Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will miss five to six weeks with cracked ribs, the team announced Friday.
The Oilers placed the 24-year-old on the injured reserve list on Thursday but delivered the general timeline Friday. Edmonton has been in the midst of a six-day break and hasn’t played since January 13, which was when the injury took place.
Nugent-Hopkins was injured late in the second period of the Oilers’ 3-2 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights.
“You can make an argument who our key go-to guy has been this year,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Obviously, Connor [McDavid] is having a pretty good year individually and there are some others, but I would throw [Nugent-Hopkins] right up there.”
Nugent-Hopkins has 31 points in 46 games this season, which puts him third on the team in scoring and makes him one of the club’s most viable centres.
“He’s been trustworthy in every situation,” said McLellan. “He’s given us valuable minutes. He’s improved his game, which isn’t easy to do. After you’ve been in the league for five or six years, you kind of get accustomed to doing things. He’s improved immensely, I think, and he means a lot to our team.”
Right now, it looks like Ryan Strome will have a chance to benefit. He’ll take the spot on the third line down the middle. At Friday’s practice, he centred Jujhar Khaira and Michael Cammalleri. Strome also practiced on the power play unit with McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Milan Lucic, and Darnell Nurse.
The injury to Nugent-Hopkins means that Draisaitl will have to resume playing down the middle, too. The coach had been having some luck with him on the wing with McDavid at centre, but some shuffling is in order.
“We finally got some offence going with Leon up on the wing again,” McLellan said. “We’ve got to put him back in the middle. We’ll see what we get from the rest of the crew.”
Forward Iiro Pakarinen has been called up from Bakersfield to replace Nugent-Hopkins when the Oilers play the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.