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BLOG: Benning primed for action

"I'm confident and know that my head is where it needs to be," said Oilers defenceman Matt Benning, who could appear in Wednesday's Battle of Alberta

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Matt Benning was in familiar territory when the Oilers held an open practice at West Edmonton Mall on Monday.

For one, the defenceman was back with his Oilers teammates for the first time since going down to Bakersfield, CA, for a conditioning stint with the Condors. Benning was recalled by the Oilers earlier in the day on Monday after appearing in a few games with Edmonton's American Hockey League affiliate during the bye week and NHL All-Star Weekend.

Benning, who's been limited to just 24 games due to concussion injuries in the 2019-20 season, could get back in the Oilers lineup on Wednesday against the Calgary Flames in what promises to be an ignited Battle of Alberta.

"It was kind of a serious thing but I've felt great for a long time now," the defender said after Monday's open practice. 

"It's one thing to feel good and it's another thing to be back in game shape. That was the main reason for being there. I was thankful to go down and play some minutes."

Benning saw plenty of ice in Bakersfield as he did his best to get back into form. One positive from the conditioning stint was the fact that he did not experience any setbacks.

"The first game in Bako, I threw a pretty big hit and it felt good," he said. "There are four or five scrums a game (in the AHL). In the NHL there might only be one a game. I was in a bunch of those scrums. That's just the kind of player I am, I like to be in the mix. 

"I felt fine. I got hit in the face a few times with some sticks and a shoulder. I'm confident and know that my head is where it needs to be."

Video: RAW | Matt Benning 01.27.20

Monday also served as a trip down memory lane for the Edmonton product. Benning suited up in the Brick Invitational Tournament as a minor hockey player and had flashbacks of that experience when he laced up for the West Edmonton Mall skate.

"It kind of brought back that memory of the Brick Tournament," Benning said of the session.

"It's great for the fans and really cool for me and some of those guys down there that played in the Brick Tournament. It's an awesome tournament at that age. It makes you feel like you're in the NHL. There are people around screaming and watching you play. It's awesome."

Benning recalled some funny memories from the tournament.

"I remember at the Brick Tournament, it was hot and the ice along the boards was melting the whole game," Benning said. 

"You kind of had to play through it. If you wanted to fall, you had to fall in the middle of the ice where it was dry."

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