SUN Hockey Pool

Off the shelf?

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth gets some instructions from coach Billy Moores during Monday...

Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth gets some instructions from coach Billy Moores during Monday practice at Rexall Place. (Edmonton Sun/Perry Mah)

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

Shawn Horcoff has missed only two games. Ryan Smyth has been absent for just five.

But with the Edmonton Oilers mired in a four-game slump and seeing as how the pair make up two-thirds of the top line on a team that has scored only six goals in its last four games, the time span seems like an eternity to the productive twosome.

"Terrible, it's the worst," said Horcoff of the helpless feeling. "Especially with being at home. If the team was on the road, I could watch on TV and I'd have my daughter with me which would make it a little easier to swallow. When the team's at home, you're around the guys before the game and in between periods and you're watching with all the fans around you which makes it pretty difficult.

"It feels like weeks to me and it's only been a couple of days."

HORCOFF AND SMYTH ON THE ICE

Horcoff and Smyth were on the ice yesterday when the Oilers hit Millennium Place for a practice, although they were out earlier and on a different rink than the rest of the team.

Horcoff's bruised right shoulder is on the mend. There's some discomfort at times, such as taking wrist shots, and he'll likely test it with a few bumps in practice later this week.

Smyth took his first skate on the damaged knee which has been fit with a new brace that replaces the brace he's worn for the last seven years. No timetable has been set for his return, but he initially had hoped to better the medical staff's first prognosis of two to six weeks. That won't happen now, yet Smyth is optimistic of his future.

"I don't have any negative longterm thoughts at all," said Smyth, who suffered a sprained left MCL against Vancouver on Oct. 8.

"I can't go in with any mindset like that. Injuries are part of the game and it was a freak thing that happened."

While the pair's health issues have them temporarily in the dumps, a boost came yesterday when they were joined by teammates Chris Pronger, Michael Peca and Steve Staios as members of the 81-man consideration longlist for the Canadian Olympic squad submitted to the IIHF. The final roster will be selected by Dec. 22.

Smyth's biggest pain right now is seeing his team struggle along and realizing that he's unable to do his part in trying to turn things around.

"Every player hates sitting out and watching whether they're injured or a healthy scratch especially when things are not going so smooth," said Smyth, who notched a goal and three assists in two games.

"You feel like you can contribute and be a part. But it's better now than later on in the season."

The injury threw an odd twist in Horcoff's season. Prior to the start, many felt the Oilers needed a significant upgrade at centre because of his inconsistent production. Thanks to his torrid start with three goals and three assists in six games, Horcoff showed he could carry some scoring load.

HARMLESS-LOOKING PLAY

The injury occurred on a harmless-looking play last Friday against Colorado. All of a sudden, half of the doubters were clamouring for the Oilers to make a deal with both Horcoff and Smyth shelved while the other half were praying for their speedy returns to health.

Go figure.

"I know I had confidence that I could come out and prove it but it was a matter of being able to do it," said Horcoff.

OIL SPILLS: Smyth and Horcoff were joined on the ice by draft pick Tyler Spurgeon, who is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. He was not expected to rejoin the WHL's Kelowna Rockets until Christmas but is now in line for an earlier return date.


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