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BLOG: Benning relishing his physical edge

Rookie defenceman has delivered the most hits this post-season for the Oilers with 38

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

Matt Benning may be learning on the fly in his first taste of National Hockey League post-season action but his physicality is something many players should study.

Benning's hits are clean and when delivered in open ice, are usually able to draw enthusiasm from the team and fans alike.

"It's playoffs," said Benning. "When it's there, you got to do it."

The rookie defenceman showed his capability to make crushing checks during the regular season and that hasn't stopped in the playoffs. He leads the Oilers with 38 in the post-season.

"For me, it's just kind of angling," said the defenceman, who's averaged 4.2 hits per game in the playoffs. "If a guy decides to cut back on me, I'm going to lay my shoulder into him."

Benning knows there are pitfalls of forcing a check.

"I think one thing I learned this playoff series and this playoff run is that you can't look for it, you can't run out of your way," he said. "That's when they make plays around you and you get in trouble. If it's there you take it, and if not, you play hockey."

Benning administered a blow to Ducks forward Corey Perry in Game 4, causing cheers from Oil Country.

"Any situation you're in when you can do something like that - especially in the playoffs - you need to do it," he said. "Whether it's Corey Perry or somebody else, if you're in the position, you got to take it. As a defenceman you don't want guys cutting into the middle of the ice and if they decide to do that, you got to lay the body."

Benning sits fourth in the League with his 38 hits. He's in the company of some heavy players, with Austin Watson (49), Alex Ovechkin (48) and Matt Martin (40) in front of him. 

"I think the guys get fired up," Benning said about the effect his hits can have. "It's playoffs, it gets the crowd going and it gets the boys going."

Rather than pinpoint a former player he models his hitting after, Benning says he has a bit of a unique take to his checks and that's because of what his father Brian taught him growing up.

"My type of hitting isn't the type where the guy knows it's coming. The types of hits that I've had so far is guys thinking they can cut back on me and I just continue my skating and skate right into them and hit them over.

"My dad always taught me when I was a young kid to just have good angles so those forwards can't cut in on you and if they do, it's their fault."

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