SUN Hockey Pool

Smith back; Peca groin, groin gone

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

The Edmonton Oilers will have captain Jason Smith back in the lineup against the San Jose Sharks tonight, but don't expect to see Michael Peca during this homestand.

Peca, scratched for the last three games before the Olympic break and again for Wednesday's 4-2 loss to St. Louis, has a significant groin strain and was held off the ice again yesterday.

While hesitant to put a time frame on the injury, athletic therapist Ken Lowe didn't sound confident yesterday that he expects to see Peca back on the blades, let alone in the lineup, any time soon.

"I think we're talking longer-term as opposed to day-to-day," Lowe said. "I don't want to put him back on the ice until he's stronger."

Peca, 31, gave his sore groin a brief test earlier this week but experienced considerable discomfort. The problem is that what began as a strained hip-flexor migrated to his right and left groins.

"The only person who can tell me is Michael," Lowe said of a time frame for a possible return.

"You can't say 10 days or two weeks because every day is different.

"No one can tell. We can do all the tests we want. The MRI shows there's no tear, but we're dealing with a strain."

Smith was cleared to play by chief of medical staff Dr. David Reid late Wednesday after missing six of the last seven games with a broken big toe on his right foot.

Smith has skated vigorously the past three days and deemed himself good to go against the Sharks after yesterday morning's practice.

"The way it's reacted the past couple of days on the ice has been positive," Smith said. "After not skating for three weeks, it's a bit of an adjustment, but I feel pretty good."

Expect Smith to be paired with Dick Tarnstrom, while Jaroslav Spacek will play with Chris Pronger and Marc-Andre Bergeron will be paired with Steve Staios. Matt Greene and Igor Ulanov are the extra rearguards.

"I want to play the kind of game I play on a regular basis," Smith said. "I'm not going to go out and change things. If you can't bring your maximum effort, it's probably better not to be out there."

The news on forward Ethan Moreau isn't as good. He's skating again, but his sprained right ankle will likely keep him out anywhere from a "few more days to a week," according to Lowe.

TORRES OK: A tight groin and a headache, courtesy of a wicked hit by Dallas Drake Wednesday, kept Raffi Torres off the ice yesterday, but Lowe expects him to be ready to play tonight.

Torres has been nagged by the groin and that, as much as the big hit by Drake that bounced the Oiler forward into the end boards head first, is why he got yesterday off.

AROUND THE RINK ... Jan Stastny, who made his debut against the Blues, will play tonight ... Georges Laraque, who has a history of being on top of his game in the stretch drive, impressed coach Craig MacTavish Wednesday and will play right wing on a line with Fernando Pisani and Marty Reasoner tonight.


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