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BLOG: Benning striving for self-improvement

"There's no excuse, I just need to be better on the ice," said the sophomore Oilers defender

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers rearguard Matt Benning hasn't had the start to the 2017-18 season he had hoped for. 

"There's no excuse, I just need to be better on the ice," the sophomore Oilers defender said Thursday after practice.

With the injury to Andrej Sekera leaving a hole on the Oilers middle defence pairing, the plan, initially, was to see Benning take over some added minutes to mitigate the loss. But three games into the season, the Oilers are 1-2-0 and looking to make adjustments.

"Part of it is confidence but I haven't been good thus far," Benning said, adding what he intends to do in order to re-calibrate his game. "Show up to practice, work hard, work with the coaches in video and work with my teammates to see if there are any areas they notice. 

Video: PRACTICE RAW | Matt Benning

"There's a bunch of areas I need to improve in and I recognize that but then there are a few others that they (teammates) see," the 23-year-old continued. "It's kind of a group effort. Just show up to practice with your hard hat on and get out of it."

Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan understands the intricacies of playing defence. There's generally a longer gestation period involved with the position and Benning, having suited up in only 65 career NHL games, is still growing and adapting.

"We still view him as a young defenceman that's developing," said McLellan. "Darnell Nurse you could put in that as well. It takes a long time to perfect your craft on the blueline and some people in the hockey world say over 300 games. They have a lot of hockey ahead of them and a lot of improving to do but so do some of the players that have played over 700 games."

Benning - like all players before him - has endured a slump before. Although his confidence has taken a bit of a hit on the ice, it hasn't hampered the belief in himself.

"In college, I had a spurt like this," he said. "But just like I am now, I know I'll get out of it. The bright side is I know I can elevate my game to where it needs to be. I thought last year towards the end of the season I did pretty well. Right now, I'm looking to getting back to the basics: skating hard, making hard plays, passing the puck to the forwards. That's what I pride myself on."

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