LEDUC, AB - Prior to Oilers practice on Friday in Leduc, there were rumblings that the return of centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the lineup might come sooner rather than later.
However, when the group of local reporters after practice gathered around head coach Dallas Eakins nobody anticipated what the coach was going to say to lead off his media availability.
"I want to start off and say there's been some terrible reporting, people that think they have the inside scoop on Nugent-Hopkins, that he'll play next Saturday against Toronto or Thursday against Montreal and it's totally false," the head coach began. "He will play Monday against New Jersey."
The buzz all along was that RNH would return in November but Eakins reiterated his mantra that he tries to avoid timelines when it comes to injuries.
"It goes back to what I've tried to explain a few times on injuries," he said. "I think it's dangerous to put timelines on guys because one of two things happen. If we tell you four weeks and he comes back in two it's 'oh he's coming back too early' but if it turns into six weeks then somebody screwed up with the rehab."
Nugent-Hopkins said that he was excited and ready to play and contribute.
"I'm feeling really good," said Nugent-Hopkins. "The healing is done and my strength is up where it needs to be. Those were the two biggest things. Obviously I needed to get some contact in and I've had a couple weeks of that now. Everything is going really good."
RNH said the return is early but still within the range of expected recovery since his surgery was back on April 23.
"It's definitely a little bit earlier than I thought at first because usually they say five to six months but usually it's closer to six. The last month though is mostly getting your strength back and it's there now."
A player who had a similar surgery last season, Taylor Hall, was glad to see the return of his teammate.
"It's a really tough surgery, so it's really impressive he's able to come back this early," said Hall. "We're excited."
Eakins added that Nugent-Hopkins will likely take the warm-up in Vancouver on Saturday to try and get back into the game day routine.
"He's worked hard in practice, he's fit, he's ready to go. He's cleared by everybody in our organization now to return on that day."
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