SUN Hockey Pool

Nilsson close to returning

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

Robert Nilsson always seems to make news at optional practices.

First he drew the ire of his coach, and a crowd of reporters around his stall, for blowing off an optional shortly after being made a healthy scratch.

And yesterday there was another crowd around his stall because he did take part in an optional.

It means he's that much closer to returning from his concussion.

"I feel better and better, it's nice to do some skating," said Nilsson. "I feel pretty good. Sunday I got a bit of a headache when I got bag skated. I needed to rest a little bit."

But he was back at it yesterday and isn't ruling out being healthy enough to go tonight against Columbus.

Nilsson was injured Jan. 9 against San Jose when he got tangled up with Douglas Murray, a close friend of his with the Sharks. He took the morning skate before Edmonton's next game and felt terrible, and has for most of the 10 days since.

"You get headaches, you feel like you're going to puke, you can't really do anything,"he said. "You can't sit at a computer, even watching a hockey game is tough for you."

POTULNY SENT BACK

With Ales Hemsky returning to the lineup and Nilsson poised to, the Oilers needed to make space on the roster, so they shipped Ryan Potulny back to Springfield.

Potulny had three assists in four games with the big club.

PISANI CLOSE TO SKATING

Oilers winger Fernando Pisani, out of his cast and doing range of motion rehab on the ankle he busted on Nov. 17, says he'll be back on the blades after the All-Star break.

"After that it's just a matter of getting my conditioning back," he said.

RAFFI RETURNS TONIGHT

Tonight's visit from Columbus marks the return to Edmonton of Raffi Torres. While woefully inconsistent during 276 regular season games with the Oilers, he earned his coach's respect for his work during Edmonton's run to the Stanley Cup final.

"He played great," said MacTavish. "That's the thing about Raffi, when the competition gets higher and the intensity goes up, it hurts a lot of guys' games, but it helps his."

Torres had 11 points, and twice as many big hits, in 22 post-season games that year.

"He played his best hockey at the most critical time," said MacTavish. "He's a proven successful player in playoff hockey."

GOOD BREAK, BAD BREAK

With the Oilers playing their best hockey of the season, you have to wonder if the All-Star break, seven full days between tonight's game with Columbus and their Jan. 27 return against Buffalo, comes at a bad time.

"That's a good question," said MacTavish. "I don't know. When you're playing well and everybody is healthy you want to string some games together. But if we have a good solid game, the break could come at a good time when everybody is feeling good about themselves. We'll be a confident group coming back."


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