"We’re still talking about the Oilers here, right? They almost always beat the injury odds. Until they don’t.
Here’s hoping neither player comes back too early."
--RiversQ, in the comments section of Finally, The Oilers Get Good Injury News
According to the Oilers' Twitter feed, Taylor Hall has passed Tom Renney's fitness test and is ready to return tonight. His 2-4 week return window ended up at 2.5 weeks. He's going to have residual pain in the shoulder, but the structural damage is limited. Rumors of post-season surgery for Hall mirror the rumors that followed Shawn Horcoff in 2008. Horcoff did not need surgery that off-season and it's unlikely that Hall will go under the knife for a mild AC sprain.
Teemu Hartikainen, on the other hand, will not return so early. The talk in Oklahoma City had Hartikainen returning by the Christmas break, things haven't gone as well. Though he's been skating with the Barons for over a week, he's still in the non-contact jersey. So while he could pass the Tom Renney fitness test with ease, the shoulder isn't healed yet. He will sit until he's not in danger. Hartikainen is set to return after the break, at the five week mark, on the back side of his 3-6 week window.
It raises the question -- though Hartikainen's sprain was slightly worse than Hall's, Hall is returning early and will work with residual pain. Hartikainen will sit and wait to regain his health.
As the oft-wise Rivers notes, This is worth keeping an eye on. There is no team more renown for bringing players back from injury early and no team with a history of putting players in bad situations like the Edmonton Oilers. In April of 2010, management addressed this by throwing a few lower-level staff members under the bus for 4 years of failure. Note that those same issues have persisted since firing the fall guys. If Hall were to return from injury for a non-playoff team and put his career at risk, there are no more fall guys, no more excuses within the organization.
It's worthwhile to note that the Barons aren't taking the same risks with Hartikainen. Perhaps our OKC writing contingent can turn up a bit more information about the Baron's medical staff and their on-ice minimum requirements. They've taken a conservative approach and for prospects, that's almost always the correct approach.
As a non-thinking fan, it will be great to see the Oilers' motor back on the ice. As a thinking fan, it concerns me that Hall has come back so early for a non-playoff team. No matter what, Hall needs to stay healthy for an extended period. He's now suffered two significant injuries within six season months - an awful start to a career. Hall is the Oilers' motor - his shot generation is unmatched amongst the under-30 contingent. His absence is significant, but not as significant as long-term effects in Hall's shoulder.