EDMONTON, AB - Matt Benning has had quite a week.
In fact, quite a season for the local boy.
Lots have been going on this year and one way or the other he's been able to take it all in and push forward to playing the best hockey of his young career. During a time where the Oilers want stability on defence the young man has been able to provide it. He certainly has benefited from the return of Andrej Sekera but having a veteran saddled up beside him has allowed Benning to relax and feel more confident. Anyone of us would or should be better at our jobs when we get some help and that help allows us to take our time and do things right. It's what Benning has been doing to finish off this season.
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His week began with a huge hit received which led to a tap on the shoulder from the Oilers' head medical therapist. There was T.D. Forss giving Matt the 'come with me speech' after a concussion spotter told the team Matt needed a break after taking a wallop in the game against the New York Rangers. Off he went, as explained by Matt, for about 15-20 minutes to take some baseline testing. He said there were about six to eight tests he underwent during that time and one of the tests was reading numbers in a specific format and in a certain order. He did the test and, in fact, he did faster after the hit (by a second) than he did during baseline testing at training camp.
Benning found that to be kind of funny and I would agree. What's not so funny is that the blueliner estimates he's had three concussions. One was relatively minor but two weren't. In fact, the one that did the most damage occurred when Matt was playing bantam hockey.
Well, he's not playing bantam hockey anymore. In fact, he's playing in the best league in the world and at the same time playing his best hockey. It's shown by a quick look at his numbers.
Like in the game against New Jersey where Matt struck for a goal and an assist. He has in his possession a wicked one-timer and he put that on display while scoring his fourth goal of the year. He also continues to slowly but surely bump up his plus/minus. He was a plus-two versus New Jersey and now stands at a team-high plus-14. I know it's a statistic that can be misleading either way if your a heavy minus or an inflated plus. However, as you sit and take the stat and out into context there is something to be said for being a plus player. There's also something to be said for being that much of a plus player. Beats the alternative of being a minus. That's one thing we're all certain of.
Video: NYR@EDM: Benning hammers home slap shot
It's an exciting time for Benning and the rest of the Edmonton Oilers, even if Wednesday was a tough one to take. The season hasn't been without its challenges for Matt. He was the subject of trade rumours heading into the Feb. 26 deadline. Not an easy thing to deal with, especially when you're doing it for the first time in your career. He also had to be patient because of his status of being an in and out of the lineup player.
He played the first two games of the season and then sat one. He played two more and missed three due to injury. Then came 31 games played out of 32. Stability, a regular shift and ice time. Something every player wants. It was after that stint Matt seems to get his bearings and the confidence to match. He missed a handful of games due to a rib injury but on Saturday he is scheduled to play in his 13th straight game.
The life of a young, homegrown defenceman can be a tough one. The learning curve has it's up and downs but I think right now with so much on the line Matt is Benning-ficial to the Edmonton Oilers.