Finally winning a game was the best news over the weekend for the Edmonton Oilers, but they received another boost in time for Tuesday’s road clash with the Vancouver Canucks.
Coming off Saturday’s 5-3 victory over the Calgary Flames, which snapped their seven-game losing skid, the Oilers expect center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in the lineup. Nugent-Hopkins, who has collected 26 points in 30 games, has missed six games due to a knee injury.
Zack Kassian is also slated to return after missing the last game. Nugent-Hopkins, Kassian and Brenden Perlini practiced as a line on Monday.
“Nuge is a leader in the room and does so many things out there that helps our team win hockey games,” Kassian said. “He’s on the penalty kill, on the power play, five-on-five. He chews up minutes and they’re all good minutes. When you get a guy like that back, it’s a huge bonus.”
The Oilers will still be without key forward Zach Hyman due to COVID protocol, as well as offensive defenseman Tyson Barrie, who has a couple of injuries to overcome, but with good luck they will have a chance to find their form to change their fortunes from the 3-11-2 slump.
“Just getting in the rhythm of playing some games in a row is going to be good for our group,” coach Dave Tippett said. “It just feels like we’ve been sitting around, haven’t been on the road in forever, and with COVID and injuries, guys have been in and out of the lineup. It’s been hard to get in any rhythm.”
Speaking of boosts, the Canucks will also likely receive one with No. 1 goalie Thatcher Demko expected to return after clearing protocol. Vancouver had its top three goalies in Demko, Jaroslav Halak and Spencer Martin sidelined when they lost 3-1 to the St. Louis Blues on Sunday.
Vancouver will still be without three of its best forwards in captain Bo Horvat, leading scorer J.T. Miller and Conor Garland, who are all in protocol. Barring more injuries, Canucks will have their best possible roster soon.
“I’m hoping,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “My fingers are crossed, hoping ‘OK, we’ve finished this part of our history of the Vancouver Canucks, let’s move on to something else.'”
Until that day, though, the Canucks will have to find the formula for winning games. Vancouver is battling through a 2-4-1 slump, with the lack of scoring a major issue — even though it’s not a surprise with those key forwards not on the ice. They have scored only 22 goals in the last 10 games.
“We played well (the last couple of games) and had chances, and I’d like to see us score on the power play, so it doesn’t feel good right now and I’m pretty sour,” said defenseman Quinn Hughes.
Off the ice, the Canucks made major news on Monday by hiring Emilie Castonguay as assistant general manager, only the second woman in league history to be hired for such a role. Castonguay, who has been a certified agent for more than five years, is a former NCAA player with Niagara who graduated with a finance degree before earning a law degree and passing the bar in Quebec. She will play a lead role in player contracts and negotiations.
–Field Level Media