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Nugent-Hopkins returns to Oilers' lineup

by Derek Van Diest /

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers are moving Taylor Hall back to the wing, reuniting their top line and sitting Ryan Smyth as they host the New Jersey Devils on Monday at Rexall Place.

They also are starting backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera in an attempt to earn their first win of the season.

The game marks the return of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, back nearly four weeks earlier than expected from April shoulder surgery. He'll center the Oilers' top line, with Hall on the left and Jordan Eberle on the right wing.

"I feel great," Nugent-Hopkins said. "I'm excited. It's going to be fun. I need to get involved early, I know that. There is going to be some good energy in the building for sure. As far as the team standpoint, you have to get off to a good start and keep playing for 60 minutes."

Nugent-Hopkins' return brought an end to the Hall experiment at center, which saw the first pick of the 2010 NHL Draft total one assist and a minus-5 rating in the Oilers' first two games.

"It's almost kind of like a fresh start for myself," Hall said. "It's a good way to think of it for our team as well. Our first two games weren't our best and we know that. There are a lot of things that we have to fix, but all it takes is a couple of shifts or a good period to get ourselves feeling good and get ourselves back on track.

"I'm excited to be back on left wing and we're all excited to have [Nugent-Hopkins] back. It's a huge addition for our group, and hopefully now we can start getting the ball rolling."

In order to make room on the left side of the top line for Hall, the Oilers will sit Smyth, who becomes a healthy scratch for the second time since returning to the club from the Los Angeles Kings.

"It's all about attitude, how you deal with it and how you go forward with it," Smyth said. "You have to try and encourage everyone in this locker room. That's just the way it is. I think everybody knows that I'm a competitor and I want to play. I have a lot of fight left in me.

"It's easy to say that I'm a little bit older, but I felt really good in training camp and I have a lot to prove here."

On the other side, the Devils, who have 22 sets of back-to-back games this season, will start Martin Brodeur in goal, allowing Cory Schneider to face his former Vancouver Canucks teammates Tuesday.

The Devils also are looking for their first win of the season after opening the season 0-1-1. They are 6-1-1 in their last eight visits to Edmonton.

"We haven't gotten off to the start we wanted, but it's a good dressing room," Devils forward Damien Brunner said. "I think if we stick to our system and play hard every night, then we can beat any team. We have really good goaltending, which gives us a chance to win every night."

Here are the lineups the teams likely will use Monday:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

David Perron - Boyd Gordon - Ales Hemsky

Ryan Hamilton - Mark Arcobello - Nail Yakupov

Luke Gazdic - Will Acton - Mike Brown

Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz

Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry

Nick Schultz - Anton Belov

Jason LaBarbera

Devan Dubnyk

Scratched: Ryan Smyth, Brandon Davidson

Injured: Sam Gagner (jaw), Steve MacIntyre (knee), Denis Grebeshkov (knee), Jesse Joensuu (back)


Dainius Zubrus - Patrik Elias - Jaromir Jagr

Adam Henrique - Travis Zajac - Michael Ryder

Ryane Clowe - Andrei Loktionov - Damien Brunner

Ryan Carter - Stephen Gionta - Steve Bernier

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene - Adam Larsson

Anton Volchenkov - Peter Harrold

Martin Brodeur

Cory Schneider

Scratched: Jacob Josefson, Rostislav Olesz

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