Mired in a long losing streak to close 2018, the Edmonton Oilers shook things up again.
After swinging two deals to shore up a depleted blueline, the Oilers look to avoid their sixth straight loss Monday night against the visiting Winnipeg Jets.
Despite two goals from captain Connor McDavid, Edmonton's slide continued Saturday with a 7-4 setback to the San Jose Sharks. Even though McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have combined for more than 45 percent of the Oilers' points this season, head coach Ken Hitchcock, who took over behind the bench six weeks ago, continues to tout the need for grit over glitz.
"When you play with skill, you play with high risk and we're not built that way," he said Sunday. "When we get down a goal or we get down two goals, we've tried to break it wide open, and now we're down three or four goals."
The losing streak has helped drop Edmonton (18-17-3) into 11th place in the Western Conference.
"If you're going to continue to collect points, you're going to have to defend," Hitchcock said. "In this conference, you can't skill your way through games. You've got to work your way through games."
Hitchcock's comments came after the Oilers acquired Alex Petrovic from the Florida Panthers for blueliner Chris Wideman and a conditional third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. Petrovic had one assist in 26 games with the Panthers this season and is well-known to Nugent-Hopkins.
"Big body, can really shoot the puck and he's a smart player who knows when to move it and jump up in the play," Nugent-Hopkins said of his juniors teammate, adding that Petrovic plays with an edge.
Hitchcock said Petrovic will make his team "sturdier" as the Oilers' defensive corps has been decimated by injuries. Kris Russell could be back Monday from an undisclosed injury that's sidelined him since Dec. 11, but high-scoring Oscar Klefbom (hand) will be out for up to another month.
Later on Sunday, Edmonton picked up defenseman Brandon Manning and prospect Robin Norrell from the Chicago Blackhawks for forward Drake Caggiula and blueliner Jason Garrison. Now in his seventh season, Manning had three points in only 27 games with Chicago after career highs of seven goals and 12 assists with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2017-18.
Three years ago, Manning and McDavid were involved in a hard collision along the end boards in Philadelphia. McDavid, then a rookie, missed almost three months with a broken collarbone.
Winnipeg (24-12-2) will also have to get by without a key on defense after Dustin Byfuglien suffered a lower-body injury during a 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday. Byfuglien, who has four goals and 25 assists, won't need surgery but is expected to be out until after next month's All-Star break.
"We're going to miss the guy, for sure, in almost every facet of your game -- size, physicality, offense, zone time; If it gets a little wobbly out there, calming a game down," head coach Paul Maurice said. "But we've got other men who can each do a piece of what Dustin does."
The Jets, who are tied with the Calgary Flames atop the West, have won seven of their last eight on the road. Maurice said the Oilers shouldn't be taken lightly despite not winning since Dec. 14.
"Anybody on the outside [of the top eight in the conference] now is going to fight like playoff hockey right until the All-Star break," he said.
Maurice could also be calling on the Jets to take up that mindset as they've been held to one goal in each of their last three games and four of the past five. Patrik Laine leads the team with 24 goals but has only three in December, while Mark Scheifele (22 goals) scored once in his last five games.
Heading into the finale of the season series, Winnipeg is 4-0-1 in its last five meetings with Edmonton.