EDMONTON, AB - Oilers defenceman Matt Benning was specific when he described what he and his fellow defenders must do to return to the form they had in 2016-17.
"Two years ago, we took time and space away," the 24-year-old said from the Syncrude Oil Country Championship at the Edmonton Petroleum Golf and Country Club on Tuesday.
"Statistic-wise, we were the best team in the League at denying entries off the rush. I think we need to get back to that: squeezing plays at the blueline. I thought last year we allowed teams to gain entry into our zone pretty easily.
"I think as a D core, we'll focus on getting back to that point."
Benning, who agreed to terms with the Oilers on a two-year deal this past June, mentioned the struggles the Oilers blueliners had to overcome last season. Oscar Klefbom was nagged by a shoulder injury, Andrej Sekera returned from major knee surgery and Adam Larsson dealt with personal matters.
"You can't control injuries and you can't control what happens outside of the rink but guys will be looking for an opportunity to step up this year," the St. Albert product, who tucked six goals and 15 assists in 73 games last year, said.
In preparation for the 2018-19 campaign, Benning has been on the ice more frequently than he normally would during the off-season.
"I'm looking to come into camp a little bit more ready and feeling a lot better than last year," he said. "I've been skating a lot more and working just as hard, if not harder."