Peckham returns from conditioning assignment intent on cracking Oilers lineup
Edmonton defenceman showed up at training camp last month unfit for battle
EDMONTON - After a two-week AHL conditioning stint, Edmonton Oilers defenceman Theo Peckham knows he blew it by not reporting fit for battle at training camp five weeks ago.
Peckham now is part of the Oilers crowded blue-line with eight defenceman in the mix.
Corey Potter has sat out the last two games and, off Thursday’s workout, he’ll have company in the press box with the recently recalled Peckham for Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.
“I brought this on myself,” said the six-foot-two, 246-pound Peckham, who didn’t think the NHL lockout would end when it did.
“I don’t think I’ll have to worry about another lockout. What’s the CBA? Another eight years. I’ll be gone by then,” said the 25-year-old.
“I’ve got my weight down and it’s up to them when I get a chance,” said Peckham, who hurt his groin just before camp, then recovered, had to take the team’s fitness test, which didn’t yield the results the Oilers were looking for.
He readily admits he was heavier than he should have been.
Peckham was sent down to the Oklahoma City Barons, the Oilers’ AHL affiliate, to play four games. He had 29 penalty minutes, so he was his usual rambunctious self.
“Just two minors in there. I hit somebody in the chest and got a five-minute major for boarding and a game misconduct. I’m trying to get back in the lineup here and I know what I have to do to do that. It was nice to hit somebody not wearing the same colour as you.”
The message to Peckham was short and sweet when he was dispatched to the minors.
“Get yourself in playing shape and have some good games,” Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger said.
“Craig MacTavish (the Oilers’ vice-president of hockey operations) was there this weekend and (Peckham) got high marks as the overall strongest defenceman. He went down to do a job and he did it.”
On the surface, Peckham and Mark Fistric are the same abrasive player. Is there room for both in the lineup?
“We’re going to talk about when to get Theo in,” Krueger said.
RNH OK after hit
Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins took a wallop from Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown in the middle of the ice on Tuesday night.
He was clobbered on his shoulder — he’s had trouble there for the last year — but survived the hit.
“Nothing unexpected coming from him. He’s a physical player,” Nugent-Hopkins said of Brown. “The shoulder felt fine. That’s why we put so much effort into getting it stronger. It’ll happen again, for sure.
“When I got hit, I was trying to get the puck into their end so we could get a change.”
Krueger wasn’t holding his breath.
“You look at the battles we were in during the game and Nugent-Hopkins was exemplary. Nobody battled harder and he was going against (Jeff) Carter and (Mike) Richards most of the game,” Krueger said.
Oilers’ first-round draft pick Oscar Klefbom, who had season-ending surgery on his shoulder in November after getting injured in the Swedish Elite League, is getting an education on being an NHLer during his two-week stay here.
“The other night (in Edmonton’s rally against the Colorado Avalanche) he was there in the dressing room with (injured captain) Shawn Horcoff, high-fiving everybody,” Krueger said of the defenceman. “You could see the eyes popping out his head as I walked down the alleyway.
“He’s getting to know everybody. This is huge for Oscar. In every tough situation, there’s something good that can come from it. I told Oscar how comfortable he would be at training camp next year. He’s spending private time with the players.”
Klefbom, who easily could make the roster this fall as a shutdown defenceman, isn’t sitting in the press box eating popcorn during games.
Kreuger has put him to work scouting.
“I had him observe Nick Schultz, Ladi Smid, Jeff Petry, Mark Fistric on our defensive structure against Los Angeles. I want some feedback from Oscar. We’re giving him some assignments.
“I want him to visualize what kind of role he can have with us.”
Jones eager to play
Edmonton winger Ryan Jones, who had eye surgery in Minnesota on Dec. 31 to fix a slight retina tear, is chomping at the bit to play an NHL game.
It likely won’t be Thursday against the Wild, but maybe on Saturday when the Phoenix Coyotes are here for a matinee game. There are no plans to send him to Oklahoma City to get some ice time with the Oilers now 15 games into their 48-game season.
“We’ve got Ryan in the starting blocks,” Krueger said. “He’s such a character player for us. We can get him some battle drills in practice, but there’s nothing that can replace being in an actual game. We’ll start him slow when he returns. Six or seven minutes and then work his way into the 14 to 15-minute (a game) player.
“We can do this with a forward who’s been out a long time. Different for Nikolai Khabibulin (who had a hip injury). A goalie goes in and he has to be a 60-minute guy.”
When Jones returns to the roster, the Oilers will have to send a player to the AHL. Maybe Magnus Paajarvi — a winger for a winger.
No IR for Petrell
Oilers winger Lennart Petrell, who was hit in the helmet by a puck that ricocheted off the post in the pre-game warm-up against Colorado last Saturday, might skate Thursday. There are no plans to put him on injured reserve.
“His head was moving sideways, but we’ve seen an improvement,” Krueger said. “There were light concussion symptoms. He’s too close to skating to put him on injured reserve.”
Boys gone Wild
Ryan Suter and Zach Parise will be making their first trip to Edmonton as members of the Wild after signing identical 13-year, $98-million packages last July.
Parise, who is tied with Pavel Datsyuk for No. 1 in career shootout goals (31), leads the Wild with 12 points.
Suter, playing a whopping 27:24 a game, has eight assists, including four in the last five games, and is minus-5.
Two other Minnesota players to watch are Swedish defenceman Jonas Brodin and Finnish centre Mikael Granlund.
Brodin, the youngest defenceman in the NHL at 19, was the 10th overall pick at the 2011 entry draft. He’s playing with Suter and averaging 22 minutes a game.
Granlund, wearing No. 64, just like Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov, is getting 14:40 a game. Yakupov is averaging 14:44. Granlund has six points; Yakupov has nine.
ON THE BENCH: The Wild and Oilers haven’t met in 420 days, dating back to Dec. 29, 2011. Only eight Wild players are left from that game ... Devan Dubnyk will likely get the start on Thursday. He had one brief relief job for Khabibulin last season ... Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom is 22-3-1 career (1.81 goals-against average) against the Oilers ... Pierre Marc-Bouchard has 41 points in 44 career games against Edmonton, the most he’s had against any NHL team. Captain Mikko Koivu has 34 points in 45 games.
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