The Western Conference-leading Edmonton Oilers had a number of names back at practice on Monday, but head coach Dave Tippett was quick to qualify these appearances. As the Oilers look to stay hot and cement themselves as the team to beat out west, they want to be at full strength and are heading in the right direction. However, some players are further along than others in their recoveries.
Defensemen Darnell Nurse and Duncan Keith are the closest to returning to the lineup, per Tippett. Keith has been dealing with a nagging upper-body injury that was reaggravated early last week and has sidelined him since. Nurse landed on injured reserve two weeks ago with a broken finger, but appears ready to go. While Tippett stated that Nurse needs to be officially cleared by the team’s medical staff, which could keep him on the shelf through his three-week recovery timeline, Keith is more of a matter of how he is feeling and when he personally believes he is ready to return. Nurse is the Oilers’ leader in average time on ice while Keith is unsurprisingly the team leader in career time on ice, so Edmonton is eager to get both back on the blue line.
Also within a week or so of returning is forward Devin Shore. While not quite ready to return just yet from an undisclosed upper-body injury, Tippett did not rule out that he could return next week. Though Shore has played a limited role for the Oilers so far, the 27-year-old forward is a useful piece for a team constantly looking for depth up front.
They could receive more reinforcements up front at some point from rookie Dylan Holloway as well. However, of all the players back on the ice at practice, Holloway is the furthest from returning. Holloway initially suffered a fractured wrist back in March which required surgery in September, with Holloway receiving a three-month recovery timeline. Tippett expects the 2020 first-round pick to see his recovery through in full, making it unlikely that he plays at all in December. Still, the fact that he is back skating is encouraging for the Oilers, who would very much like to see the talented young forward in NHL action.
Finally, the most high-profile injury in Edmonton this season has belonged to expected starting goaltender Mike Smith. Smith landed on injured reserve in October and it was unclear how long the veteran netminder would remain on the shelf. The situation became more muddied earlier this month when he suffered a setback just as he was expected to return. Well, Smith has been on the ice four days in a row now according to Tippett, including taking live shots for the first time today. With Mikko Koskinen playing well, the Oilers won’t rush the 39-year-old Smith back into action, but it seems like he is poised to return sooner rather than later.