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Klefbom returns to lineup after missing 21 games for Oilers

Defenseman out since Dec. 11 with broken finger, will play against Blackhawks

by Derek Van Diest / NHL.com Correspondent

EDMONTON -- Oscar Klefbom will play his first game since breaking a finger on his left hand Dec. 11, when the Edmonton Oilers host the Chicago Blackhawks at Rogers Place on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET; SNW, WGN, NHL.TV).

Klefbom sustained the injury in the second period of a 6-4 win at the Colorado Avalanche, blocking a shot by forward Sven Andrighetto. He missed 21 games.

"I want to go out there and play my game, help the guys out and hopefully contribute something on the ice that I brought in the days I was playing," Klefbom said following the morning skate. "There are a lot of points to play for, so I want to come back here and give a good playoff push."

Edmonton (23-24-5) trails the Vancouver Canucks by three points for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. The Oilers were 6-12-3 without Klefbom in the lineup.

The 25-year-old defenseman needed surgery to repair the pinky finger on his left hand. He began practicing with the Oilers on Thursday following their return from the mandatory five-day break after the 2019 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend.

"It's getting better every day," Klefbom said. "It was a painful couple of months. Sitting in the press box is not something you want to do. I'm very excited to play tonight and to come back and play, and be in the locker room, and be a part of the team is something that I've been missing."

Klefbom has 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 31 games. He averages 25:24 ice time per game.

Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock said his plan is to ease Klefbom into the lineup, though on the top pairing with Adam Larsson against the Blackhawks. 

"This is when coaches are idiots. We all start off, we have a long-term plan, we're going to ease him in and that usually last four shifts and we'll play him the same as when he played before," Hitchcock said.

"When he played for us, everybody knows he played 25-to-27 minutes, all hard minutes, all against top players. The difference [Tuesday] is that he won't run first unit on the power play. We need him badly killing penalties, obviously, we need his heavy minutes and him and Larsson were one and two on the first pair, and we're going to put him back into that situation."

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