EDMONTON - The big news on Sunday morning was the announcement that Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will miss the remainder of the season and is likely headed for shoulder surgery.
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger said the decision ultimately came down to wanting the player back as soon as possible when it comes to next season.
"For us this year, as everybody knows, we had set the goal of doing everything possible to get into the playoffs and that goal evaporated on us the last week and now it's clear that -- this week is still very important to us, we're not lowering the importance of every single game we have left -- but at the same time, looking at the opportunity of getting him back a week early is what made this decision a necessity to get this looked at and moved forward before there's more damage there."
Nugent-Hopkins talked about how the shoulder has felt throughout the season.
"There were times throughout the season when it was painful," he said. "I got checked before I went to the World Juniors and my strength was pretty good. It was something that I wanted to do and I'm glad I did it."
The sophomore added the injury is not related to the shoulder injury he suffered last season.
"It's a different thing to that. I think it could go back to junior in my second year. It's something that's been nagging at me for a couple years."
Taylor Hall had a similar surgery at the end of last season.
"It's a tough surgery and a tough recovery process but I'm definitely glad I got it done. I feel a lot better," said Hall.
Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff also had shoulder surgery a number of years ago.
"It's a tough surgery. It's six months. But for me it was something that I played with for probably three or four years until the point where it was just popping in and out just on face-offs alone. It was great. When I came back, I think it took me some time. It's probably a full year before you really feel comfortable with it," Horcoff said.
"It just gives you confidence when it's solid again that you can go out there and do what you want to do and not worry about it coming in and out."
READY FOR DOUBLE DUCKS
With Nugent-Hopkins now out, the Oilers did some wholesale shuffling to their top three lines.
Hall skated with Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle on the top line. Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander and Nail Yakupov skated on line two. Line three was Ryan Jones, Shawn Horcoff and Teemu Hartikainen and line four was Ryan Smyth, Jerred Smithson and Mike Brown.
Coach Krueger talked about the next two games against being against this same Ducks team.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us to continue to work on our game and continue to grow our game. We had a little lull in Colorado maybe from the 15 down to the nine-minute mark in the first period where we didn't like what we saw but otherwise the Colorado game from there on in there was a lot of things we want to see in our game and the identity of the Oilers and continue to build on that," Krueger began.
"When you have the opportunity to play a team like Anaheim who's been successful this year, you're testing those habits and testing that identity. These will be two real fun games for us. We have a lot of respect for what they've done. They're a hard-working group of players with a lot of grit in their lineup and consistently play strong defence in front of strong goaltending."
On defence, the team will be going with the same three pairings as they had in Denver: Petry-Smid, Schultz-Schultz, Potter-Fistric.
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
TV: PRIME, SNET-W
Last 10: Anaheim 4-4-2; Edmonton 4-6-0
Season series: This is the second of three meetings. The Anaheim Ducks earned a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on April 8 at Honda Center. These teams will meet again on Monday at Rexall Place, where the Ducks have won the past nine showdowns.
Big story: The Ducks can inch closer towards clinching the Pacific Division crown Sunday, as they possess a five-point lead on both the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. The Oilers enter eight points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with five games remaining on their schedule.
Ducks: Anaheim enters with an opportunity to clinch the Pacific, providing it defeats Edmonton while both San Jose and Los Angeles lose their games against Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, respectively. However, wins have eluded Anaheim as of late; the Ducks are in the midst of a four-game winless skid after suffering a 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames on Friday at Scotiabank Saddledome. It marked the beginning of a four-game road trip that includes back-to-back games at Edmonton.
"I couldn't have cared less if we were playing a midget team or the Russian National Team," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We needed the win that should have been motivation enough."
Oilers: Despite all of its young talent that included the additions of Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz this past summer, Edmonton is all but assured of missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs again this year. The Oilers snapped a six-game skid Friday when they beat the Colorado Avalanche by a 4-1 score at the Pepsi Center. Jordan Eberle had a goal and two assists in the victory and Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves.
"I was just [ticked] off," Eberle said. "You lose six in a row and nothing is going in for you and it's a battle. The last few games especially I feel like I have been playing well and started to get healthy and just nothing was going in for me. So it's nice to finally get on the scoresheet and help the team win. That's the biggest thing. When your team is losing and you are not contributing, it can be tough. So it was nice to do that tonight."
Who's hot: Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has two goals and three assists over the past five games. … Oilers winger Taylor Hall has three points (one goal, two assists) in the past two and Yakupov is 2-2-4 in the past five contests.