TUCSON, AZ - Matt Benning is making the most of his conditioning stint with the Bakersfield Condors as he rounds back into form ahead of his return to the NHL club.
The defenceman was struck in the head with an Evander Kane high stick in San Jose on Nov. 19 and took a shot from Josh Leivo in the helmet when he returned to the Oilers lineup in Vancouver on Dec. 1.
Benning has not played since exiting the game against the Canucks, but he was nearing full recovery when Edmonton's bye week arrived, so the team sent him to Bakersfield for conditioning since the AHL squad had four games in six nights on the docket.
The 25-year-old blueliner played Monday vs. Ontario and Wednesday vs. San Jose, with the Condors visiting Tucson for back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow.
"It's a great opportunity for me to come down and get my legs back," Benning said on Friday. "I hadn't played in almost two months, and you can do as much training as you want, but there's a difference between being conditioned in the gym versus on the ice. The only way to do that is to get some games."
Benning delivered a titanic open-ice hit on the Reign's Jaret Anderson-Dolan on Monday and picked up an assist on Wednesday. He's been paired with William Lagesson, who recently spent two and a half weeks with the Oilers before getting re-assigned to Bakersfield.
"I feel great, I'm getting my puck skills back and I'm moving my feet," Benning said of the first two games of his conditioning stint.
He has recorded five assists and a plus-eight rating in 24 games with the Oilers this season. Edmonton's next game is Wednesday, Jan. 29 when the Calgary Flames visit Rogers Place.