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BLOG: Hitchcock updates injuries, goaltending ahead of Pittsburgh test

Rattie and Benning were both evaluated at Tuesday's morning skate, and Mikko Koskinen is slated for a return to the crease on Wednesday for the Oilers against the Penguins

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Ahead of a three-game road trip beginning tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Head Coach Ken Hitchcock had to evaluate the status of a number of players including Ty Rattie and Matt Benning at Tuesday's morning skate.

"Rattie participated fully and looks like a player," Hitchcock said of the Airdrie, Alberta product after blocking a shot off the foot on Saturday against San Jose and leaving the game in the first period. "We got through with Benning, but we'll see on Matt tomorrow."

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Mentioned as day-to-day with an upper-body injury by Hitchcock this past weekend, Benning could give way to Alex Petrovic on the blueline tomorrow to start the club's swing through the Pittsburgh, Carolina and Brooklyn. The 26-year-old has yet to play in the Oilers five games following the All-Star break after last appearing in a January 22 loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

"Petrovic, with the way he's practiced in the last four practices, looks like he's itching to get in," Hitchcock said. "He's really calmed down and improved, so we might get a look at Petro here too."

Forward Jujhar Khaira wasn't present at Tuesday's practice, but Hitchcock stated the omittance was precautionary in order to improve his status for the Pittsburgh clash.

"He took a shot on the foot last game then took the same shot in the same foot yesterday, so I would say he's probable for tomorrow," Hitchcock said. "We're thinking he's going to play, but we opted to keep him out today."

Between the pipes, Mikko Koskinen gets the nod tomorrow for the Oilers in the Finn's first start since February 3 - a 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

"I'm just going with Koskinen and then see where we'll go," Hitchcock said. "I'll go with Koskinen in Pittsburgh, then evaluate it after that. If it means a guy is hot and he has to play back-to-back, he's going to play back-to-back. I have no other agenda than winning, and I think the players feel the same way."

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Koskinen has been waiting in the wings for his opportunity behind Cam Talbot, who was riding a solid stretch of play since the conclusion of the break. Extra work with Oilers Goaltending Coach Dustin Schwartz during high-intensity practices over the past 11 days has kept the 6-foot-7 netminder ready for his eventual return to the crease.

"You need to get good practices in and we've been doing a lot extra with [Schwartz] on the ice, and I think that's been positive," Koskinen said. "You have to keep your mind clear and be ready when the coach says it's your turn.

"You want to play every game. You have to go one game at a time and that's the mindset that I have."

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