Peca not seeing Stars

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

DALLAS -- As much as he wants to be back in the Edmonton Oilers' lineup, Michael Peca knows there's too much at stake to force the issue, to ignore what his body is telling him.

Out with the second concussion of his NHL career since being knocked senseless by Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets last Tuesday, Peca jetted into Texas late Sunday and was on the ice with his teammates at the American Airlines Center yesterday morning.

When the puck hit the freeze against the Dallas Stars last night, Peca was in street clothes instead of in uniform. That might be the case again tonight in Nashville and Friday in Columbus. Fact is, that might be Peca's fate for the duration of this road trip, the Oilers' longest of this season.

If that's the case, so be it.

"There's no need to rush anything," said Peca before sitting out his third straight game. "Even though it's only the second concussion I've had, the symptoms are a little bit more long-lasting than they were five years ago."

The Oilers have been fine without Peca thanks to stellar performances by a lineup riddled by injury, but wins and losses aren't the issue. They can't dictate the Oilers' timetable or Peca's. It wouldn't make a difference if they'd lost five straight.

"He got rattled pretty good," coach Craig MacTavish said of the shoulder Nash delivered to the point of Peca's jaw. "We have to make sure we have an eye on the big picture here instead of the little picture.

"There's lots of hockey left to be played and he won't be seeing any game action until he is completely 100% ready to go. That's not just the head part of it. That's getting back into some practices."

While he skated three days in Edmonton without suffering any ill-effects of the late hit by Nash, the 31-year-old didn't feel quite right after a day spent travelling to Texas.

"I haven't had any setbacks," he said. "After a long travel day (Sunday), there was some increased pressure in my head. I think that was to be expected.

"Today, just being out with the guys, when I'm focusing in on something I can handle it, but when things are happening on the periphery, it's a little harder to adjust and react to it just yet."

Peca has seen too many friends and peers - Pat Lafontaine, and Brett Lindros, to name just two - have their careers ended prematurely to rush his brain back into action.

"It's never a comforting feeling when I've seen so many friends whose careers have been cut short because of post-concussion syndrome," Peca said. "I'm going to make sure I'm making the responsible decision.

"Ultimately, the trainers, doctors and coaches can say what they want, but I know how I feel better than anybody. Right now, I just don't feel quite right."

LOUSY LUCK: Igor Ulanov expected to be ready against the Stars, but instead of slipping on his equipment before game time, he was hobbling around with a clunky plastic cast on his right foot protecting a broken big toe.

Ulanov was using the Oilers' Sunday skate as a tune-up for his return to the lineup, but he took a puck off the very same toe he broke against the Stars Oct. 28. What are the odds of that?

"I was skating fine. I was ready to go," shrugs Ulanov. "I guess it's better to find out during a practice than a game. I can't push off. I can't change directions."

HOME COOKIN': Ryan Smyth, who went into last night having tied a career high with goals in five straight games, got a special delivery from Edmonton before yesterday's morning skate.

Smyth's wife Stacey couriered a half-dozen cinnamon buns to the Oilers' hotel. It's an old recipe dating back to No. 94's days with Moose Jaw of the WHL, and one Stacey whips up every now and again. "It's not part of it (the scoring streak) I don't think," smiled Smyth. "Then again, you never know."


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