EDMONTON - A part of Jason Chimera still wishes he was an Oiler, just not the part that’s playing an important role on an NHL powerhouse alongside one of the best players in the world in one of America’s most historic cities.
“Edmonton is where home is. If I could play here for 20 years it would be great to be part of it for that long,” said Chimera, who spent two fulls seasons with the Oilers before Craig MacTavish decided he didn’t fit and they had him moved.
“But things have worked out so good since I left that I can’t really regret getting traded or anything like that.”
Chimera, who went from Edmonton to Columbus to Washington, has really settled in with the Caps. He signed a contract extension last year and scored four goals in the Caps first seven games and assisted on Washington’s first goal Thursday night.
“Ever since I got here it’s been great,” he said. “Bruce (Boudreau) has been really good to me, given me a role and it’s a great place to play hockey and a great place for my family to be. It’s one of the best cities you can possibly be in for culture and diversity and history. It’s a pretty cool place to live.”
For Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, playing against Alex Ovechkin for the first time Thursday is one of those “Wow” moments that young players never forget.
Everybody has one.
“I remember one of my first games I took a faceoff against Joe Sakic,” said Sam Gagner. “It’s kind of a dream come true to some extent, but you can’t be in awe of those players when you’re out there. You’re still competing against them and you have to find a way to beat them.”
While everyone else was making a big deal about the Oilers waiting till the last possible moment before they announce that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is staying, the kid himself isn’t sweating it.
“I don’t think it’s really that hard,” he said of being left to twist in the wind by Oilers management. “When you’re alone, sitting in your apartment, maybe it can be tough to block it out, but once you get to the rink it’s all thinking about the game or the practice.”
Except when your buddies needle you about joining the Red Deer Rebels.
“They like to joke about it a little bit, especially Hallsy and Jordan,” he laughed. “It’s funny.”
As for his first nine games …
“I think it went really well for me,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I’m playing with some great guys.”
Back in the mix
Ryan Whitney’s knee injury gives Theo Peckham an opportunity to try and win back his job, although he’s trying not to look at it that way.
“I’m not trying to re-invent the wheel and think that I’m trying out for the team again,” said Peckham, whose first shift Thursday ended with a crosschecking minor. “For me it’s just make simple passes out of my own end and be a physical presence out there.
“I don’t think I was playing bad at all (before being moved upstairs), it was just the situation, the one game I was out the guys played really well. Sometimes that’s all it takes. I understand the situation, I’m still the youngest defenceman here. I haven’t really gone through the part where you have to pay your dues and spend a little time in the press box.”
Whitney, who’d only been back from his ankle injury for two games before hurting his knee, still refuses to speak to the media about his situation, but his coach shared a few sympathy pains.
“On behalf of the player, who’s having some tough luck here, you feel as bad for him as you do about anything,” he said. “As a team we have to consolidate our efforts and overcome it.”
With Nikolai Khabibulin starting his fourth-straight game Thursday against the Caps, Devan Dubnyk will go Friday in Denver. Though he’s been riding a red-hot Russian, Renney hasn’t forgotten his pre-season plan to split the work.
“We have to manage that,” he said. “In order for both to be on their games they have to play. Khabby’s on a roll right now. My intention has always been that they’ll both play a lot this year.”