Edmonton Oilers: Breaking down chances of James Neal returning tonight

Edmonton Oilers, James Neal #18 (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers, James Neal #18 (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) /

If it’s one thing to know about left winger James Neal, is that he is the true definition of resilience. The man has been dealing with a plethora of injuries and lingering problems involving his ankle, shoulder, and toes but he still kept at it. On top of it all, he, unfortunately, caught COVID-19 late last year.

Thankfully, Neal did everything that needed to be done to heal up, self-quarantine to beat this virus, and work his way back into playing form. All signs indicated that he’s ready to go and could very well make his season debut later on tonight when the Oilers face the Toronto Maple Leafs on their home turf.

In an article written by Jason Gregor of Oilers Nation, he confirmed that Neal has indeed been practicing with the Oilers, including first-team reps during Power Play situations. Head coach Dave Tippett more than likely saw enough to determine to at least see some playing time tonight.

The Edmonton Oilers would love to get James Neal back

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Ideally, it would be best of course to not rush Neal in but slowly use him when it’s needed most. It’s no secret that the Oilers have had some woes when it came to scoring Power Play goals as having Neal back would undoubtedly help the cause.

It must have been a great sight to see Neal back on the ice and rejoining his teammates where it matters most. Hopefully, he’ll make his season debut tonight since it wouldn’t make sense to not at least give him a few minutes on the ice to put the Oilers in a position to win two straight games against the Maple Leafs.

Even Neal is excited about getting back into the swing of things. In that article written by Gregor, here’s what he had to say about how he’s feeling heading into tonight’s game:

"“I feel good,” said an upbeat Neal over the phone after practice. “Any hockey player would say they aren’t in game shape until they get in a few games, but I feel good. I had some good practices working with Wise (Brian Wiseman), Gully (Glen Gulutzan) and the taxi squad.”"

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Overall, the Oilers will continue using their “one game at a time” mentality as so far, it’s been working. Their last matchup against the Maple Leafs might have been boring but at the end of the day, a win is a win. Hopefully, they can win even more hockey games with Neal healthy and ready to make an impact in his return.