Big Turn Of Events For Mattias Ekholm On Friday

Key Edmonton Oilers defenseman Mattias Ekholm hadn't been with the main group at practice all camp due to a hip flexor. But that all changed on Friday, as he was a full-on participant for the first time this fall, raising hopes that he could be ready for the season opener.

"It's been going on a bit longer than I'd anticipated," said Ekholm about his hip. "I thought I'd be full-on a couple of weeks ago.

"(Rehab is) kinda boring for sure. It isn't the most fun."

The 33-year-old noted that this time of year is the time to make sure you get these types of niggling things taken care of. "You don't have much time to heal during the season, " added Ekholm, "so taking the time now to do it and do it for real, that's where we're at."

So now that he's back with the main group, will he be ready for the season opener next Wednesday? 

"I can't tell you a definite answer right now, but I do feel good, so I'm hopeful."

Ekholm was a huge acquisition by the Oilers at last season's trade deadline from the Nashville Predators. Not only for his own strong play, but also for the way he elevated his blueline mate Evan Bouchard's play to extraordinary levels. The Ekholm-Bouchard pairing outscored opponents 27-8.

As also noted by Allan Mitchell in The Athletic, "Ekholm’s presence on the roster was good enough to reduce the goals-against per 60 at five-on-five by a full goal down the stretch (2.69 GA down to 1.69 GA with him) in a breathtaking run for the club."

Ekholm has also been an iron man throughout his career, adding to the hope that he'll be ready to answer the bell. He had five straight seasons of 80 games played or more while with the Preds, and played 76 and 78 games the last two years, respectively.

Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports