The Edmonton Oilers got a big boost Thursday when top goal-scorer Ryan Smyth was cleared to return to the lineup after being out almost a month with a broken right thumb. Smyth, out since Dec. 2, practiced Thursday morning, using a plastic brace under a specially fitted hockey glove, and was slated to be in the lineup later that night against the visiting Los Angeles Kings. "I feel pretty confident with it (the brace)," said Smyth. "I had a good chance to talk to the doc yesterday and he says (the thumb) is going to be achy and sore and painful, but as far as it displacing or anything like that he didn't feel that it would." Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish was comfortable using Smyth despite the brace. "I have a hard time keeping a guy that's that valuable out of the lineup when he's really wanting to play," said MacTavish.
Oilers Get Boost With Smyth's Return