Nilsson jumps to line 1

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

ST. LOUIS -- It's a golden opportunity for Robert Nilsson. Starting out on the fourth line, the Oilers winger was promoted to the first unit Monday in Columbus.

It's where he'll start tonight, in Ales Hemsky's place beside Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner against St. Louis.

"Every time you play with those guys you know you're going to get a lot of minutes," Nilsson said. "I've played with them before and I know how they're going to play and I just need to have my legs moving and try and get them the puck."

With Hemsky nursing a knee injury in Edmonton, the Oilers had a spot to fill heading out on their current four-game road trip.

Initially rookie Sam Gagner drew in on the right wing.

However, midway through Monday's 4-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Nilsson took his place.

"If Sam was really adding something to that line at the time, I would have left him there," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "But it's a stretch for an 18-year-old to play on your top line.

"There are going to be times where he's going to look like a sure fit there and other times where it looks that we need to make a change there."

Heading into tonight's contest, Nilsson has three goals and 12 assists. He went through a stretch earlier this year where he collected 10 points in 10 consecutive games. But he's also had some dry spells and at one point this season was sent to the minors.

"The challenge for him as always is to add some consistency," MacTavish said.

"When he's playing well, he grabs the puck and accelerates," he added. "When he's not, he grabs the puck and starts looking. He's going to get a good opportunity, I'm sure he sniffs that and we'll see what he does with it."


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