OKLAHOMA CITY - The Barons returned to OKC where they will practice all week before heading back on the road for a weekend set in San Antonio. The team hit the ice with some familiar faces as injured skaters Tyler Pitlick and Ryan Martindale joined the team for the first time since their injuries.
Another familiar face, Brandon Davidson, skated for the first time since his cancer diagnosis.
"It's very inspiring," said Barons head coach Todd Nelson. "He's a good person, good kid and always has a fantastic attitude. He's going through a situation right now that's tough but we're just waiting to see what the next course of action is going to take."
Davidson has been off the ice since his diagnosis and subsequent surgery for testicular cancer in late October and early November.
"It's great to get back on the ice," said Davidson. "I've been waiting a really long time so when I got told last night that I was skating with the team, I was pretty happy. It was a tough one but it's great to get back out there and feel like I'm part of the team again."
The defenceman talked about his treatment and how well it's been going to this point.
"Things are going well for me right now," he said. "Basically, things have been positive the whole way through. It's not over yet but things are looking up. It's nice to come out here and skate today, get my mind off of that stuff."
As for when he might be expected back in the lineup, that date is not nailed down but it should be in the not-too-distant future.
"I'm not too sure, depending on a few things. There was a possibility that maybe in two or three weeks time if everything goes well. It's optimistic right now," Davidson cautioned. "Depends on which direction I'm going. We'll wait and see."
Overall, the entire experience has been something that Davidson noted will have a positive impact on his life moving forward.
"It's been an eye-opener on life," he said. "It's definitely changed me as a person -- made me a better person for sure. It was tremendous to be able to go through something like this and have the support of the Oilers organization and the guys in the locker room and fans around the world."
Davidson went on too talk more about the fans who have reached out to him on Twitter.
"It was amazing. That stuff goes along way for me. It really hits home and I can't send out enough (thanks) to everyone who supported me and is still supporting me."
Jordan Eberle, a teammate of Davidson's in Regina, was happy to see him back on the ice with the Barons.
"It's great to see him skating," said Eberle. "He couldn't wait to get back. I think it was just a matter of the scar and other than that, he was pretty healthy. I think once you get on the ice it takes your mind off things and you get to hang out with the boys and feel like you're part of the team again. I'm really happy for him."
EBERLE TO THE RAFTERS
Speaking of Regina, Jordan Eberle will be headed there later today in preparation for a ceremony on Wednesday night where his number 7 will be retired.
"It's quite the honour. Definitely unexpected when they announced it this summer. I was pretty shocked. It's not usually something you worry about when you're still playing hockey but it's going to be a good night. All my family's coming down and I know they'll enjoy it."
Eberle is excited about giving a speech in front of the Pats faithful during the ceremony.
"I wrote out a speech yesterday so it should be fun. I've gotten better at public speaking over the last little bit. Done a few banquets and charities but nothing to this magnitude. But it should be fun. Hopefully it'll be well received."
MORE INJURY UPDATES
"Nobody likes getting injured but it's something you have to deal with. I've had a lot of help from the guys on the team and they got me back out there pretty quick," said Martindale. "Just to be out there skating again and being with the team, it feels really good."
Martindale wouldn't put an exact time on it but figures it's just a matter of getting back into game shape and building up strength.
"It's just a feeling out process. As soon as possible. I'm in the gym every day, trying to build upon it and get it better. They're going to be checking it every day and when they feel it's up to par and ready to go, that's when I'll be out there."
Pitlick is aiming for this weekend in San Antonio.
"Hopefully I'll be ready by the weekend. Then it'll be up to the coaches if they feel like I'm ready to get back in, too," Pitlick stated.
Coach Nelson said both players will be monitored throughout the week.
"We're just taking it every day to see how they feel and how their injuries are coming around. Today went pretty well for all three guys (Pitlick, Martindale and Davidson) and we'll see what tomorrow brings."
Taylor Hall did not skate today but the team doesn't expect him to miss any game action.
"Getting some work done on his neck. Nothing serious, just want to make sure that he's feeling 100% as well. We expect him back," Nelson said.
Dan Ringwald was in a cast today having suffered his injury on Thursday in Houston. As a result, the team has called up Nathan Deck from Stockton.
The 22-year-old Deck brings an offensive flair to the blueline. He leads all Thunder defencemen and is tied for fourth among ECHL defenders with 17 points in 19 games this season. His +8 rating is tied for second on the team and he has earned seven points on the power play.
Following practice, the Barons also sent Toni Rajala back to Stockton. Rajala had a goal and an assist in five games with the Barons in addition to a shootout marker on Thursday night in Houston.
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