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BLOG: Filling the Larsson void

"In Camp, there was a lot of competition for the spots... so it's an opportunity for them and an opportunity for me," defenceman Matt Benning said

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - Make no mistake, Adam Larsson is a warrior.

The 26-year-old defender blocked a shot late in the first period during the Oilers Home Opener on Wednesday and played through a broken right fibula to clock 22:19 of total ice time.

But the blueliner still had enough mental fortitude remaining to leave his teammates with one parting gift in the form of a laugh.

"After, when he was leaving the game, he made a joke about practicing tomorrow," defenceman Matt Benning said.

But the focus for the Oilers defence quickly shifted at Thursday and Friday's practices towards how they'll fill the void in ice time and leadership left by the Swede, who'll be sidelined for six-to-eight weeks with the foot injury.

"There's opportunity," Benning, who notched two assists against the Canucks, said. "It's tough to see Larsson go down. He's a horse back there and logs a lot of minutes. What people don't see is a lot in the dressing room. He's a great guy and brings a lot of passion to the dressing room, and he's a leader for us back there.

Video: RAW | Matt Benning 10.04.19

The depth at defence for the Oilers was on display throughout Main Camp and Pre-Season, leading to plenty of hard decisions made Head Coach Dave Tippett and his coaching staff due to the plethora of options they were provided in the likes of Ethan Bear, Evan Bouchard, William Lagesson, Caleb Jones, and established options in Benning and Brandon Manning.

Opportunity for some, once again, will come knocking.

"I think we have a lot of depth back there," Benning said. "In Camp, there was a lot of competition for the spots and guys were coming in, so it's an opportunity for them and an opportunity for me."

With Joel Persson's status for Saturday up in the air with a shoulder ailment, the Oilers recalled blueliners Bear and Lagesson from the Bakersfield Condors this afternoon to help set the stage for a potential reunification between the Ochapowace, Saskatchewan product and Oscar Klefbom after the two started Wednesday's game as a pair.

Darnell Nurse had been slated since Camp for a lengthy spell beside Larsson before his partner's injury, but Tippett could be forced to move Kris Russell onto to pair with Nurse and return the left-shot d-man Kris Russell to his opposite right side.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Next Men Up 10.04.19

"Obviously when a big part of your D-core goes down, everyone's got to pick up the slack," Nurse said. "Everyone has to play well and pick up a little bit of his game by committee.

"I've played with a right-handed partner and I played with Kris all of last year, so I know how to play with both sides. Rusty brings it to the rink each and every night with his work ethic, his commitment, and everything he does to get the win, so it's fun to play with him as well." 

Tippett, if given the option, would prefer all defensive pairs to feature the righty-lefty combination, but Russell's proven ability to occupy his opposite side has him being the alternate in the bench boss' plans.

"I think you just have to simplify a bit more," Russell said. "You play on your backhand a little bit more, so you have to be a bit more sure with your puck touches. You can't be floating stuff through the middle on your backhand, so it's just getting back quicker to pucks and trying to communicate with Doc as much as possible. He does a good job and sets me up well on that side."

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