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Nugent-Hopkins back for Oilers, to skate with Yakupov

by John Manasso

NASHVILLE -- After missing two games with strep throat, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will return to the lineup for the Edmonton Oilers on Monday when they visit the Nashville Predators and it looks like he will have new linemates.

"Feeling strong and feeling like my energy's back," Nugent-Hopkins said.

Nugent-Hopkins centered a line during the morning skate with Nail Yakupov and Ryan Smith. Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger said the combination was in part an effort to get Yakupov going.

The rookie, the first pick at the 2012 NHL Draft, has gone 12 straight games without a goal. Furthermore, Yakupov only has five shots in his last five games, including two in which he did not register a shot at all.

"Nail is a good example of somebody who's really played well in the last while in his role on the team and he wants to put those numbers up and he's working hard for that, but mathematics is something all of us need to work on," Krueger said. "Increasing the shot clock, it's no secret to anybody out there watching and all of you know it's something we need to work on especially in games."

The Oilers are currently carrying 24 players and will have to make a roster move. Krueger said that forward Teemu Hartikainen would go back to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League to make room for Nugent-Hopkins.

On defense, veteran Ryan Whitney will be a healthy scratch for the first time since Feb. 28 when he missed the last of four straight games. Krueger said that decision would be made game by game. Theo Peckham also will sit out, making the third pair Corey Potter and Mark Fistric.

Magnus Paajarvi - Sam Gagner - Jordan Eberle

Taylor Hall - Shawn Horcoff - Ales Hemsky

Ryan Smith - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Nail Yakupov

Ryan Jones - Eric Belanger - Mike Brown/Lennart Petrell

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry

Nick Schultz - Justin Schultz

Mark Fistric - Corey Potter

Devan Dubnyk

Nikolai Khabibulin

Out: Ryan Whitney, Theo Peckham, Lennart Petrell/Mike Brown

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