One year ago, Matthew Benning didn’t know if he’d be playing pro hockey this season. Now, he’s set to play a big role on the Edmonton Oilers blue line in game seven Wednesday night against the Anaheim Ducks.
Benning, who turns 23 on May 25, will likely be the point man on the Oilers second power play unit, filling in for the injured Andrej Sekera. In game six on Sunday, he was on the first unit as Oscar Klefbom was also unavailable.
“When you’re on the ice with the calibre of players that we have on our power play, it’s more just getting into position,” said Benning, who assisted on Mark Letestu’s power play goal late in the first period. “The whole year, I watched our power play. In some cases, I took some reps in practice. I’ve always been sitting in on the meetings. It was an easy transition to step in there. Those guys are so good. They make passes to you and you have time with the puck.”
Benning had been logging between 13-16 minutes of ice time in most non-overtime playoff games. With the injuries on Sunday, he skated for 23:38 in helping the Oilers to a 7-1 win.
“Tremendous,” said head coach Todd McLellan. “Young fellow who’s learned a lot this season. Not only about the game and the position. He was good about that to begin with. But just the ups and downs of a long year.”
Benning spent the previous three seasons at Northeastern University, never playing more than 41 games in a season. This year, he’s played 76 games between the NHL and AHL.
“It’s a big adjustment for anyone who hasn’t experienced it,” said McLellan. “Both Drake (Caggiula) and Matt are doing a tremendous job of it.”
As for Klefbom, he took part in Tuesday’s practice at Rogers Place before the Oilers flew to Anaheim.
“He sure looked good out there today. As I said the other day, we expect him to play,” McLellan said of Klefbom.
Catch game seven between the Oilers and Ducks on 630 CHED Wednesday night with the Face-off Show at 6pm and the game starting at 8pm. (jrw)