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Ryan Whitney might return to save the Oilers defense soon

Dany Heatley, Nikolai Khabibulin, Ryan Whitney

San Jose Sharks’ Dany Heatley (15) celebrates his goal against Edmonton Oilers’ Nikolai Khabibulin (35) as Ryan Whitney (6) looks on during first-period NHL hockey game action in Edmonton, Alberta, on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson)


Rejoice Edmonton Oilers fans: your defense has a chance to go from horrible to semi-putrid.

Jim Matheson reports that Ryan Whitney could return for the Oilers’ season opener on Sunday, although Ladislav Smid is likely to be sidelined. They didn’t guarantee that he’ll be back, mind you, but it seems like he’ll return in the near future.

It’s unclear when exactly Whitney transformed from a cleft-chinned turnover machine to a defensive savor, but when you look at the Oilers’ defense, their urge to see him back makes some sense. (That’s especially true if they compare Whitney to Cam Barker.)

If nothing else, the Oilers missed his puck-moving ability and scoring skills since he was sidelined with a “freaky” ankle injury in December 2010. The Oilers are expected to work him back into the lineup slowly since he couldn’t even play a preseason game this summer. Eventually, they expect him to return to playing big minutes again, though.

Edmonton’s game plan will likely revolve around scoring and allowing a lot of goals, so a healthy Whitney ranks as a logical fit. We’ll keep an eye open for updates about his status.