Absence makes pain go away?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 5:17 PM ET

Absence doesn't just make the heart grow fonder, it also does wonders for a bruised lung.

And a pulled groin.

It lets a lung infection clear right up and gives a wonky knee enough time to heal itself into playing shape.

It's only been 10 days since the Oilers, a slumping M*A*S*H unit that had all but run out of warm bodies, limped into the Olympic break - but the time off is already paying huge dividends.

Given time to clear their heads, heal their bodies and take one last deep breath before the stretch drive, the Oilers looked like a bunch of guys who'd been doing exactly that when the returned to work yesterday.

BACK ON THE BLADES

Marty Reasoner, Mike Peca, Dick Tarnstrom and Igor Ulanov, all on the shelf with injuries when the club last played, were back on the blades for the late-afternoon practice at Coronation Arena.

Jason Smith (broken toe) and Ethan Moreau (sprained ankle) still aren't ready, but like their teammates, aren't missing any games while they heal.

"The time off was great, our team was getting decimated with injuries there," said Mike Peca, who missed the last three pre-Olympic games with a pulled groin.

"For the guys who were hurt it was good to have a break, and for the guys who had to play all those extra minutes it was good to have the R and R and get refreshed for the stretch run."

Pulled groins are a delicate injury; all too often they feel fine and a player returns only to suffer a more serious relapse. With 16 days between games, Peca has the rare luxury of time on his side.

"I've never had a pulled groin before but it's something I've always been concerned about because you see guys coming back and then they're out again. Hopefully it's gone for good."

Smith and Moreau are still question marks for the March 1 game against St. Louis.

"It's not surprising that they're not skating at this point," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "They'll both see Dr. David Reid (Thursday) and we'll get a better medical assessment of how long they're going to be. I don't anticipate them being back for Wednesday. Jason is more likely but I'd say he's doubtful and Ethan I would say is very doubtful."

Even for the players who weren't injured, there is always something somewhere that hurts. And just getting some time off to think about anything but hockey is a huge bonus.

"It came at the right time for our hockey club with all the injuries and things that were going on," said Jarret Stoll. "We needed that time to just relax and regroup. The first day back was a little tough, but I'm sure it'll get better."

COUGHING BLOOD

Reasoner was coughing blood after taking a slapshot in the chest when we last saw the Oilers. He's fine now.

"It was scary for a little while, but after the first 24 hours I was all right," he said. "I felt a little bit short of breath when I first started working out a little bit, and I don't know if it was 10 days off or my lung, but I felt a little bit short of breath today.

"But I feel all right. The doctor was pretty confident that with the time we have off it shouldn't be an issue when we get back."

Soon it'll be back to looking over the standings and gearing up for a stretch drive that will see them play 24 games over the final 48 days of the season.

"It's going to be an important March for us, an important March for everybody," said Stoll. "It's going to be important for us to get our legs under us right away."


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