Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a bobblehead. It’s not bad enough that he has a couple of cartoon-type nicknames in Hoppy and The Nuge now his coach has gone and called him a bobblehead. Quote-unquote. “The thing I like about Nuge is that he’s a bobblehead” said Dallas Eakins after practice Wednesday to prepare for tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens. “I ask him to do something and he nods his head” explained Eakins. “And not only does he nod his head but he goes out and does it.” In Nugent-Hopkins’s first game back for shoulder surgery Eakins asked him to play 28 minutes and 12 seconds. It was more than any player on either team. “I don’t think I ever played 28 minutes before. I don’t remember that many minutes in junior. Maybe 25. But I have no idea. They never showed us our ice-time numbers” he said of the Red Deer Rebels. Eakins asked Nugent-Hopkins to play extra shifts. “He double-shifted and triple-shifted me” marveled the returning centre. “The notion of any player to go through his summer and the training camp coming off an injury to go ‘Oh I’ll take a couple games and ease back in it …’ We don’t have that time. One point could cost you a playoff spot” said Eakins. “He certainly didn’t ease himself into that game with his play. And his play merited his minutes.” His coach asked him to kill penalties. “I didn’t kill penalties in junior. I haven’t done it since midget. But I enjoyed it.” said The Nuge. “I have to work at it to get better at it positionally. It’s a different role for me but I’d go back out and embrace it.” Eakins plans to give him further tastes of it. “He’s a smart kid. It takes some intelligence in the penalty kill and he’s somebody that we’re definitely going to try there. I think he can be real successful at it. “He reads the game well. As much offence as I think he can provide I think he’s got a lot of Boyd Gordon in him too. He’s always underneath the puck. He understands at his age how the game needs to be played. And usually that takes a while to gather in your brain. He’s getting to it quite early in his career. “He’s done everything we asked of him. During training camp there was only certain things he could do. We asked him to do certain things off the ice. To skate on the ice. And everything was geared for when he was healed and healed by the doctors that we could put him right in.” Will Nugent-Hopkins who scored the goal to get the comeback started against New Jersey be looking at those kind of minutes again against the Canadiens? “It depends on the game. Boy you get down 3-0 and you gotta do something. So I took the players that I deemed could even the game for us and I ran the crap out of them” said Eakins. “I would rather be in games where we were up 3-0 that we could even up the ice time and no run people into the ground but that’s the challenge of the player though. That’s where players in the summer have to think about how they train how they fuel their body and how they recover because you never know when that ice time is coming. “My question to some of our players after the game was ‘You played so many minutes. What if we played the next night? Could you play that many minutes again? And could you play at that same level?’ Sometimes you have to do it in three games over five days. You have to do it over an 82-game schedule. Or get into the playoffs.” “If I had to do it again every night for 82 games I might be a little bit tired” said Nugent-Hopkins. “But I’d be happy to do it again.
Eakins making use of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can-do attitude
Edmonton Sun | Oct 10