Idle times for Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:38 PM ET

There's no big victory to savour, crushing defeat to dissect and nothing on the horizon to get the blood boiling.

And with Canada out of the Olympics, there isn't even any hockey on TV to get excited about (unless you're Jussi Markkanen or Igor Ulanov, agonizing over each shift in a Finnish-Russian semifinal).

You've heard of the dog days of an NHL season?

These are the dog days of the Edmonton Oilers' Olympic break - 12 days since their last game and six days till their next one.

Bleah.

"Everybody took fairly good care of themselves over the break, nobody just sat around," said defenceman Steve Staios, after the Oilers second day of practice since returning from their holidays.

"Still, just getting the skates on after a week you feel kind of sloppy with the puck. But you grind through it the first couple of days. The goal is to feel somewhat normal after the first two or three days."

The players are well-rested and their fires restoked, but with nothing on the schedule till March 1, all they can do is skate and wait.

And wait.

"We might say, as competitive players, that we'd love to get back at it right away," said Michael Peca. "But if our bodies could speak for themselves they'd say give us six or seven days before you put us back into a game."

Staios agrees. Twelve days might not seem like a long time away, but it's long enough that they'd run the risk of injury if they were to jump right back into full-speed high stakes hockey.

"As the days go on you feel a little bit more anxious to get back into some real competition," said Staios.

"But you just have to use the time wisely."

That means easing back into it, retraining muscles and ligaments that didn't get a whole lot of use while the players were relaxing on beaches and golf courses.

"After you take that much time off it gives you a chance to kind of step into it easy," said Shawn Horcoff. "Yesterday and today we kind of felt our way into it; we don't want anyone to come back and get sore. We're going to pick it up in the next couple of days and by early next week we'll have our team together and be up to speed."

MAC DEFENDS GRETZ: Craig MacTavish says it's ridiculous to suggest Wayne Gretzky should have to step down from his post because of Canada's disappointing finish in Turin.

"The discussion sickens me," he said. "He's done a tremendous job, been a real tribute to Hockey Canada since he was a peewee. It would be ridiculous to think he shouldn't be the guy running it."

Gretzky said he isn't sure if he even wants to continue, but MacTavish says it's a natural reaction after such a crushing defeat.

"I was an assistant coach in a small, small role (at the 2005 World Championships, where Canada lost to the Czech Republic in the final game) and we were devastated," he said. "I can only imagine exponentially how they feel now. When you catch somebody after he's feeling like he got a significant kick in the groin, he's going to have second thoughts whether it was all worthwhile."

VETS STILL ON LIMP: Further evaluation revealed that Ethan Moreau (sprained ankle) won't be ready when the season resumes March 1 and that Jason Smith (broken toe) is doubtful. "They had the X-ray done on Jason and it's starting to heal. We'll get it re- X-rayed in five or six days and see where it's at. If at that point it's good then he'll begin to skate. Ethan, I have a hard time believing he'll be ready for a couple of weeks."


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