James Neal could make his season debut Friday night when the Edmonton Oilers visit the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Neal started the season on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol list. That doesn’t mean Neal contracted the virus, but he did have to spend time in quarantine after travelling to Edmonton from the United States.
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“If he gets through the skate this morning, there’s a good chance he’ll play,” said head coach Dave Tippett.
If Neal plays, it likely means Alex Chiasson comes out of the lineup and Neal takes Chiasson’s spot in front of the net on the power play.
“Same kind of net front presence, but you have a right shot and left shot,” explained Tippett.
“He was pretty good on it last year. He’s a goal scorer around that net.”
Neal scored 12 of his 19 goals on the power play last season. He was also hot early in the campaign, with 11 goals in February.
The Maple Leafs will be without star sniper Auston Matthews because of an upper body injury.
“We’ve talked about some things we want to do as a team,” said Tippett. “Their lineup is less concerning to me than making sure our lineup is prepared.”
If Neal returns, the Oilers expected lineup is:
Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Kassian
Kahun – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Ennis – Turris – Puljujarvi
Neal – Shore – Archibald
Nurse – Bear
Russell – Barrie
Koekkoek – Larsson
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