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BLOG: Benning getting closer to returning

"I've been skating for three or four weeks now. I know that I can get out there and be the same," defenceman Matt Benning told the media on Thursday

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Matt Benning is itching for action.

The Oilers defender has been slowly rehabbing from the head trauma caused by an Evander Kane stick to the head on Nov. 19, which was only made worse in his Dec. 1, return when a puck struck him in the head against the Vancouver Canucks.

It's resulted in 24 missed games for the Alberta product, who's done nothing more than re-calibrate during a cautious recovery process. 

But the blueliner's return seems imminent as Benning was able to join the Oilers on their recent five-game road trip in Montreal to participate in practice sessions. 

Concussion injuries can never be taken lightly but it appears as though, finally, Benning could be ready to go soon.

"I don't know if it was one concussion and it re-aggravated or whatever it was but I think it was just taking it cautiously," Benning, detailing the healing period, said. "You only have one head, so, it was one of those ones that were more on the cautious end. 

"I've been skating for three or four weeks now. I know that I can get out there and be the same."

After not lacing up and not experiencing the rigours of game action, Benning's used the Oilers practice session to get his stride back and become more comfortable with contact.

Video: RAW | Benning 01.16.20

"It's one of those ones that's kind of hard to judge in practice," the defenceman, who has five assists this season, said. 

"We're practicing less but there's no excuse for me not to be out there working hard. I'm just trying to get as much contact in practice as I can and just get that battle mindset back in."

It hasn't been all doom and gloom for Benning while he's adorned non-contact threads, however, as the rearguard's viewed his Oilers teammates come out to a successful 4-1-1 record in 2020.

"I've been impressed," Benning continued. "We've played a better defensive game as a group the last little while. We're seeing more depth scoring and finding more ways to contribute. A lot of the games in the third period, it's a nail-biter. That's just a chance at points, right."

Benning did not specify an exact date for his return. The Oilers host the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday then will part for the bye week and NHL All-Star Break. 

Should his return come after the break, it would be against the Calgary Flames in a reinvigorated Battle of Alberta on Jan. 29.

"I grew up knowing what that's all about," Benning said of the Albertan rivalry. "That's why you play hockey and that's what gets you off your seat. When the fans are going and emotions are high. It'll be interesting after the break. 

"Hopefully I'll be back for then."

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