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McDavid 'working hard to get to camp' with Oilers after knee injury

Center continuing rehab after tearing PCL in season finale April 6

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Connor McDavid said he has no timetable to return from a knee injury sustained April 6 and is "just working hard to get to [training] camp" with the Edmonton Oilers in September.

The 22-year-old center tore the PCL in his left knee in Edmonton's season finale against the Calgary Flames. He is attending the annual BioSteel Camp in Toronto this week but will not be on the ice.

"[I'm] progressing well, making progress every day," McDavid said Monday. "... Just working hard to get to camp, and we're focused on that. ... [This offseason] has been different, just focusing on that [rehab]. It's taking a lot of time, but it's been good."

McDavid said he will not return until he is confident his knee is back to normal.

"It's coming back together and everything like that, but ultimately you don't want to come back too early," he said. "(You want to) make sure it's fully healed and you're not going to get hurt again."

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Oilers general manager Ken Holland said June 14 that the injury would not require surgery and that he expected McDavid to be healthy by the start of training camp, which begins the second week of September. McDavid agreed with the GM four days later at NHL Awards Media Day, saying Holland "nailed it" and that he had nothing further to add.

McDavid was much more noncommittal about his situation Monday. He said he's been back on the ice for the past two months, including a skate Monday morning at the Gary Roberts High Performance Training Program in Aurora, Ontario, where he spends his offseasons working out.

Holland, speaking to the Edmonton Sun on Monday, said McDavid "is progressing well. Our training staff and I have been in regular communication with McDavid camp."

When asked if McDavid could miss the first couple of days of on-ice work at camp, the GM said, "We'll see."

This is the second significant injury for McDavid since being selected No. 1 by the Oilers in the 2015 NHL Draft. He missed 37 games with a fractured clavicle as a rookie in 2015-16.

"I've been hurt twice now, once with my collarbone and once my knee," McDavid said. "A lot of days where it's a lot of grueling work. It's long, a lot of tedious days as well where you're doing something that feels pretty basic, but you got to do it. It's part of the steps."

The Oilers (35-38-9) finished second to last in the Western Conference last season, 11 points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons and three out of the past four since McDavid entered the NHL.

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When McDavid gets to Edmonton, he'll be greeted by Holland, who is in his first year as GM, new coach Dave Tippett and new teammates, including former Calgary Flames forward James Neal and goalie Mike Smith.

Holland was hired as GM on May 7 after holding the same position with the Detroit Red Wings for 22 seasons. Two weeks after Holland joined the Oilers, Edmonton hired Tippett to replace Ken Hitchcock, who took over for Todd McLellan 21 games into last season.

"My initial reaction (to Holland's hiring) was excitement," McDavid said. "It's someone that's been in the League for a long time. He's put together some great teams, those Detroit dynasties."

McDavid admitted his feelings were mixed upon learning that forward Milan Lucic, a teammate the past three seasons, was traded to the Flames for Neal on July 19.

"Obviously disappointing to see [Lucic] go," he said. "He was someone that I got close with on the team. Great guy. Great family as well. I'm definitely going to miss them."

Neal has 270 goals in 12 NHL seasons but scored seven for the Flames last season after signing with them as a free agent.

"Neal has got a lot of upside," McDavid said. "He's a guy who's won a lot in this league, he's scored a lot in this league. Obviously a down year last year. But he's training up at Gary (Roberts'), and he's working as hard as I've ever seen him work."

McDavid was a finalist for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP last season after he had an NHL career-high 116 points (41 goals, 75 assists), second to Hart winner Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning (128 points). He said he'd gladly give up those individual accolades for team success with the Oilers.

"The personal stuff is great and all that, (but) you want to win hockey games," he said. "You want to be in the playoffs.

"I'm looking forward to [the season]. There should be a lot of competition. We're starting new with a new coach, a new GM. It's a new situation for everyone." 

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