SUN Hockey Pool

Playing through the pain

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:33 AM ET

Yan still can. He just has some catching up to do before he can prove it.

Entering the rookie and main camps, Yan Stastny was heading down a path that could have led to a spot on the Oilers' roster come opening night.

The slick centre is still in the running, but a bruised bone in his hand and the play of Rob Schremp and Marc-Antoine Pouliot has forced Stastny to play catch-up against his fellow top prospects.

"I'm going to have to get back into it. It's going to be a bigger challenge for me, which I'm ready to accept," said Stastny after a practice at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park yesterday. "I've got to get used to the pace - it's going to be a little different than rookie camp."

Schremp scored two beauties in the Rookies' clash against the University of Alberta Golden Bears, two more in the Joey Moss Cup and was a power-play threat against Calgary on Friday. He sat out Sunday's game when Dallas came but will draw back in against the Stars tonight. Pouliot came through with a goal against the Bears, potted a nifty tally Sunday and is making a charge.

After a frustrating wait, Stastny expects to get his first taste of exhibition play in tomorrow night's pre-season encounter with the Vancouver Canucks, but plans on avoiding the tangles of getting involved in a one-upmanship derby with rival hopefuls. "I'm going to stick to the way I play," said Stastny. "I'm not going to push it too hard, not force anything, and just play my style. The pain's still going to be there but I've just got to fight through it a little bit."

MIXING IT UP: Zack Stortini showed he's game to mix it up when he challenged longtime minor-league enforcer Garrett Burnett on Sunday night and held his own.

Brad Winchester is no shrinking violet either, playing his best with the Road Runners last season when he was banging bodies. Both wingers are taking solid steps as camp moves along. "The whole thing is a learning process and one thing you want to do is keep making strides," said Winchester, who could find work on the Oil's fourth line.

Stortini may wind up being Burnett's tag-team partner in Iowa if he doesn't stick.

LITTLE BY LITTLE: Making the Cut draft pick Jordan Little was on the ice for his first practice of the main camp since suffering an injury to a joint in his lower back during a rookie camp outing in Spruce Grove.

Little may get a spot with the Oilers' shared affiliate in Greenville of the ECHL.

ROLE CHANGE: After 10 years of service as the strength and conditioning consultant for the Oilers, Daryl Duke has seen his responsibilities overhauled by head coach Craig MacTavish. Duke will work with players in need of fighting tips but he will no longer work on day-to-day fitness basics.

"MacT told me it wasn't anything I did or didn't do and I told him if he wanted to pull the rope in a different direction that it's his ship," said Duke. "Kevin (GM Kevin Lowe) still wants me around so it's more of a change in roles and I won't be in the gym every day."

There's speculation Kelly Buchberger, who assisted Geoff Ward at yesterday's practice, will take over a portion of Duke's duties.

OIL SPILLS: Jussi Markkanen took in the early moments of yesterday's practice, going for a few laps and facing a handful of shots before heading back to Rexall Place to work on his new equipment. Markkanen, expected to share goaltending duties with Ty Conklin, is recovering from a fractured left collarbone ... The Oil have assigned Brock Radunske to Hamilton. Radunske notched two points in eight games with the Road Runners last season and 29 points in 39 games with Greenville.


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