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Oilers Likely to Get James Neal Back in Lineup This Week

The Edmonton Oilers might see James Neal return to the lineup on Friday as he was taking first-unit power play reps at Thursday’s practice.

There are multiple reports that the Edmonton Oilers could be getting back a key contributor to their offense — especially their power play — as early as Friday’s rematch against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Forward James Neal is getting longer looks at practice and head coach Dave Tippett could be preparing to slot him into the Oilers regular rotation right away.

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Forward lines at practice on Thursday were the following:

  • RNH-McDavid-Kassian
  • Kahun-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
  • Ennis-Turris-Puljujarvi
  • Neal-Shore-Archibald

While this doesn’t mean that Neal coming back into the lineup is a certainty or that that Tyler Ennis will slot back in, Oilers play-by-play announcer Jack Michaels noted that when it comes to Neal, it might be important to note that he was taking reps on first power play unit for Oilers at practice. This is an area where the Oilers have struggled so far this season and Michaels says it “COULD” be indication that he’s ready to go for tomorrow’s rematch with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If this is the direction the Oilers choose to go, Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now says Neal would need to be activated and one of Joakim Nygard or Devin Shore would need to be put on the Taxi Squad. Neither would be forced to go through waivers, but Stauffer doesn’t believe Shore is coming out. In his few appearances for the team, he’s been a strong depth player and one of the club’s better penalty killers.

James Neal Edmonton Oilers
James Neal Edmonton Oilers

Huge Boost For the Oilers Power Play

The statistics don’t exactly prove that Neal has been hands-down any better than Alex Chiasson on the man advantage. That said, sometimes a fresh look and the feeling that a guy who has been so productive on the power play in the past is coming back, is all it takes to give the Oilers a boost in that department.

It’s a bit too early in the season to write off the team’s man advantage or suggest it’s nowhere near as good as last season’s league-leading power play. A few in a row will get the team right back on track and Neal can obviously help in that regard while playing third or fourth line minutes and easing him in since he’s been out of action for so long.

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