Mattias Ekholm to return for Edmonton Oilers home opener

There is finally reason for Edmonton Oilers fans to cheer, with the news Mattias Ekholm is set to make his season debut in the home opener with the Canucks.

Still processing the horror show that was the 8-1 loss in Vancouver on Wednesday night, the Oilers are desperately in need of some good news. And we’re happy to report they have some, in terms of the latest update on Mattias Ekholm.

Ekholm is set to make his season debut in the home opener on Saturday night, as the Oilers look for some measure of revenge versus the Canucks. He has been out of action, since sustaining a hip flexor injury during offseason training.

As much as one player can’t cure all ills, the Swedish hockey player has already proved he can make a considerable difference. Consider that the Oilers finished last season a sensational 18-2-1, following his acquisition from the Nashville Predators.

In addition, Ekholm’s influence specifically on Evan Bouchard proved beneficial for everyone concerned. The grizzled veteran used his experience and leadership to help boost the confidence and performance of his younger teammate.

Potential pairings on Saturday

In this respect, it was perhaps inevitable that the duo were paired up again, during Friday’s practice. As per Oil on Whyte‘s Devon Hladunewich, the other pairings were as follows:

  • Darnell Nurse – Cody Ceci
  • Brett Kulak – Philip Broberg
  • Markus Niemeläinen – Vincent Desharnais

Of course, Niemeläinen’s return from injury meant he was subsequently placed on waivers. Interestingly, there is talk of Broberg being a healthy scratch on Saturday night, which would result in Kulak being paired with Desharnais.

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Regardless, what’s most important is that Ekholm will be back in the lineup to help solidify the blue line. The Oilers are looking forward to having him for a full season, especially after Wednesday night’s embarrassing defensive display.

Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft spoke to the media on Friday, about the situation with the 33-year-old. He said:

“I think he’s had really good days. I think part of us holding him back from the last game was more just us trying to (be) as smart as possible in getting Mattias what he needs, in order to get him feeling ready to play. He looked good out there to me and it looked like he had another good day.”

In terms of what Ekholm brings to the team, Woodcroft is confident about what he offers, albeit with a note of caution. He said:

“I think realistically he has not seen any preseason hockey games. He’s walking into his first game of the year, so we have to understand that. For him though, his advantage is that he’s the age that he is, he’s the elite thinker that he is, and no one knows himself or the game better than Mattias. So he’s one person I don’t worry about.”

Due to the combination of Ekholm’s return, playing at home and the lingering embarrassment of Wednesday’s game, the Oilers will be substantially better on Saturday night. Whether it is enough to ensure a win however, remains to be seen.

  • Published on 10/14/2023 at 8:30 AM MDT
  • Last updated on 10/14/2023 at 8:30 AM MDT

Originally Appeared Here

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