Anton Slepyshev has hit some bumps in the road on his way to a spot with the Oilers, but he's nearing his return to the ice
/ EdmontonOilers.com Head Writer
EDMONTON, AB - "I just want to play."
Anton Slepyshev didn't have the training camp and pre-season he likely expected coming off his three-goal performance in the playoffs. He was projected to take on a bigger role with the roster coming into camp, but an ankle injury sustained in off-ice training kept him away.
Then, just as he was ready to play his first game in the exhibition finale, the winger fell ill and had to sit out. Not being available to his team is a tough pill to swallow, but he knows his time is closing in.
"It was tough, but it happened," Slepyshev said. "I kept working and training and keeping in shape. Now I'm ready. I just want to play as soon as possible."
That first game back won't come in an Oilers uniform, however. Tuesday afternoon, the team assigned Slepyshev to the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League
"We would have loved to have played him tomorrow," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "But I don't think that's fair to him or his teammates that have gone through training camp."
"We'd like him to go to Bakersfield and play one game there, perhaps as early as this weekend, and then bring him back and find a spot for him in our lineup."
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli singled out the forward Tuesday morning saying, "don't forget about Slepyshev" when addressing the right-wing position.
"He was on our team and performing well at the end of the year," said Chiarelli.
Despite hardly seeing the 23-year-old in camp and in no games this pre-season, the organization remains confident he will contribute sooner rather than later.
"I think he can be a very effective player with our club," said McLellan. "He seems to have a level of confidence with the way he's carrying himself, even at practice right now, that he hasn't had in the past. I'm sure he's (itching) to get into the lineup."
Slepyshev's ankle is fine. In fact, he says it feels stronger on the ice when strapped down in his skate. He just wants to shake off the past few weeks of disappointment and get back to showing the club he can make an impact. Listening to the team talk over the last few months, they continue to bring up his performance in the post-season as reason to have confidence he can do just that.
"I want to take my spot on the team… I want to play every game, not just one, two and scratched again like three or four games," said Slepyshev. "It's what I tried to do (in the playoffs). I tried to show every game 100 percent what I can do and how I can help the team."
He hears the team's confidence in him and appreciates it, but he's just focused on getting back in the game.
"I didn't play any games this season so I want to just play and feel how (the ankle) is and gain confidence on the ice… I have to show what I can do," he said. "I have to show what I did in the playoffs last year a little bit more."