James Neal Likely To Return in Dallas, Klefbom Thursday

NHL: SEP 16 Jets at Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers, who exploded for five third period goals on Monday night, will head to Dallas tonight looking for their third win in a row. They’ll do so without the services of Oscar Klefbom. The defenseman, who last played on February 16th, remains on IR with a shoulder injury. He is getting close. Although he will not play in Dallas, Klefbom is on the trip.

Sources indicate he will return either Thursday in Chicago or Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mike Green is still 2-3 weeks away with a knee injury suffered six days ago in Vegas. Kris Russell left last night’s game in Nashville and his status is still up in the air.

William Lagesson remains on the NHL roster and could play against the Stars if Russell is still feeling any ill-effects after he left on Monday.

Up front, it appears James Neal is awfully close to a return. So close, in fact, that he may be in the lineup for the first time in over a month tonight. Mark Spector of Sportsnet first had the report shortly after Monday’s win that Neal could return Tuesday night.

If that is in fact the case, coach Dave Tippett will have a decision to make. Jujhar Khaira has struggled mightily in Edmonton’s bottom six and also plays on the left wing. He seems like the logical choice to come out of the lineup to make room for Neal.

Another candidate? Alex Chiasson. The veteran, who also has one more year on his contract, has been invisible at five-on-five over the course of the season. Predictably, he has taken a major step back from his career-year in 2018-19. Chiasson has a nasty habit of seeing the play die on his stick recently. He’s a solid depth forward, but it stands to reason that Edmonton may sit him considering Neal’s biggest strength, the powerplay, is also Chiasson’s.

Neal also seems to have a spot on McDavid’s win waiting for him. Although Josh Archibald scored there on Monday night, he is not a long-term solution in the top six. Archibald is a good player, but that isn’t his role.

Here’s a projected lineup should Neal suit up tonight in Dallas.

James Neal – Connor McDavid – Tyler Ennis
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Leon Draisaitl – Kailer Yamamoto
Andreas Athanasiou – Riley Sheahan – Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaira – Gaetan Haas – Josh Archibald

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