Cagey veterans check in with Oilers

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

Attending camp is nothing new for a 10-year veteran like Mike Peca.

Little changes over that time, although Peca, along with Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth, was thankfully able to avoid the usual poking and prodding of the docs and the exhaustive stationary bike test, having already undergone such procedures at the Canadian Olympic team camp less than a month ago.

A NEW SENSE OF THRILL

But reporting to his first training camp as a member of the Edmonton Oilers did bring about a new sense of thrill for Peca.

"Change is always exciting," he said. "You get to be a part of a new organization, it kind of rejuvenates you a little bit. Just meeting a lot of new people, too. I think the greatest thing about our sport is the relationships you make."

With only a few spots up for grabs, the Oilers' lineup is pretty much set in stone. Peca certainly has a premier position waiting for him and he'll be stationed at the start of camp between Ethan Moreau and Ales Hemsky.

"(Moreau) is usually in great shape so he can carry me," smiled Peca, who expects much of the early days of camp will be spent on getting everyone back into NHL game shape - none of those cushy Euro getaways that some got accustomed to during the lockout.

"I think with a year off it's going to be run like a conditioning camp," said Peca. "But we're all excited about it. Knowing what your team is pretty much going to look like gives you the ability to just start working on things, figuring out your line combinations and not spending as much time on evaluating."

When Peca sat out the entire 2000-01 season during a contract dispute with Buffalo, he still skated four or five times a week. The lockout basically forced him into a virtual retirement.

"This is a young hungry team and we're going into a very hungry league," said Peca. "When I came back four years ago, there was kind of a renewed love affair for the game. Not that it ever goes away, but it really reminds you of how much the game means to you emotionally. "

Along with Peca, Todd Harvey is a pivot in new surroundings. Harvey, who captained the Canadian team to world junior gold in Red Deer, figured the early days of training camp will not only be focused on getting everyone physically ready for the long haul of the season but also breaking them in on the new rules, particularly the long breakout passes afforded by no redline and a clampdown on obstruction.

Harvey's game may need some minor fine-tuning under the revamped guidelines but don't expect a whole lot to change from his scrappy, disturbing nature.

'I'VE ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAT'

"I've always been like that," said the veteran of 608 NHL games with Dallas, New York and San Jose that have produced 216 points and 918 penalty minutes.

"I'm going to be banging defencemen around, creating some room for guys and making it hard for the other team to play against me.

"They've got some young guys here with some talent and I'm not getting any younger, so I've got to go out there and do what I can. I'm going to play my game and play that in-your-face style."


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