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Oilers decide that Shawn Horcoff’s return is worth taking a ‘calculated risk’

Jan 19, 2011, 11:46 PM EST

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Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs Getty Images

There are some (perhaps many) who will question the Edmonton Oilers and Shawn Horcoff‘s “calculated risk” to allow the team captain to return to the ice before his knee injury fully healed.

Horcoff will skate with a brace on his right knee as he hasn’t fully recovered from a December 7th injury in which he collided with Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry.

Considering how far the Oilers are out of the Western Conference playoff picture, it seems curious to rush their 32-year-old captain back to action. Horcoff feels that there is plenty for the team to gain during the rest of the 2010-11 season, even if the playoffs are a distant possibility.

“Just because you’re out of the playoffs doesn’t mean you can’t put emphasis on hockey games,” said the veteran centre, who will likely skate between Taylor Hall and Dustin Penner in Thursday’s home game against the Dallas Stars at Rexall Place.

“Just because you’re out of the playoffs doesn’t mean you have nothing to play for. You have a job to play for,” he continued.

“We’ll just have to be creative and find some ways to push each other, to make sure every game is competitive. You have to work toward something. You still have to develop these kids, you have to develop your system play, you have to develop your team.

“When you finish the season strong, that has a tendency to carry on to the next one. We want to go into this summer feeling good about ourselves.”

Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s a wise idea to allow Horcoff to return so far from full strength without the dangling carrot of a playoff spot. Then again, the Oilers seem to be taking a big picture approach with this campaign; bringing back their captain during a seemingly lost season falls in line with barring Sheldon Souray from training camp despite the impact it would have on his trade value.

The team is attempting to foster a culture of winning after years of losing since the Chris Pronger trade. Horcoff is likely to be a part of that – at least in the early going – so that’s why they’re taking a risk by bringing him back.

We’ll just have to wait and see if that ends up being a wise decision or a foolish mistake.

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