Taylor Hall will return to the Oilers lineup Thursday night against NHL leading scorer Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Edmonton confirmed the top-line forward’s early return from an injured left knee on its Twitter account. On Oct. 22, it was announced Hall would be sidelined one month after suffering the injury in a 3-1 win over Ottawa on Oct. 19.
“How he’s going and how the team is going will determine how much ice time he gets tonight,” Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins said of Hall to reporters following Thursday’s morning skate in Florida.
Hall, who averaged 21 minutes 28 seconds of ice time this season before the injury, will wear a knee brace for the balance of the season.
"It's fine,” the 21-year-old was quoted as saying on the Oilers’ Twitter account. “It's a little clunky but it feels good on my knee.”
Hall, who had 50 points in 45 games in last year’s lockout-shortened season, has three goals and eight points with a minus-6 rating in nine contests this season.
He said he felt ready to play at Wednesday’s practice and was originally eyeing a return Saturday at Chicago in the finale of Edmonton’s four-game road trip.
“It's good that I didn't miss the four weeks that were planned,” said Hall. “If I felt good enough to play I knew I had to play.
"I had a feeling I'd be back sooner. I had a goal of three weeks when it first happened and I'm back even sooner than that."
Hall 'helps fill a void'
The 4-10-2 Oilers, who are last in the Pacific Division, went 2-4-1 in Hall’s absence.
"He pushes the pace of the game. Him coming back helps fill a void." teammate Jordan Eberle said of Hall.
Edmonton forward Linus Omark, who was recalled from the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, will make his season debut against the Lightning.
“I need to play my game, be responsible with the puck on defence,” said Omark, who led the Barons this season with eight goals, including three on the power play.
While numerous West teams have gotten off to excellent starts, Edmonton (4-10-2) isn't one of them. The Oilers did manage to snap a five-game losing streak with a 4-3 overtime victory at Florida on Tuesday.
Mark Arcobello scored his first two career goals, the second in the extra period, while defenceman Taylor Fedun scored in his Oilers debut and Philip Larsen got his first goal of the season.
The Oilers had been outscored 9-0 in their prior two games and hadn't recorded a goal for 163 minutes 49 seconds before Larsen scored late in the first period.
"I thought we took some baby steps in the right direction," Eakins said. "I liked that we stayed in the fight."
Arcobello's second goal came on the power play, but Edmonton has converted at a woeful 13.5 per cent rate this season. The Oilers have gone 2-for-32 in the last 11 games.
A road-heavy schedule may be contributing to the Oilers' early problems, though the club is 3-5-2 away from home as compared to 1-5-0 at Rexall Place.
The Oilers have had success against Tampa Bay recently, going 3-0-1 in the past four meetings.
They will be facing a well-rested Lightning squad led by Stamkos, who scored for the fourth straight game in Saturday’s 4-2 win over St. Louis.
Stamkos has six goals and four assists during a six-game points streak and tops the NHL scoring race with 20 points.
The Atlantic Division-leading Lightning (10-4-0) have been off since Saturday. Brett Connolly, Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn also scored against the Blues.
Tampa Bay is 5-0 against West opponents, with two victories over defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago.
"I think progress is probably the correct word because we've played some of these upper echelon teams," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I thought we earned the victory [Saturday] against an extremely good opponent.
"That's the progress because we're playing an elite team and I think we more than hung with them."
The Lightning outscored an opponent 2-0 in the third period for the second straight game and recorded 14 shots on goal over the final 20 minutes.
Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop made 28 saves and stopped a breakaway in his first game against the team that drafted him. Bishop has posted a 1.51 goals-against average in his last four outings.