SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers Snapshots: Eager to be fit

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:12 AM ET

EDMONTON - Ben Eager got to play a game before passing the test.

Having been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion at the Joey Moss Cup intra-squad game, the Oilers winger made his season debut Monday against the Nashville Predators.

Eager had been cleared for contact more than a week ago, but had yet to pass head coach Tom Renney’s mandatory fitness test.

Due to the lack of healthy bodies up front the Oilers were forced to insert Eager in the lineup.

Despite playing in the game, Eager does not get a free pass, having to take the fitness test on Wednesday.

Regardless, the winger was happy to get back in a game, having missed all of the exhibition season with post-concussion symptoms.

“I haven’t played in a while and am looking forward to getting back in the swing of things,” Eager said. “I feel good. It’s never fun watching, but that’s the way it goes some times. It was only three games, so it could have been a lot worse, it could have been a lot more games.”

Eager’s return is a prelude to Ryan Whitney’s, who expects to play either Tuesday in Calgary against the Flames or at home against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday.

By his count, the Oilers defenceman has not played in 305 days after suffering an ankle injury and undergoing subsequent surgery this off-season. He’s already passed Renney’s fitness test, as has Sam Gagner, who could be back from his sprained ankle by the end of the week.

CLOSE CALL

Linus Omark was sporting a welt on the left side of his jaw after getting hit with the puck Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks.

The Edmonton Oilers winger was considering himself lucky the damage wasn’t more extensive.

“It’s not too bad, it’s a little swollen,” said Omark. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Omark did not suffer any structural damage to his jaw on the play and his teeth were all intact. He went down after taking the shot to the face, but was able to return and play the rest of the contest.

“It was scary and I’ve never been in so much pain before,” Omark said. “I thought I was going to get up and find one half of my face on one side and my jaw down the other.”

Despite the scare, Omark was back in the Oilers lineup on Monday, and had one of his stronger outings.

HEADS UP

A malfunction with the metal oil derrick, which is lowered to the ice during the pre-game festivities had the Oilers scrambling from the bench.

As the derrick was being raised a cable snapped and it started swinging, hitting the Oilers bench and nearly taking out the team photographer in the process. The derrick was eventually lifted up to its anchoring place up near the rafters and the Oilers returned to the bench unscathed.

The team skates through the derrick coming out from the dressing room for the first period.

TRAGIC DAY

Renney was not oblivious to the IndyCar tragedy that claimed the life of driver Dan Weldon.

The Oilers coach knows the sports world is a tight fraternity and can relate to the sorrow felt by the entire auto-racing world.

“It was awful,” Renney said. “What was neat to see was the comrade of the drivers and how much respect to have for each other. It always takes a tragedy to bring us closer together and express our respect for each other.

“I just thought it was amazing how emotional the drivers were. They’re right on the edge, it’s a pretty dangerous thing what they do. It was a real tragedy, but it was interesting to see from a human-interest point of view. It was a tough day for the sports world.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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