At the Edmonton Oilers morning skate on Thursday, two of the team’s more promising players were on the ice as they recover from injuries. Both Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were skating with the team in hopes of preparing themselves for a return to game action.
Nugent-Hopkins will be the first of the two to return following shoulder surgery last spring. The initial timetable had RNH rejoining the Oilers in late October or early November with the emphasis being on not rushing him back and re-injuring his repaired shoulder.
Seeing Nugent-Hopkins on the ice isn’t a surprise granted he’s been skating with his teammates for a while now. But the promising part was learning that he was taking part in full contact drills courtesy of Bob Stauffer, via Twitter.
Oilers in a heavy compete drill in practice lots of contact and @RNH_93 fully in the fray
— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) October 3, 2013
This is great news for the Oilers and likely means that Nugent-Hopkins isn’t far away from lacing up his skates and making his season debut. A debut that will be long anticipated with the Oilers desperately needing the highly skilled centreman back in their lineup.
As far as Gagner goes, there is still no word on when he’ll return to game action. Having him practice is a great first step in getting his legs and lungs back into shape but he still has a long road to recovery.
Earlier this week Gagner spoke to the media and stated that he hopes to return sooner than the doctors originally forecast. A broke jaw of Gagner’s magnitude typically requires a 6-8 week recovery period and the young Oilers forward is hoping to cut it down to a 4-5 week window. If this is the case we could see number 89 in the lineup as early as the end of October as opposed to the middle or late November.
Of course this is pure speculation and when reading about the severity of Gagner’s broken jaw, it’s extremely optimistic to think so. Having to have a metal plate and several screws inserted into his jaw, Gagner has to wait for the bone to “get sticky” and heal before being able to take any type of contact. If he comes back to soon and takes a heavy hit to the jaw, the bone is susceptible to re-breaking and is more prone to do so with the plate in it. At least that’s the way it was described in the Edmonton Journal, courtesy of Jim Matheson.
Suddenly the urge to rush Gagner back to the lineup isn’t so important when considering the long-term implications of a re-injuring the jaw.