This is Robert Nilsson, a suddenly useful NHL player. Entirely by accident, I was able to have a conversation with him while he was waiting to get his takeout lunch in an Edmonton area restaurant. For the sake of his privacy, as well as my own, I will keep this location a secret. I don't normally key in on single players in my rants, but this was sort of a special and unique situation, much like the drinks I had with Roli 3 years ago.
It was not a very long conversation but he seemed totally happy to chat with a fan. Not much insight was actually revealed in this conversation, but he said he felt far more engaged recently, and that coming off the IR he has more energy, more jump and more focus. It is about having fun playing the game again, and it has shown on the ice since his return. I for one and thankful about this shift in both his game and the boxcar numbers that were making him appear to be a far worse player then he truly is. The most interesting thing about this conversation was the praise he had for a favorite of ours on this site as well as our friends over at The Copper & Blue. Nilsson said he really enjoys playing with Zack "Zorg/Huggybear" Stortini, his big frame and larger then life presence on the ice opening up the space for mini-magic to work with. Although Nilsson has been playing extremely well on the PP as of late, playing at even strength with Zorg has made a huge impact in Bobby's overall numbers as well as helping his defensive game. As a part of what Pat Quinn has dubbed the "Hack/Smack/Whack" line with Zorg and the Blarney Stone, Nilsson has helped to create a situation where the Oilers have a legitimate 4th line energy line again, along the lines of the Zorg/Brodz/Sellout (GlenX) line from a few years back. As much as I would love to see Nilsson getting minutes with Horcoff, as Nilsson is easily in the top 6 most talented forwards on this team, having him play 4th line minutes and PP2 time is truly an ideal situation. Allowing him to get soft parade minutes at even strength where someone with his skill set can really flourish is probably the best strategy Quinn could use to build up the confidence of a player who has been on the bubble all year. I for one hope that Nilsson continues his improved play. Few players have the pure skill he possesses, and he has scored easily three of the most beautiful goals I have ever seen this year alone.
The Hack/Smack/Whack line was broken up for the first couple games of this homestand but has been reunited for tonight's contest against the incredibly talented Washington Capitals. The Caps are a dangerous team with perhaps the most talented player in the league today. They score goals in bunches and have been improving defensively over the last few years. The Oilers have managed to beat the Caps the last few times they have played, including a 5-2 victory last season in Washington. Both teams play a similar game, fast paced, with the D active in the offensive zone, but the Caps have a significant edge in skill. Provided the Oilers don't fall behind early, it should be a fun game to watch-the Oilers will be hungry after two really bad losses, while hopefully the Capitals will be tired after playing last night in Vancouver. Maybe we can catch the giant while it's sleeping.