SUN Hockey Pool

Reasoner's good to go

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:53 AM ET

So, you think you're tough?

If he played baseball, he'd be out until April. A soccer player? See you in a month. A reporter? I'd be ready to pick up a notepad again about the time training camp opens next September.

Luckily for the Edmonton Oilers, Marty Reasoner is none of the above and was on the ice in the third period against San Jose at Rexall Place Friday with a bandage holding a right ear in place that Chris Pronger turned into chopped liver with a slapshot.

Reasoner is not a blood-and-guts guy by hockey standards, but the Oilers forward is tougher than you, or I, or anybody we know. It's the very DNA and culture of the game and what makes it our national passion.

One look at Reasoner's ear - purple and swollen with 30 stitches holding it together - yesterday only reinforced what we know about these guys, what we'll see again during the stretch drive to the playoffs.

No ear. I mean, no fear.

"It feels like turbulence," said Reasoner. "It just feels like it's blocked when you go up in altitude or something.

FIRST BIG SCARE

"My first big scare when I got hit was I heard a pop. Then, I couldn't hear anything and thought I might have done something to the ear drum, but my hearing came back. It was just a matter of stitching it up."

Reasoner looked like a soldier out of a civil war scene with his noggin wrapped in blood-soaked gauze after Pronger felled him with the frozen rubber in the second period.

Reasoner, who was coughing up blood after blocking a slapshot before the Olympics, will be back in his silks against Nashville this afternoon. What, he's supposed to sit out?

"It's just the mentality guys have," shrugs Reasoner. "You get caught in the emotion of the game and you want to get back out there as soon as possible.

"It's one of the things you just kind of grow up with. It's part of the game. Everyone is really competitive and no one likes to sit out, especially due to injury."

Playing through pain is part of the game in the NHL. That's no revelation, but it's awe-inspiring to see what players endure to get the chance to hop the boards for that next shift.

"Hockey moulds and reveals character," said coach Craig MacTavish. "The root of it is really built into the character of the person."

We already know about the cadaver-like pain threshold of Jason Smith, who returned from a broken toe against the Sharks.

Likewise that of Ethan Moreau, back for his first game Friday on an ankle so badly sprained he still can't walk properly.

Then, there's Igor Ulanov, who took a slapshot in the mouth at Madison Square Garden a few years ago and had to be forced by officials to get treatment. Igor wanted to stay on the bench and not miss a shift. It took more than 20 stitches to close him up.

"It has a lot to do with your competitiveness and your nature," says Smith, who played a playoff series with a broken foot a few years back, just as Pronger is doing now.

"Some of the guys come up in families where you're a blue-collar guy. You just want to get out there and get to work. It's something we love to do. It's better to be playing than watching."

CONCERTED EFFORTS

Team medical staffs make concerted efforts to protect players from themselves and the willingness to just spit teeth into a cup or shrug off a concussion and get back out there.

"It's going to be maybe the single most important factor in everybody's success," MacTavish said of a team's ability to overcome injuries down the stretch.

"What you can play with and how effective you can be when you're playing with injuries is going to be a real determining factor in who makes it, who gets home ice and who doesn't."

So, banged up or not, nobody wants to sit.

The stretch is what these guys play for. It's the same in every NHL dressing room.

"This is the most exciting time of the year," Smith said. "This is why we all play. Dealing with injuries is a part of it."


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