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Schultz gets first taste of NHL ice

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

- What's old became new again Wednesday. Welcome home, Taylor and Jordan. Justin? Check out your new digs.

"First time skating out there. It was awesome," smiled the 22-year-old rookie. "The ice was great. I haven't been on that good of ice -- I don't know if I ever have. It was a lot of fun out there and I can't wait to get out there when the building is full."

"He loved it," Eberle added of Schultz's Rexall debut. "As soon as he stepped out on the ice he was looking around and we all watched. I felt the same way today, too -- like I made the NHL again."

Schultz, 22, signed as a free agent last June and had waited patiently to get a shot in the NHL while the League's labour dispute dragged on. While he would rather have started the season in the NHL, the Kelowna, BC product believes the 34 games of AHL experience he got was a "blessing in disguise."

Not only did he put up 18 goals and 48 points, but the resulting relationship he built with Hall, Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has instantly made him 'one of the guys' in the Oilers locker room.

"They've made my feel real comfortable around here," Schultz said. "(Tuesday) was my first time here and they helped me around the rink and showed me everything about this dressing room. They're good buddies and they've been showing me around the city a little bit, too, so it's definitely been nice to have them here."

Schultz certainly had no problem putting pucks past some of the AHL's elite, but he agrees that Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin have proven to be a bigger test so far.

"For sure it's a little tougher than in the AHL," he said. "They're both great goalies. We had a great skate out there and I got a few on them. Hopefully that can continue."

Dubnyk, Khabibulin, Eric Belanger, Nick Schultz and were also on the ice Wednesday morning. Ladislav Smid, who had skated with the group earlier in the week, was absent. Dubnyk, Khabibulin

Less than 10 minutes into practice, Hall burst down the ice and caught Dubnyk square on the noggin with a wicked snap shot. "First one of the year!" shouted Eberle.

"Yes," laughed Dubnyk when asked if Hall appeared to be in mid-season form. "I don't even mind because it makes me feel back at home. That one hurt a bit, but it's not a big deal. Those guys put up a lot of points for us so they've got to work on their shooting -- and that usually involves shooting high. It helps them and helps me. But maybe (shoot) around the shoulders instead of the face next time."

"We were a little rusty because we took a couple days off to get here, but it was good to get out with the guys and skate at Rexall again," added Eberle.

As the week progresses more Oilers players are expected to begin skating with the group at Rexall Place.

Nugent-Hopkins, who's still piling up the Air Miles as he returns from the World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, is expected to arrive back in Edmonton either Thursday or Friday. 2012 first-overall draft pick Nail Yakupov is rumoured to be on a similar schedule.

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick

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