Oilers Hall thinks RNH should play

Edmonton Oilers' (L-R) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Corey Potter celebrate a...

Edmonton Oilers' (L-R) Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Corey Potter celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators during their game in Edmonton on October 17, 2011. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:34 PM ET

EDMONTON - Taylor Hall doesn’t get a vote, but if he did, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins wouldn’t be worrying about the press box.

Despite turning in a couple of mediocre games toward the end of his own nine-game audition last year, Hall was never a healthy scratch then and doesn’t believe Nugent-Hopkins should be one now.

“There were a couple of times last year when I was probably pretty close to sitting out a game and getting a bird’s eye view, but it never happened,” said the dynamic sophomore. “We’re going to stand by whatever the team does, obviously, but for a young player to sit does suck. It might blow your confidence a little bit.”

As with all things relating to RNH, speculation he’d be scratched from Saturday’s game against the Rangers because of lukewarm starts against Calgary and Minnesota blew out of control before the words even left Tom Renney’s mouth.

“When (Nugent-Hopkins) saw what Tom said, ‘That he might not be playing,’ you could tell he was a little bit rattled,” said Hall, who was playing mini-golf with his linemate at West Edmonton Mall when the coach’s off-the-cuff answer to a hypothetical question Friday afternoon — yeah, it might not hurt to sit Nugent-Hopkins at some point before the 10 game mark — swerved into the information super-highway’s fast lane and punched the gas.

“But he took it well, he knows that it’s a process. These are just the first few steps of his NHL career and there’s going to be a lot more coming.”

Nugent-Hopkins drew in Saturday, but not before a chilling blast of big league reality and a few tumultuous hours. It spiralled so quickly that Renney decided to call the kid Friday night and tell him everything was fine. Well, not fine, Nugent-Hopkins and his linemates need to be better, but he was playing Saturday against the Rangers.

“He gave me a call and let me know, eased any concerns that I might have had,” said Nugent-Hopkins.

Probably a pretty good idea because if you’re trying to destroy a kid’s confidence, sitting him on Hockey Night in Canada against the Rangers is a pretty good time and place to start.

“For Ryan it’s an unfortunate situation,” said Hall. “I think he’s done everything he can to prove himself. You get used to the NHL. Ryan had a hat-trick in his third game so he’s used to it a little bit earlier than I was.”

From hat-trick hero in Game 3 to a potential healthy scratch in Game 7 — when you’re an 18-year-old rookie in a Canadian hockey city, that’s how fast it can turn.

“I’m trying to stay even keel,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I don’t want to get too high or too low, really. I want to stay even and play the best I can every day.”

Nevertheless, the spectre of sitting out a game or two, after his line was benched in the third period against Minnesota, is now part of the development discussion.

“I don’t want to miss any games, I want to keep playing,” he said. “You learn more from playing games than you do in practice. If it happens it happens, it’s not up to me, but hopefully I can stay in the lineup as long as I can.”

“I think it’s been pretty good, some games have been a little better than others. I think for the most part I’m pretty happy with the way it’s gone. I think he just wants us to work a little harder offensively and be a little more sound defensively.”

If Nugent-Hopkins does sit at some point soon, Hall won’t have much to say to his buddy.

“There’s not too much advice you can give him,” he said. “If they sit him out, all you have to say is you’re leading the team in scoring, I think you’re doing fine.”

robert.tychkowski@sunmedia.ca

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