The Edmonton Oilers are set to make some changes on the back end, at least for the time being. The team announced today that they have placed defenseman Matt Benning on the injured reserve. The nature of Benning’s injury has not been disclosed and the team gave no timeline for a return, but the injury did occur in last night’s game against the Boston Bruins and his IR assignment means Benning will miss at least ten days and the Oilers’ next five games. In a corresponding move, Kevin Gravel has been recalled from the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors.
Benning’s injury is somewhat ironic. The 24-year-old blue liner was actually the aggressor on a questionable hit up high on Boston forward David Backes early in Thursday night’s 3-2 overtime win for Edmonton (video). Benning received neither a penalty nor a second look from the league on the hit, which sent Backes to the locker room for the the remainder of the period. Backes returned later on, yet it was Bruins draft pick Benning ruled out not long after with an undisclosed injury. Now, Benning lands on the injured reserve even though he nearly landed a serious head shot on Backes. It is worth noting that Benning, teammate Ty Rattie, and Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller all left last night’s chippy contest.
Benning’s absence will allow free agent addition Gravel the chance to re-establish himself at the NHL level. A signing from the Los Angeles Kings, Gravel fully expected to have a role in Edmonton to begin this season. However, the emergence of rookie Evan Bouchard and a successful tryout from veteran Jason Garrison forced Gravel down to the AHL to begin the year. A physical, stay-at-home defender, Gravel has skated in 70 NHL games over the past three seasons and contributed 93 hits and 84 blocked shots as a gritty presence on the back end. The 26-year-old brings a different skill set from Benning, but should provide an edge and a solid game in his own end for the Oilers while he replaces his injured teammate. A strong showing could earn Gravel a long-term stay in Edmonton.