The Edmonton Oilers got a familiar face back at practice on Tuesday afternoon. Veteran forward Zack Kassian, injured last month in a fight against Ottawa’s Erik Gudbranson, skated with the main group at Rogers Place.
He’s not quite ready for a return to the lineup and won’t play on Wednesday. That said, one of Edmonton’s top emotional leaders will soon return to the lineup as the group gears up for a playoff run.
“He’s coming. He still hasn’t been cleared by the doctors but it was his first day with our group,” Head Coach Dave Tippett told reporters. “He’s been skating for a few days on his own. So, that’s the first day with our group. I think he’s progressing. He’s got to get cleared by the doctors, which I think at the earliest might be the end of the week. We’ll see where it goes from there.”
The Oilers will need to find a role for Kassian when he returns. The fit may not be so simple. Jesse Puljujarvi has emerged has a real top-six forward for the group, while Kailer Yamamoto has the other skill-line spot. In the bottom-six, Josh Archibald brings value as a penalty killer, while Alex Chiasson has been playing quite well.
Perhaps this opens the door for the Oilers to make a trade. Reports surfaced, from TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, that the Oilers have internally discussed a trade for Buffalo Sabres F Eric Staal. Perhaps a winger like Chiasson or even Kassian could go the other way.
Regardless, Zack Kassian is closing in on a return. Soon, he’ll be patrolling the wing at Rogers Place looking to fight for his job back.