SUN Hockey Pool

Weary or ready?

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:17 AM ET

Their minds are willing, but only time and the stretch drive will tell if their bodies are able.

Canadian Olympians Chris Pronger and Ryan Smyth returned to the ice with the Edmonton Oilers yesterday morning for the first time since jetting home without a medal from Turin, Italy. Both were in the lineup against the St. Louis Blues last night.

"I was able to get four good rest days in," said Pronger, who arrived in Edmonton Friday. "Hopefully, that's a blessing in disguise to prepare for the stretch drive and on into the playoffs."

With the Oilers playing 16 games this month, Pronger, who hit the Olympic break averaging 28:17 of ice time a night and played for Team Canada despite a broken bone in his right foot, is in for a gruelling stretch after limited time to recuperate. The Oilers need his minutes.

DECOMPRESS AND RECHARGE

"I feel pretty good," said Pronger, a three-time Olympian. "I was able to kind of sit back, let everything go and decompress and recharge the batteries. We've got 24 games in 47 days and a lot of hockey ahead of us."

Smyth is less of a concern than Pronger in terms of fatigue over the long run, if only because he plays fewer minutes and wasn't nursing an injury when he left for the Olympics.

"The Oilers were kind enough to fly our families back a little bit early," said Smyth. "That's a huge plus. It's crucial, with the position we're in, that we gain some ground."

Smyth was back on left wing alongside linemates Shawn Horcoff and Czech Olympian Ales Hemsky, who had just two days off after claiming a bronze medal last night.

ALWAYS READY TO GO

"Ryan, he wakes up in the middle of June ready to go," quipped coach Craig MacTavish, who needs Smyth now because the Oil are hurting up front. "You know what he's like. Chris has had a good couple of days. It was important the organization got them back to North America for a little bit of rest. He looks good. He just had a short period of time off, but that can mean a lot to a player like Chris who manages his time so efficiently."

STOPPER CHECKS IN: Goaltending prospect Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers arrived in town Tuesday afternoon to begin rehab on his surgically repaired left knee.

Drouin-Deslauriers, 21, was three games into a stint with Greenville of the ECHL after starting the season in Hamilton of the AHL when he injured the knee Feb. 4. He underwent surgery to fix a damaged MCL and meniscus (cartilage) Feb. 10.


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