SUN Hockey Pool

Grebeshkov solid in return

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

The way he fell into the boards, Denis Grebeshkov could have easily been lost for the season.

However, less than three weeks after being slew-footed into the end boards by Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec, the Edmonton Oilers defenceman was back in the lineup.

Grebeshkov, 25, suited up in the Oilers 3-2 victory Saturday over the Minnesota Wild.

"It felt pretty good, it wasn't bad," Grebeshkov said.

"My ankle felt pretty good. It didn't bother me a lot during the game.

"At first it was a little slow because I hadn't played in a long time. I'm just glad I was able to come back and play."

Plekanec received a two-game suspension for taking Grebeshkov's leg out from under him as they were chasing a puck along the boards.

Grebeshkov suffered a high ankle sprain and was initially forecast to be lost for a month.

"It felt fine, there wasn't anything I really couldn't do," Grebeshkov said. "I thought my timing was OK. I can't really complain."

Having the native of Yaroslavl, Russia, back in the lineup is a big boost for the Oilers, especially considering Lubomir Visnovsky was earlier lost for the season with a shoulder injury.

Grebeshkov represents another skilled puck-moving defenceman who can play on the power play and kill penalties.

With him out of the lineup, practically all the responsibility to provide offence from the back end fell on Sheldon Souray and Tom Gilbert, who scored the winning goal on Saturday.

"He provides great puck-moving skills on the ice for us," Gilbert said. "It's also good that our time on the ice is more spread out. It doesn't really matter how much time you are playing, it's just how effective you are.

"He does a great job for us moving the puck and it's great to have him back."

In the win over Minnesota, Grebeshkov collected an assist while playing over 22 minutes - including just over three on the power play.

While he was out of the lineup, Souray and Gilbert played nearly every minute of the manpower advantages.

"Obviously you're still trying to get as much ice time as possible," Gilbert said.

"But when your ice time comes down a little bit you can get more out of your legs and you can join the rush more.

"It's good to have him back. He's got great vision and it definitely helps us with our breakout play."

Acquired in a trade with the New York Islanders for Marc-Andre Bergeron and a third-round pick in February of 2007, Grebeshkov quickly developed into a valuable member of the Oilers defensive corps.

In 52 games this season, he has four goals and 22 assists. He had three goals and 18 points in his first year with the Oilers last season.

"I thought he played great, especially in the second period, he really helped us out moving the puck and on the power play," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish.

"I thought in the third period it got a little dicey on a few plays in particular, but I think that was just a sign of a bit of rust."

Having taken the lead in the second period, the Oilers managed to hold off the Wild for the win, in large part due to the play of goaltender Dwayne Roloson.

The Wild outshot the Oilers 18-3 in the third period, but were unable to score the tying goal.

The win helped the Oilers move past the Wild in the Western Conference standing putting them back into a playoff spot.

Edmonton opens a four-game road trip tomorrow in Nashville.

"I thought we played pretty good and struggled a little bit on the PK in the first period," Grebeshkov said.

"That's one part of our game we have to focus on more, because five-on-five and on the power play we're playing pretty well."


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