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Oilers return home for their first practice at Rexall Place in more than 20 days

Thursday, 03.14.2013 / 2:36 PM MT / The Team Today
By Marc Ciampa  -
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EDMONTON - The Oilers returned home to practice at Rexall Place for a full practice for the first time since way back on February 20.

Ryan Jones was absent due to having a touch of the flu but the rest of the team was there. Eric Belanger (groin) went for a quick skate but did not take part in the full 45-minute practice.

As for the lines, Teemu Hartikainen skated with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle while Shawn Horcoff centred Taylor Hall and Ales Hemsky. The third line was Sam Gagner with Nail Yakupov and Magnus Paajarvi and the fourth line was Ryan Smyth between Lennart Petrell and Mike Brown.

Ben Eager was not on the ice after having cleared waivers. Steve Tambellini spoke about his situation.

"I still think that Ben is part of the mix of this team," said Tambellini. "He provides a heavy, strong game. He's going to have to play some games in Oklahoma but I still see him as being a part of the mix of this hockey club.

Tambellini added that Eager will head down to OKC tomorrow. 

"For Ben, it's probably a hard day for him, not being able to be picked up by another hockey club, but like we said before, there's competition. There's competition within our dressing room and not just the people that you can move up and down without waivers. That shouldn't be the decision-making tool, the fact that someone requires waivers or not to be in and out of the lineup."

With Eager's assignment, Mark Fistric has been activated from injured reserve.


Fistric said after the practice that he has been constantly improving since injuring his elbow on February 28 in Dallas.

"I've just been taking it day-by-day. I've been feeling better every day I wake up so that's a positive sign. Now for me it's just a matter of feeling comfortable conditioning-wise and being able to come back at 100%."

It was thought that the injury would be short term but the elbow became infected and Fistric had to leave the team to return to Edmonton

"It's always frustrating when you have to leave the team and watch from home on TV but for health purposes it was best for me to go back and get the proper treatment and I was happy to be able to rejoin the team on the road trip."

Fistric did rejoin the team in Chicago and got to enjoy the final two games. Ironically, the team did not win any of the games while Fistric was out of town.

"For me it was just better to get back and skating and being around the guys. Obviously I haven't been an Oiler for all that long so it's good for me to be in the dressing room with the guys and get to know them and making sure I'm getting the proper conditioning."


Another player ready to go is goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin.

"I'm cleared to practice and, I guess, play so that's the status. I physically feel pretty good. It's just a matter of seeing a few shots in practices and I should be okay."

Khabibulin started the first game of the nine-game jaunt in Chicago but hurt his groin on Marian Hossa's overtime winner. He subsequently returned back to Edmonton to try and get healthy.

"It's never fun to be by yourself. It would probably be nicer to be on the road with the guys but it is what it is. Things happen and I got back here to try and get better as quick as possible," said the goaltender, who added that his recovery came quick and he is now 100%.

"It was right in the middle of the muscle so it healed pretty quickly. Right now I feel perfect."

It was a pretty simple rehab for Khabibulin.

"For the first week I pretty much just worked out in the gym then last week I started skating and I was waiting for the team to come back."

-- Marc Ciampa,