a coach, there's comfort in understanding someone's level of consistency like that. He's come as advertised and as expected."

The Oilers power play has not been as successful so far with Bouchard in Barrie's place, so Woodcroft pointed out there's room for improvement.

"But what I like about it is, with our power play not clicking at its usual rate, we still found a way to find ourselves 8-2. So that's a good thing," Woodcroft said.

The Oilers have won four straight games heading into Wednesday night's game against the Arizona Coyotes who are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games.

Edmonton (40-23-8) faces off against Arizona (27-33-11) shortly after 8:30 p.m. MT at Rogers Place.

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