Tom Gilbert will be back in the lineup as the Edmonton Oilers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday in the first of a three-game road trip.
The Oilers defenceman has been out since Jan. 2 after being driven into the end boards by Chicago Blackhawks winger Daniel Carcillo.
Gilbert injured his ankle and knee on the play.
“It’s been a long five weeks,” said Gilbert. “This has been the longest five weeks in my career, I think. This is definitely a new experience for me.
“I think the best way to ease my way back after an injury is just to go out there and play. That’s the only way you can get comfortable again, get back into the game, get back into the pace. You know you’re going to be a little bit slower, the game is going to be a little bit quicker and the more I can not focus on my ankle and just go out and play, the better it’s going to be.”
Gilbert missed a total of 14 games due to the injury. He replaces Andy Sutton on the Oilers blue line.
Theo Peckham will also sit out against the Maple Leafs as a healthy scratch.
“Tom Gilbert is definitely a leader with this group, not only defensively, but throughout the whole team,” said Oilers associate coach Ralph Krueger, stepping in for head coach Tom Renney, who took a puck in the head during the morning skate and needed to get stitches.
“He’s a very cerebral player who gives us stability and makes a great first pass out of the zone and can jump up in the play.”
Gilbert will be paired with Cam Barker, who recently returned from an ankle injury himself.
Monday is one of the rare occasions this season where the Oilers have had their entire complement of defencemen available.
“We’re going to ease Tom back in, we’re going to try and give him about 15 minutes (of ice time) and not the 20-some he was playing when he left the lineup,” Krueger said. “Coming off his first lower-body injury, we want to do it smartly. But he’s a great guy to have back on the team and he gives us more depth as we go forward.”
The Oilers are expected to start Devan Dubnyk in goal, who’ll be going for his fourth consecutive win and fifth in the last six games.
The Maple Leafs will counter with James Reimer who has pitched a pair of consecutive shutouts.
Following the encounter, the Oilers move on to face the Detroit Red Wings Wednesday and the Ottawa Senators Saturday.