On Monday night in Sunrise, the Oilers lost one of their top forwards as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins suffered a hand injury while blocking a Panthers point shot with his glove.
On Tuesday morning in Tampa, Head Coach Todd McLellan announced the centremen had returned to Edmonton for examination and will be sidelined six to eight weeks.
RNH’s unfortunate injury has flared up the debate around shot-blocking, from its purpose, to its technique, to which players should be doing it.
“It’s an occupational hazard of how young players block shots now,” Coach McLellan said. “You have to give every one of them credit for wanting to be in the lane and establishing the fact that they’re willing to do it. But the way young players block shots now, they lower their hands to the ice and in that range. We’re going to see more and more hand injuries. Not just the Oilers, the whole league.”
The bench boss said shot-blocking used to be a horizontal body approach, rather than vertical.
“Players used to come out, lay down and line their shin pads up,” he said. “Now, you come out and go down to one knee and you open up your hands. Players are putting themselves in that situation, but you’ve got to give them credit for wanting to block them.”
The coach added RNH was a victim of circumstance in a way. His injury occurred during an Oilers penalty kill, while he was filling in for Lauri Korpikoski, who, ironically enough, blocked a shot on Saturday vs. Calgary and injured his foot. Korpikoski won’t play on Tuesday in Tampa Bay either but could return Thursday in Dallas.
READ IT AGAIN: Check out our in-depth piece on the hazards, as well as rewards of blocking shots from earlier this month