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Oilers' Eberle out 4-6 weeks with shoulder injury

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle will be sidelined 4-6 weeks because of a shoulder injury sustained Tuesday in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes.

Eberle, 25, left the game in the first period and did not return after taking a hit from Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura along the boards behind the Arizona net.

"It wasn't anything big, it was a small hit. I was trying to keep the play alive by reaching for the puck and was just kind of folding my shoulder over," Eberle, his right arm in a sling, said at practice Wednesday. "I got hit and right away I knew something was wrong and got back to the bench, and it was a shoulder injury. I'm pretty frustrated. You train pretty hard in the offseason to get where you are and you get a setback like this and it definitely [stinks]. There's definitely a bright side to this; it's better to do something like this now than maybe later in the season when we're battling for a playoff spot or in the mix."

Eberle led the Oilers in scoring last season with 24 goals and 63 points in 81 games. He has one goal and one assist in four preseason games.

Eberle's injury overshadowed the Oilers' 4-0 victory against the Coyotes, which gave them a perfect 6-0-0 preseason record. The Oilers have two preseason games remaining before opening the regular season at the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 8.

"It's disappointing. [Eberle] is a big part of our team and will be that big part when he comes back," coach Todd McLellan said. "There's nothing we can do about it. When you lose a key guy, somebody else has to step up and it creates opportunities for others."

Eberle will not require surgery to repair the damage to his right shoulder and hopes to resume skating within a couple of weeks. This is the first time in his career he's sustained a shoulder injury.

"We've ruled out surgery, I don't need to get surgery, so that's a positive," Eberle said. "It's just one of those things where you have to make sure it's back to normal. Hockey is a physical sport, and anytime you get checked, you don't want a setback. I know [center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] had issues a couple of years ago with coming back too early and getting hit and he was out for a little longer. It's something I'm definitely going to make sure that I'm ready to go, and I want to step in and be an impact player right away."

Eberle had been playing on a line with Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot during the preseason. They made up one of the Oilers' most proficient lines last season.

"Jordan is obviously a big part of our team, and to lose anybody for an extended period of time is tough," Nugent-Hopkins said. "Personally, we've played together pretty much since I've been here. It's tough to lose a guy like that, especially a linemate."

Nugent-Hopkins can empathize with Eberle, having sustained a shoulder injury during his rookie season in 2011-12. He had surgery toward the end of 2012-13, which delayed the start of his 2013-14 season.

"It's a frustrating injury. It takes a long time for it to really start feeling better; you don't have much strength in it for a long time," Nugent-Hopkins said. "It's all just about recovery. If you think that it's starting to feel better, you still have to give it some time. It definitely took a long time for it to be feeling 100 percent, so you obviously have to be cautious with it. It's kind of frustrating, so hopefully it's quick and it heals good."

Eberle is entering his sixth season with Edmonton. He was selected by the Oilers with the 22nd pick in the 2008 NHL Draft.

"[The frustration] was definitely at a high point last night," Eberle said. "There are a lot of things going through your head right off the bat. I'm sure it'll be tough watching the boys play on opening night, or throughout the games that I miss. It's always tough when you don't feel part of the team. But I'm very comfortable and positive in the way the team's been playing. They played great [Tuesday] night and I'm sure they're going to move forward. There are a lot of young players playing well in camp right now and I'm sure those guys will fill in."

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