Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Skates For The First Time After Shoulder Surgery

USA TODAY Sports

The key to the Oilers' season is back on the ice.

NHL.com put some encouraging news up last evening about Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' return from injury:

Nugent-Hopkins...had the procedure done April 23 to fix a torn labrum; the surgery ended his 2012-13 season five games early. He said the shoulder felt good, although he stopped short of penciling himself into the Oilers lineup for the season opener Oct. 1 against the Winnipeg Jets.

Hopkins was quoted in the article:

"I think I'm going to be on the ice with the guys right away. I'll probably wear a yellow [no contact] jersey to start.

...

I've just got to make sure it's 100 percent before I go out there."

While I intentionally left out a few sentences, if that passage makes you nervous, good on you, it should.

It's not like the team hasn't seen one of these before. This appears to be the EXACT SAME SITUATION that Taylor Hall faced last year. Hall suffered his shoulder injury against the Avalanche five months prior to his surgery. Nugent-Hopkins' shoulder has been a question mark since he began the season in Oklahoma City. He was a question mark for the World Juniors. Today, the worst kept secret in the world is released.

Was the plan to wait until the team was mathematically eliminated from the postseason before any decisions were to be made? Was the plan to keep Nugent-Hopkins in the lineup so that the team could triumphantly march into the playoffs, thereby saving Steve Tambellini's job?

Mission accomplished. Again. Great job, everyone.

If the Oilers aren't going to add depth at the centre position, they desperately need Hopkins back to 100% and faster than the typical athlete coming off of a Labrum gets there. It shouldn't come at the expense of Hopkins for the rest of the season, and being on the ice with anyone at this stage is certainly a risk, especially for a team that had this happen:

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