SUN Hockey Pool

Not easy for Greene

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

ATLANTA -- The Edmonton Oilers wanted to give Matt Greene a little more time to get his legs back, but that's not easy when the rest of the team keeps shooting itself in the foot.

So expect to see the big defenceman make his return, after 11 weeks out with a broken ankle, this afternoon against the Atlanta Thrashers.

"Ideally we would have like to see him play down in the minors again, but based on the way we played Friday, the lack of physical play on the back end, we felt a need to get him back in the lineup," said head coach Craig MacTavish.

"Hopefully Matty can come in and alleviate some of the tough minutes that those guys (Steve Staios and Sheldon Souray) are playing."

They sent the big defenceman down to Springfield so he could get himself back into game shape without hurting the Oilers, but as it turns out, it was a wasted flight. His rusty return couldn't have possibly made their 7-2 loss to Carolina any worse.

With Joni Pitkanen out with a groin injury and zero wins to show for the first two games of their season-defining road trip, they need all the lukewarm bodies they can get.

Greene, running on fumes after playing Friday night in Springfield, bussing to Hershey, getting three hours sleep and flying to Atlanta in time to make an afternoon practice, feels close enough to go.

"The first period was a little slow, I think the first two times I touched the puck I iced it," he said, joking that his passes were a little off. "They were hard and by their heads. Then I got a little more comfortable as the game went on.

"It was good to get down there and get a game in. It's better to make mistakes down there than up here. I'm happy I got that game in but I'm also happy to get back."

He says his game is simple enough that it shouldn't take long to get back in form.

"There's no pressure to put up points, as long as I play a solid simple game, I shouldn't have to worry about losing a step or two, not that I have a step to lose."

It doesn't sound like Pitkanen's sore groin will be ready to go anytime soon. MacTavish seemed awfully pessimistic about seeing the valuable Finn again on this trip.

KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: MacTavish likes the look of Andrew Cogliano, Robert Nilsson and Sam Gagner together on a line. They collected five points on the only two goals Edmonton scored in Carolina, so they'll be together at the start today.

"The jury is still out on whether that line can be effective together, but based on the way that they played Friday we have to give them a chance," said the coach, who liked his young guys better than his veterans in Raleigh.

"The young guys responded really well. I thought Cogs was maybe the most physical forward we had. Kyle Brodziak, too.

"That in itself should have an effect on guys like Marty Reasoner, Fernando Pisani and Ethan Moreau, all the guys we count on to be physical. Normally it's the veterans who get the young guys going, but last game it was reversed."

TRIP IN JEOPARDY: The Oilers pointed to this five game trip as being a potential turning point in their season. And so far it is. But they didn't count on it being a turn for the worse.

"We have this game to try and get on a little roll before the all star game," said Brodziak. "We talked about this road trip being a huge point in the season. We didn't get off to the start we needed, but we have three games left and if we can win all three it's still a fairly successful road trip."


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