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Oilers' Eberle skates, Schultz out with back injury

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- Edmonton Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle took a positive step toward his return from a shoulder injury Thursday, participating in the morning skate prior to the game against the Montreal Canadiens (9 p.m. ET; SN, SN360).

It was the first time Eberle skated with the Oilers since injuring his right shoulder during a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes on Sept. 29.

The news wasn't all good for the Oilers, however. Later Thursday, general manager Peter Chiarelli said defenseman Justin Schultz would be out 2-4 weeks because of a back injury. He was hurt during a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.

"It's not fun watching your team play," Eberle said. "But we have a lot of trainers here that know a lot about injuries and a lot about this certain injury. I've had a good rehab. I started skating about a week and a half ago so it was nice to get back on the ice and feel like a hockey player a little bit again. It was even better to get out with the team and feel part of it."

Eberle was injured when he was hit by Coyotes center Kyle Chipchura along the end boards in the 4-0 preseason win. He did not require surgery and was expected to be out 4-6 weeks. He was placed on long-term injured reserve Thursday.

"I haven't had any contact yet," Eberle said. "Once I get some of that I'll get a better idea of when the return is. I have some ideas in my head but it's nothing really set. I think I still have a little bit of time here. But it's positive that I'm moving forward and took another step skating with the guys."

The Oilers have been hit hard by injuries recently. In addition to Schultz and Eberle, defensemen Griffin Reinhart (undisclosed), and forwards Rob Klinkhammer (leg) and Matt Hendricks (foot), are on injured reserve. Left wing Lauri Korpikoski is out with a head injury sustained on a hit by Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba in a 4-3 loss Tuesday.

"It's tough being out and it goes both ways," Eberle said. "I think when they're losing it's tough not to be out there because you feel you can help. But when they're winning you want to be a part of it. In general, watching is not fun. But it motivates you to get back out there."

Eberle, 25, led the Oilers in scoring last season with 63 points and tied for the lead with 24 goals.

"This is kind of the first real big injury I've had," Eberle said. "It hasn't been a fun process. But at the same time I'm getting stronger, getting faster and I'm taking the time to get better at other things too. I'm getting close to 100 percent as far as shooting and puck-handling go. It's definitely a positive. Talking to some of the guys [who have had similar injuries], the biggest thing is going to be battling and lifting guys' sticks and doing little things like that. It's still a little bit weak. But the recovery time, I'm on pace if not ahead of it."

Even with Eberle on schedule, he does not anticipate rushing back into the lineup. He does not want his shoulder injury to become a chronic problem.

"When you're out there playing and practicing with the guys, you feel like you want to get out there today," Eberle said. "But realistically I have to go through some tests and some things that are obviously going to aggravate it. It's one thing taking a morning skate; it's another playing in an actual game."

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