Pitkanen doesn't pack it in

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Joni Pitkanen came up lame early in Saturday's game with Calgary, but didn't want to miss out on the all-important rematch. An MRI revealed a strained groin, but he was back on the blue-line last night.

"I saw a doctor and there was a little strain, but I skated in the morning and it was good to play," said Pitkanen. "It's a huge game, you want to be playing at this time of the year."

For a player like Pitkanen, who relies heavily on his mobility, a sore groin can really be debilitating. "He knows his body and he knows how he has to play the game," said head coach Craig MacTavish.

GOALIE TENDER: Mathieu Garon has been skating for a few days now, but the ankle is still tender and after being out for so long, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense rushing him in anyway. MacTavish says Dwayne Roloson will start tomorrow in Vancouver.

"Based on the way Roli is playing, there's no imminent change in the net,"he said. "We'll ride Roli till the end."

HIT TO HURT: Flames defenceman Robyn Regehr seems to make a point of trying to knock Ales Hemsky into the middle of next week, or at least out of the game, and MacTavish is getting a little tired of it.

"He's gotten away with a lot, dangerous hits and dirty hits in a lot of ways," said MacTavish. "Quite clearly, he's trying to hurt him."

Hemsky was forced to leave last night's contest following a hit from Calgary's Adrian Aucoin in the second period.

NILSSON ON THE UP AND UP: Robert Nilsson has won over a lot of people since being traded for Ryan Smyth at last year's deadline, not the least of whom is his coach.

"He really can do it all and that's something I didn't really see in his game," MacTavish said of Nilsson's all-around game. "He's good positionally, good defensively, he's leading the team in plus-minus, and that's not even talking about his puck skill."

OILERS SIGN LERG: The Oilers signed 5-10, 175-pound centre Bryan Lerg to a two-year NHL entry-level contract.

Lerg just completed his final year with Michigan State University, finishing second on the Spartans' scoring list and 11th in the CCHA with a career-high 20-19-39 in 42 games.

Lerg will join the Springfield Falcons this week.


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