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The 32-year-old defender is spending his off-season at his ranch, training and preparing to help guide a potentially new defence partner into the National Hockey League

by Paul Gazzola / is checking in with Oilers players and prospects in our Roster Reboot series as they discuss their summer activities and gear up for the 2019-20 season.

EDMONTON, AB - There are no games to play or charters to catch once it's the off-season but that doesn't necessarily mean Kris Russell stops hustling during the dog days of summer.

The Oilers defender and Caroline, AB, product trades his stick for a tool on his ranch where he spends the majority of his time during June, July and August, as he prepares for September when Oilers Training Camp rolls around.

"Always in the morning, I got to feed the horses when I get up," Russell, speaking to at Oilers Hockey School on Wednesday, said. 

"Feed the critters and then go train and do whatever the day has for us, whether that's fixing fences or helping my dad. It's fun and I like that. I'd like to help out more but I like to try to help out as much as I can."

The 32-year-old is on the move enough during the NHL campaign and finds comfort in the outdoors as well as in the gym. He works out in Edmonton and Red Deer with a few fellow Albertans including Brandon Sutter and Colton Sceviour, striving to make gains ahead of 2019-20, which will see the Oilers compete under new President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Ken Holland, as well as a newly-appointed coaching staff which features Dave Tippett at the helm, incumbent Glen Gulutzan, Jim Playfair and Brian Wiseman.

"When you're on a team that's struggled the last few years, there's going to be change," Russell said of the Oilers new management and coaching staff. 

A journeyman of 12 NHL campaigns, Russell finished '18-19 with 16 points, 27 penalty minutes and 93 hits, averaging 20:26 minutes of ice time a night. For yet another year, the rearguard was a puck-eating machine, finishing third in the League with 185 blocked shots to achieve 1,800 in his career. 

"As a player, every day you want to work your best to try to get better, then bring that forward to camp to the coaching staff to earn your minutes," he said. "You got to show them what you can do. There's a bit of a clean slate and we're all looking forward to that and looking forward to the season."

Given the changes to the Oilers management group, Russell's also well-aware of the changes that could be implemented to the lineup. Should one of the organization's young blueline prospects crack the opening day roster, the veteran understands how to help foster a good relationship with freshmen defenders.

"It's just building a relationship with whoever you're playing with," Russell said. "Doesn't matter if it's a veteran or a guy's first year in the League. Communication is big. You got to have standards and you have to play to those standards and keep each other accountable. The way some of these young guys can step right in, play and contribute is amazing to see."

But until the Oilers season begins, the Albertan is focusing on what he can do to ensure he enters Camp in peak condition.

"I got to earn my minutes and I got to make sure I'm at my best come Camp time," he said.

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