Swede gets back in swing

DEREK VAN DIEST

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

CHICAGO -- It had been 12 games since Dick Tarnstrom was last in the lineup.

But the veteran blue-liner drew in for Denis Grebeshkov in the Edmonton Oilers 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Friday.

Tonight, Tarnstrom will likely stay in the lineup, with Ladislav Smid drawing the short straw on defence.

"I thought Dick was okay. He battled hard," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "It's tough to jump back in when you've been out for that long. As a coach you live with some mistakes as long as the guys are working and battling hard and I thought he did that."

Tarnstrom, 28, played just over 20 minutes Friday and finished with a minus-1, having been on the ice for Brian Gionta's game-winning goal.

The Sudbyberg, Sweden, native had not been in the lineup since getting hit by Dustin Byfuglien of the Chicago Blackhawks on Nov. 24th. He missed 10 games with concussion symptoms and then couldn't find a spot in the lineup when he was ready to return.

"It's always hard to come back because it had been so long," Tarnstrom said. "It's always going to take a little while to get back into it.

"But I felt fine, sometimes things were pretty quick out there so it takes some time to adjust."

Tarnstrom's return gives the Oilers seven healthy defenceman, meaning one of them will be designated to the pressbox for each game. If anything, it should create healthy competition for spots in the lineup.

"It should always be competitive back there," MacTavish said. "If you're playing poorly and keep making those mistakes, you're going to find yourself on the outside looking in."


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