by Lisa McRitchie on 10/07/13 at 10:45 AM ET
He’s back. The Nuge makes his long awaited, much anticipated, healthy return to the Edmonton Oilers’ lineup Monday night against the New Jersey Devils. No one, not one person could be more relieved than Taylor Hall, not even Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Hall has had a good run playing first line centre, but it’s not a role the young winger relishes, nor is it something that Hall could master during his short span to start the season.
It’s not that Taylor Hall couldn’t evolve to be the team’s first line centre, but the fact of the matter is that they have the Nuge, and they have Hall who is an excellent winger who enjoys the freedom of being a winger. And let’s face it, he’s a pretty good winger.
The return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, especially after Saturday night’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks, will be a relief to the entire line-up. RNH may not be the team captain, but it lightens the load for the other players, and allows for even more line shifting and shuffling, something that Eakins is not afraid to do on a constant basis.
Another piece to of the puzzle to be shuffled will be Brandon Davidson, defenceman called up from the AHL Oklahoma City Barons Sunday. Davidson’s recall was a surprise looking at the OKC roster, especially when there has been no announcement of injury to any of the Oilers’ defencemen. The unlucky Oscar Klefbom is close to returning, but is still injured after taking a puck to the ankle so was not expected to receive the call, Taylor Fedun and Philip Larsen impressed during pre-season and would have been logical calls, but it was Davidson who received the call. Clearly Davidson has impressed OKC head coach Todd Nelson and his coaching staff, we’ll see if he can do the same with the Oilers’ coaching staff.
Another player who has impressed, technically, is Jason LaBarbara. LaBarbara was sent in in relief for struggling Devan Dubnyk Saturday night against the Canucks. Dubnyk’s painfully slow start to the season is enough to make even the most patient fan in Edmonton panic. This was the year that Oilers’ GM Craig MacTavish gave Dubnyk to prove himself to be the team’s true number one starting goaltender moving forward. Two games in and that certainly isn’t what has happened. There is still time for Dubnyk to rebound and find his form, but games like Saturday night dig a hole that can be impossible to recover from.
The best news from Saturday night has to be that Labarbara is currently one of the league leaders! With a GAA of 0.00, LaBarbara has played 10 minutes more than Ben Scrivens of the LA Kings to claim the #1 position in the league. We'll learn more about coach Dallas Eakins Monday night once we see whether Dubnyk is given the third consecutive start, or whether he is given the night off. Dubnyk needs to redeem himself, will Eakins give him the opportunity after a night of rest or will Eakins "punish" Dubnyk by making him sit. It's a coin toss, but I think that Dubnyk starts.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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