Veteran defenseman Andrej Sekera began his road back to the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night in the American Hockey League with the Bakersfield Condors and by all accounts it was a very good first step.
Sekera, 32, sustained an Achilles injury while working out prior to the start of training camp and he played his first game in 10 months in what will be a brief conditioning stint on a loan to the Condors. It was his first AHL game since the 2007-08 season.
“Actually better than I expected,” Sekera said of his first game. “It took the first period to settle in then the second and third I felt pretty good. I was really happy.”
Oilers Assistant GM Keith Gretzky took in the game and said he was pleased with what he saw.
“He was good,” Gretzky said. “You see his smarts. He’s so intelligent out there. He’s a couple steps ahead of everybody in his thinking. Rusty a little bit with the puck at times but I was really happy.
“He battled down low. The one play behind the net (late in the game) he took two guys out. A veteran player.”
Sekera played 20 minutes, registered one shot on goal and was a plus-one as the Condors beat San Jose for their 11th straight victory.
“He was solid,” said Condors coach Jay Woodcroft. “He played a steady, patient type of veteran game that I’ve come to expect having coached him for the last three years in Edmonton.
“He moved pucks, he was excellent on the penalty kill. He didn’t try and do too much. Our coaching staff was quite pleased with his first game.”
It is the second straight season Sekera has had to come back from injury. Last season he played just 36 games after coming back from an ACL tear.
“Both are tough, he said of the rehab to come back. “But the ACL is tougher, especially the mobility part. With the ACL you’re supposed to wear a brace so it restricts you a little bit.”
It was just one game, but Sekera said his mobility was better than when he returned to the ice last season.
“The strength was there last year, but not the mobility,” he said. “The Achilles feel comfortable and the knee does as well.”
Sekera was set to play again on Saturday night against the San Diego Gulls.
According to NHL rules, Sekera’s loan may not exceed six days and three games, but can extended an additional two games if needed. Depending on what the Oilers decide, Sekera could be back in the NHL (but there needs to be salary cleared as the OIlers are over the cap) after Saturday night’s game or he could be around for more Condors games next week.