Can't hand it to Yan

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

Yan Can't.

At least not yet, and it's eating away at the blue chip prospect.

"It becomes a mental challenge," said Yan Stastny, who's had to miss the first six days of Oilers training camp after bruising a bone in his hand during rookie camp. "We're shooting for the next couple of days and seeing how the hand reacts, hoping to be ready for Tuesday or Wednesday."

While everybody else gets to strut their stuff for the coaches, he's in the back room getting treatment. They finally let him got for a twirl two days ago, just to see how a stick feels in his hands, after the rest of the players were done their practice session.

It's pretty hard to win a job that way.

"It's tough, but it's part of the game,'' he said. "People get hurt, and you have to fight your way back, do what you have to do, all the rehab and therapy. I wish it was a little faster, but the way it's been improving on a daily basis, we're happy.''

Head coach Craig MacTavish says they know what he can do - or they wouldn't have brought him over from Boston - so there's no point in rushing him back early.

"We saw that he's close to being an NHLer and we want to see him against NHL competition. The most important thing for him is to get himself healthy.We don't want to evaluate him based on a one-handed player.''

UNHAPPY WITH CAMPER: MacTavish wasn't at all thrilled with the sketchy play of Alex Semenov in the Calgary exhibition game. He expected the 24-year-old to be farther along than he is right now.

"He made a lot of mistakes on the ice positionally,'' said the coach. "He didn't use his stick very effectively. There are a lot of tactical and technical mistakes he made. He wasn't really a physical factor on the ice. There are a lot of things that are going to have to improve in his game because there are a lot of guys who are really hungry for that spot. He's going to have to play better to protect it.''

At six-foot-six, Semenov has an enormous wingspan, but the Oilers' second pick (36th overall) in the 1999 draft has yet to grab a job by the throat.

"I think sometimes young guys forget how hard it is to be successful at this level,'' said MacTavish. "You make the team one year and think, 'OK, I've overcome that hurdle and now I'm now established, and you forget to take care of business. All of a sudden you get a slap in the face when you play the first game.''

With a new crop of kids coming up behind him, nothing for Semenov is guaranteed.

"We've got some guys coming in here that have pretty good heads on their shoulders,'' said MacTavish.

"Dan Syvret can think the game. Matt (Greene) is pretty coachable, too. There are some guys we're going to give serious looks to.''

STARS IN TOWN: Mike Peca makes his pre-season debut for the Oilers tonight against Dallas in a lineup that includes Ales Hemsky and rookies Greene and Brad Winchester. Rob Schremp and Jani Rita, who played against the Flames, will draw in again.


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