The Edmonton Oilers will welcome back Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to their lineup tonight when they play host to the New Jersey Devils. With the club still looking for their first win of the young NHL season, the Oilers are thrilled to have their top centreman return ahead of schedule.
Rather, that would have to come in the form of a defenseman and a top-two variety in particular. It has only been two games but already we are seeing the same blown coverage in their own end that continuously haunted the Oilers last season. Unless RNH can convert his wicked offensive game and become a shutdown defender, this club will still lack the piece that they need the most; defense.
There are plenty of positives to having RNH back in the Oiler’s lineup, don’t get me wrong. He helps solidify the centre position that was trembling of weakness that led to turnovers, that resulted in goals against.
Taylor Hall can finally return to the left wing, his natural position and clearly where he is most comfortable. He says he’d play centre again if head coach Dallas Eakins asked him to, but let’s all hope that Nugent-Hopkins’ shoulder stays strong and Sam Gagner returns soon so we don’t have to watch Hall play up the middle any more.
The ‘kid’ line is reunited which should bring instant excitement when they’re on the ice. RNH, Hall and Jordan Eberle just have a sense of playing together that makes it fun to watch but also terrorizes the opposing defense. If the Oilers can’t keep the puck out of their own net then maybe this line will kick-start the offense and they’ll win the game the way the teams of the 80’s won; by grossly outscoring their opponents.
But alas we again mention the defensive weakness of this team. It’s unavoidable and is as obvious as the nose on your face. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will bring a spark to the Oilers and in all likelihood provide a sigh of relief to many fans, but he’s not the knight to ride in on a white horse, throw this team on his back and dash into the playoffs. No, sadly that knight has yet to be determined and while he does exist, currently playing for another NHL club, it’s unknown if he’ll make his way to Edmonton and saddle up that horse to play savior.
All we know now is that Nugent-Hopkins will not play that role. He will most definitely help this club but the bigger issues are out of his control.
Welcome back Nuge, how we’ve missed you.