The Edmonton Oilers will get over losing 6-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight. It’s the loss of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that’s going to leave a mark if the prized rookie is out for any length of time.
Nugent-Hopkins aggravated the left shoulder that kept him out of 13 games on a hit by Mike Brown of the Maple Leafs, and the question as the team makes its way to Detroit for a rematch with the Red Wings Wednesday is how badly he damaged it and how long he’ll be out of the line-up
"I know he’s aggravated his shoulder," said assistant coach Steve Smith. "I don’t think it’s as bad as it was before, but we’ll get an assessment of it in the next hour or so from the trainers."
Any momentum the Oilers built with three straight wins and by taking points in five straight games (4-0-1) came to a screeching halt in a mistake-filled effort against the Maple Leafs. That’s secondary, though, to the question of how long they’ll have to make due without Nugent-Hopkins.
Associate coach Ralph Krueger, filling in for Tom Renney behind the bench after he was cut by a wayward puck in the head during the morning skate, suggested keeping Nugent-Hopkins out of the game was "precautionary."
We’ll have to wait until the team gathers at Joe Louis Arena to skate Tuesday morning to get an update on Nugent-Hopkins, but shoulders are tricky and if it’s aggravated by the first real contact he took on it in his second game back, chances are the news won’t be good.
WHILE I’M AT IT
— Right on cue, predictably, questions began right after the game about whether Nugent-Hopkins was back in the line-up too soon. Fair comment, given the shoulder has been aggravated by a hit that was solid but not anything out of the ordinary. Still, I’m thinking it’s a stretch to make the leap to Nugent-Hopkins being rushed back into action.
— Speaking of stretches, there are those who are suggesting Nugent-Hopkins was injured because he’s not ready to take the physical pounding of the NHL. This, as an example, from veteran scribe Adrian Dater of the Denver Post on Twitter: "This was always the danger with RNH — needs to get bigger, stronger. Shoulders too slight to take the hitting now in NHL."
— Why didn’t the Oilers raise a fuss about the perfectly good goal by Ryan Smyth that was called off? The puck wasn’t covered when Smyth shoveled it into the net. It was a blown call, plain and simple, but I didn’t see a whole lot of protesting by the Oilers – not that it would have changed the call. Show some fire.
— Devan Dubnyk needs a rest after six straight starts and he’ll get it against the Red Wings. Dubnyk has allowed 13 goals in his last three games, including too many softies for my liking, despite winning two of those. Nikolai Khabibulin will, and should, get the call against Detroit.
— Cam Barker struggled mightily and looked very much like the defensive mess that prompted the Minnesota Wild to buy him out last summer against the Maple Leafs. Barker was standing around without his stick on one goal and he was guilty of a giveaway on another.
— Jeff Petry, on the other hand, was terrific.