The Edmonton Oilers are going to need to make a big decision with their defensive group in the near future.
Justin Schultz is closing in on a return and is expected to return from his back injury at some point during the team’s upcoming five-game road trip, which starts Monday against the Washington Capitals.
Coach Todd McLellan said, “He’s getting more active every day,” noting that he expects that Schultz will begin taking contact in practice soon.
With eight defensemen on the roster, the Oilers will need to send someone away. Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse are the only two who can be sent down to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors without going through waivers. Nurse has been playing particularly well, while Reinhart has been patchy.
Schultz has no goals and one assist through nine games this season. His -2.49% score-adjusted CF%Rel is just a slight bit better than Nurse’s -2.95% and Eric Gryba’s -3.03%.
At the back of the team’s defensive group is Reinhart’s -3.76% and Andrew Ference’s -6.24% (only five games played). Schultz and Nurse have taken the team’s most difficult relative zone starts, while Reinhart has the most offensive zone starts relative to teammates.
Dustin Nelson is the News Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s a contributor to Hockey Prospectus, Hockey Wilderness, and writes a column for Rotowire. He’s also written for Gone Puck Wild, Wild Xtra, InDigest, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Tiny Mix Tapes, Prefix Magazine & other publications. Have a tip? Email him at dlukenelson[at]gmail[dot]com.