Connor McDavid and Nail Yakupov took another step in their rehab today, as both were involved in a battle drill during practice.
Todd McLellan had a unique practice. The entire 60 minutes focused on offense and offensive zone time, and this is part of his plan to start implementing more drills, habits and skills to his team. He feels they are ready to handle more, but he says the risk is the team can’t forget the details they’ve worked on until now. They need to maintain their habits and schemes, but also digest the new ones the coaches will present in the second half of the season.
McDavid, Yakupov and Pakarinen were a line today, and all three are coming off different injuries. Pakarinen admitted he had a concussion, but he is feeling better and once he passes all tests he will be cleared to play.
McDavid has been skating for almost a month. He has been shooting for over two weeks and is feeling better every day. Today, near the end of practice, McLellan had his team do a battle drill inside the two circles at each end of the rink.
One player had the puck, while the other one had no stick and the goal was to push the puck carrier of the circle, while the puck carrier tried to fend off the defender and deke around or through him. After about 20 seconds of battling, McLellan would blow the whistle and the combatants would skate to centre and back.
McDavid and Yakupov took part in this drill. McDavid looked fine, albeit his teammates weren’t hammering him. It was a good first step in his progression of testing his shoulder/clavicle. The Oilers will not rush him back, and I don’t see him playing either game this weekend, but he is progressing nicely.
Yakupov was quite excited about the drill. There is more pressure on your legs/ankles in this drill than a clavicle, for instance, and Yakupov hadn’t really tested his ankle in any sort of contact drill.
“It is frustrating being out this long, especially when you think your foot is fine, but when you do any movement it isn’t. I am happy to be on the ice and skating with the team and finally doing some battles today. I was checking to see how it would feel, and overall it is good, but it is just the first step. I have to push my foot and make it work a little bit,” said Yakupov.
“You still think about your foot and you try not to hurt it, but when you are 100% sure you don’t think about any injury, you just play. I still think about it, but it was a good test and I think I can trust my foot 80% now, and I can do some quick turns and some quick stop and starts, which is good,” explained Yakupov.
Often the mental hurdle of not hesitating or thinking about the injury is the final step for most players, and Yakupov was very happy with how he felt after. He cautioned it was only one day, but he was happy he didn’t feel any pain or weakness.
Yakupov will miss his 20th and 21st games over the weekend, while McDavid sits out #29 and #30. Both are itching to get back, but their final steps are a bit different. Yakupov hasn’t been able to do much skating and he needs to get his lungs back. We can expect him to endure a few conditioning skates before he gets the green light.
McDavid has been able to skate more and his legs are ready to play. He will never be in game shape until he plays some games, but his final steps are about the strength of the clavicle bone and surrounding shoulder.
“Connor’s injury is different (than Yakupov), there is still some healing that has to go on in that situation, but he did take part in some of the battle drills so that is a good sign,” cautioned McLellan.
Taylor Hall was announced as the Oilers representative at the upcoming All Star game. It was an easy decision. Hall is top-five in scoring and has been excellent all season.
He was asked about staying healthy.
not as much fun to be on the ground and on the IR all the time.
Sometimes I might give up on a play, just to save myself a little bit.”
Hall pointed out he didn’t mean quit, as in not try, but rather that he doesn’t go into an area where he would automatically be vulnerable.
what happens where you’re thrust into the NHL at 18, you don’t have the
seasoning time to get used to men in the AHL, instead you go right into it (NHL). Unfortunately
for me, it took me four or five years to grasp it, and knock on wood, I want
to stay this healthy all the time, because it’s way more fun to be
than it is to be rehabbing and riding the bike all the time.”
I think Hall has made much better decisions ever since he was crushed by Cory Sarich. He only missed one game in 2013, seven in 2014 and none this year. So one serious injury in four years isn’t nearly as bad as it was over his first few seasons.
McLellan was asked about Hall being wiser on the ice and said, “He doesn’t put himself at risk, but I still think he is a bully on the ice. He attacks all over the ice, and if he ever loses that from his game he won’t be as effective.”
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