After his last practice as an auxiliary part a routine Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has endured for a couple of weeks Edmonton Oilers teammate Ryan Smyth delivered a couple of sprightly checks. The star centre will return to the lineup on Monday when the Oilers host the New Jersey Devils at Rexall Place. “Yeah a couple of guys were giving it to me just to see how it felt” said Nugent-Hopkins who was the centre of attention on Friday. He travelled with the Oilers to Vancouver where he is expected to take part in the warm-up just to get back into the routine then he’ll prepare for the Devils’ game. The Oilers are 0-1 after an opening-day 5-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The Canucks are also 0-1. Nugent-Hopkins last played on April 19 then had surgery four days later to repair his left shoulder. The long-range return date was Nov. 1 but he has been taking part in practices for a couple of weeks and passed the required medical inspections. He even flew into Cleveland to see his surgeon earlier this week. “It’s definitely a little earlier than first thought because they say five to six months and then it’s usually closer to six. The last month is about getting your strength back and it’s there now” said the Oilers’ 2011 No. 1 draft pick who signed a seven-year $42-million contract extension last month. “It’s awesome that I only have to miss a couple of games. The biggest thing is that I’m confident with it right now. I wouldn’t come back if I wasn’t.” Nugent-Hopkins said again on Friday that he wasn’t fast-tracking his return because Sam Gagner was knocked out of the lineup after getting hit in the face by Canucks forward Zack Kassian’s stick during a pre-season game on Sept. 21. Nugent-Hopkins said he had reported to training camp hopeful he’d be back soon. Kassian is still serving a suspension for his careless act against Gagner and will not play against the Oilers on Saturday. Gagner who suffered a broken jaw on the play has started skating but will not return to practice until the fracture has set. “It was tough seeing Gags get hurt like that and obviously it was a big hit to the team but as far as I was concerned I had to make sure I was 100 per cent ready no matter what” said Nugent-Hopkins. “It’s definitely a bonus I am coming back early.
Nugent-Hopkins set to return to Oilers lineup on Monday
Edmonton Journal | Oct 5