January 6, 2012
No timeline on Whitney return to Oilers
By Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency
The Edmonton Oilers want to be patient with Ryan Whitney.
Having seen what the defenceman was capable of last season, the club is in no rush to get him back in the lineup and risk his ankle problems becoming chronic.
Therefore, although Whitney went to North Carolina this week to visit the doctor who preformed his ankle surgery, there is still no timeline on his return.
"I hope he comes back soon," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "We have to get him back on the ice and back skating.
"We want to make sure that he's fit enough that when we do the (fitness) test that he nails it and he can play, and it's not a function of when we do the test that he's way off and we have to continue for him to get ready to play from a fitness perspective."
Whitney has been limited to just 17 games this season due to his ankle issues. The Boston native was hoping to be over the problem by this time, but the ankle doesn't seem to want to come around.
"For him the issue is strength now," said Renney. "He needs to feel strong over it and comfortable with the dynamic of playing the position under the circumstances of a defenceman. We have to try to get him there by getting him on the ice and doing those things.
"There is a mental connection from his head to the rest of his body to know that he can do it. That's pretty much where we are."
Prior to heading out on this recent road trip, Whitney admitted he may have come back too soon this season. Whitney hasn't been able to play up to his capabilities, which has been frustrating for him and the club.
"Ryan is a very important player for us and we have to listen to the athlete and how he's doing," said Renney. "We've done everything we possibly can to help him get stronger and be prepared to play. There's a point and time that the player has to say ‘Ok, I have to give it a go here' and we'll prod him and push him a little bit, but we're certainly going to listen to him."
Along with Whitney, the Oilers are also working on getting Tom Gilbert back in the lineup. The defenceman did not practice Friday and is unlikely to be in the lineup for the Saturday matinee against the Dallas Stars.
Gilbert was driven into the boards by Chicago Blackhawks winger Daniel Carcillo on Monday. Carcillo was suspended seven games for the hit.
"He has kind of two things going on, the knee which he really pushed hard (Thursday) and the ankle," said Renney. "The knee, I think, is feeling better, but ankles can be temperamental things. I really don't have a timeframe for him."