Oilers' Potter set to return

Oilers defenceman Corey Potter skates during practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 6,...

Oilers defenceman Corey Potter skates during practice at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 6, 2011. (PERRY MAH/QMI Agency)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:45 PM ET

EDMONTON - Corey Potter is anxious to pick up where he left off.

Having perhaps been the biggest surprise at training camp, the Edmonton Oilers defenceman is set to make his return after battling through an ankle injury.

Potter could be back as soon as Thursday when the Oilers visit the Phoenix Coyotes.

“It was definitely bad timing, but all you can do is take the time off and heal up as best as you can so you’re not thinking about it when you get back out there,” Potter said. “I just want to go back there and try to play the same game that I was earlier in the season.

“It has felt like a long time. It’s felt like a long process and you’d definitely rather be out there playing for sure.”

Potter has been out since mid-November after aggravating an ankle injury he had originally picked up nearly a month earlier.

“I was playing on a sore ankle for about four weeks before I really tore it up,” he said. “I was going to hit a guy and my leg swung around and snapped on his hip and tweaked it that way.

“After that I still played on it and ended up tweaking it three times in one day. They called it from there and I had to get an MRI on it. The doctors said it would be better if I sat out for a while and let it heal.”

Prior to his injury, Potter had scored two goals and added six assists in 16 games for the Oilers.

He was manning the point on the first power-play unit and was partly responsible for the team’s strong defensive play early on this season.

Potter was signed by the Oilers as a free agent this off-season after spending the majority of his career in the minors.

While they could use his big shot on the power play, Oilers head coach Tom Renney is taking a cautious approach when it comes to reinserting Potter into the lineup.

Renney knows it’ll take a few games for Potter to regain his timing and his form.

“I think you’ve seen that with others,” Renney said. “A big guy takes a little longer, of course. We’ll be prudent here and we’ll keep our expectations where they belong and hopefully he can help us sooner than later.”

Potter is still feeling some discomfort in his right ankle, but did pass Renney’s fitness test on Wednesday before the team departed to Phoenix.

“I think it’s one of those things where it’s going to nag at me for a while,” said Potter. “There is going to be some soreness and maybe a little bit of tweaking here and there. It’s just a matter of keeping on the meds and on the ice and just battling through it.”

Despite not being able to skate for a couple of weeks, Potter was able to stay in shape by taking up swimming and eventually riding the stationary bike.

Before he was injured, the 27-year-old defenceman was averaging over 20 minutes of ice-time a night for the Oilers. It’s more than he ever played in his brief time with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins.

“The most that I’ve ever played in New York is 14 or 15 minutes,” Potter said. “There were a couple of games where I was playing five or six minutes, so it was tough to be put into those situations.

“This is actually easier to play, more minutes. You get into a groove when you’re playing 20 or so minutes. It’s easier.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

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