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Oilers hope Hall can spark offence

Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall shoots on the goal around Minesota Wild defenseman Marco...

Edmonton Oilers left wing Taylor Hall shoots on the goal around Minesota Wild defenseman Marco Scandella during the second period of their NHL hockey game in St. Paul, Minnesota November 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Eric Miller)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:00 PM ET

PHOENIX - Taylor Hall and Corey Potter are back, now all that remains to be seen is whether the Edmonton Oilers are, too.

Between a long slump and a four-day break between games, the Oilers have been missing in action for some time.

The next sighting will be 7:30 Thursday evening in Phoenix, when they take on the struggling Coyotes at Jobing.Com Arena.

Whether they’re new and improved or same-old, same-old with the returning bodies and time off will be determined then.

Trailing the ninth place Coyotes by two points, the 10th place Oilers are calling this one a must win.

“We have to,” said head coach Tom Renney. “This is a team in our division, we have to try and suppress these guys.

“These are teams we have to really battle with in order to get our playoff spot. We have to be equal to the challenge.”

They’ll be bolstered, they hope, with the return of Hall, who’s been out three weeks with a shoulder injury, and Potter, who’s been out four with a bad ankle. Both players were key elements before getting hurt.

“We’ll keep our expectations realistic because they haven’t played in a while,” said Renney, who noticed a big difference in Edmonton’s offence without Hall.

“Any time you don’t have that in your line-up you’re scrambling to find different ways to get wins. Now that he’s back, just his attack game and his ability to create and influence a shift is something we need.”

Hall is eager to be back, but knows he won’t be able to pick up exactly where he left off.

“You don’t want to come out and try to set the world on fire,” he said after Edmonton’s morning skate in Phoenix. “It’s hard as a hockey player to come back, when you’ve missed games, to really come back and do amazing. I’m going to have to play my game, but as simply as possible and try and limit my mistakes.”

The shoulder injury, he says, is not even in the back of his mind.

“I’m going to go into the corners like always and play with a lot of heart and a lot of battle. I don’t think anything is going to change on that front. I feel the shoulder is strong and it’s going to hold up really well.”

Potter came out of nowhere to become Edmonton’s best defenceman at both ends of the rink before he got hurt. A lot of people are anxious to see if he can be that player again after the long absence.

“Pottsy is definitely a guy who’s been missed as far as the power play is concerned,” said Jordan Eberle. “Before he got injured he was looking like Chris Pronger back there.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

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