SUN Hockey Pool

Hall back in Oilers lineup

Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall's  vicious injury after his forehead was cut by another players skate...

Edmonton Oilers Taylor Hall's vicious injury after his forehead was cut by another players skate during a pre-game warm-up skate in Columbus. (EDMONTONOILERS.COM)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:17 PM ET

Taylor Hall looks like he’s been in a title fight and lost.

There are holes in the universe that aren’t as black as Hall’s eye.

Yet despite sporting 30 stitches in his head and shiner worth remembering, the Edmonton Oilers winger returned to the lineup Saturday night against the Calgary Flames.

“My eye looks pretty swollen up, but to be honest, I can see fine out of it,” said Hall, prior to the game. “I feel ready to play. It’s one of those things where if I didn’t play, I would feel like I’d be cheating myself and cheating the team. I’m ready to go and I want to play.”

Saturday, Hall was still sporting the scars of a warm-up incident in Columbus where he stepped on a puck, took out Ladislav Smid, slid into the boards and was cut by teammate Corey Potter’s skate, who was trying to jump over the pile.

The sophomore suffered a nasty gash on his forehead and developed a black eye. The swelling in his left eye was worse Saturday than it had been immediately following the incident.

“This is probably the biggest black eye I’ve ever had,” said Hall. “I’ve worn a visor for my entire NHL career and in junior, so I’ve never had anything like this. It doesn’t look too great, I’m trying to get the swelling down the best I can and see out of it the best I can. It doesn’t look too good.

“I’m not too sure when it’s going to go away or when I’m going to start looking normal again. I just have to put up with it.”

Hall was hoping to be back in the lineup while the Oilers were still on the road, but the club decided to hold him out for precautionary reasons until Saturday’s contest.

“He really tried to get in the game in Columbus, he got on the bike and spun it like crazy but we held him back,” said head coach Tom Renney. “He wants to play. He wants to play hockey, he wants to help. He feels responsible, like we all do, about where we are and wants to do something about it. You have to admire that and look forward to it in the future. The big thing was making sure it healed enough so that if there was impact it would stay together.

“I was concerned a couple of days ago, because it did leak into the eye a little bit. But he’s got real good peripheral (vision), and that’s the most important.”

Heading into the game against the Flames, Hall had 15 goals and 16 assists for 31 points in 36 games this season.

He was playing some of the best hockey of his career prior to the freak injury.

“I had a good rhythm going there. I think I was healthy for about eight games or so,” Hall said. “It’s good to get back, you don’t want to get too much time between games, you don’t want to lose your feel of the game, you don’t want to lose your rhythm of the game. But you don’t want to be stupid and come back when you’re not ready.

“I don’t think taking two games off I’ll have lost too much of my timing or anything. I’m ready to go.”

The Oilers are happy to have Hall back, especially considering the club has struggled to generate offence lately.

With Jordan Eberle coming back from injury Thursday, and Hall’s return Saturday, the Oilers have two thirds of their top line healthy.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is still out with a shoulder injury.

“Hallsy looks good for a guy that’s supposed to be out for the rest of the year. I guess he’s back 30-some games early,” smiled winger Ryan Jones, poking fun at an erroneous report out of Toronto that Hall was done for the year.

“Guys like that are dynamic players, they’re good for the team and good for the organization. Anytime we can get those guys, it’s big for the hockey team and makes things easier for the rest of the team. We just feed off of their energy and things that they do best.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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