Snooze control

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Ryan Smyth seldom plays the role of philosopher. But when he was told he wouldn't play last night, he did.

"It's like my old friend Joe Sakic once told me," said Smyth.

"Rest is a weapon."

Quoteless Joe said that?

"He's been trying to tell Kevin Lowe that for years," laughed Smyth of his general manager.

"At the Olympics. And World Cup of Hockey," he added of Lowe working as Wayne Gretzky's right-hand man with Team Canada.

"Joe didn't want to skate much between games. He wanted to be ready for the games. He was trying to convince Kevin to adopt that for our system."

Interesting. Sakic played for Colorado last night, a team which seemed to have little interest in playing the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs and insured they'd go against the Dallas Stars instead by getting outshot 36-18 and losing 4-2 to the Edmonton Road Runners, er Oilers.

The Oilers made no pretence. This was an exhibition game. This was rest and recovery. This was part of the process of recharging the batteries and changing mental outlook.

SIX PACK OF RESTED WEAPONS

The Oilers put a six pack of rested weapons on ice for the playoffs.

Not only did Smyth not play last night. Neither did Chris Pronger, Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff, Marc-Andre Bergeron or Dwayne Roloson.

Coach Craig MacTavish said there were other aspects involved.

"I was concerned about the injury factor. I didn't want Roloson getting run over. I didn't want Pronger getting suspended," he laughed.

MacTavish said he's already seen the benefit of the rest.

"We had two days off. That's not all that common around here. You could see the jump some player had even yesterday."

If the Oilers open Saturday as expected, they won't go on the ice today, gathering for a tactical session instead. They'll practise here Wednesday and Thursday before flying to Detroit.

"We're going to go to Detroit a well-rested team," said Pronger, who is expected to play 30 minutes a night in the playoffs.

"We've had time to rest people and we'll have enough time to practise properly. We've gone through a real mental grind for the last 15 or 20 games. It's not just the physical part of it. There's the mental part of it."

Lowe wouldn't admit that he'd instituted Sakic's "Rest Is A Weapon" system.

"I really felt not every player was at the top of their game in the last four or five weeks. A lot of it was mental with some guys," said Lowe.

Even Lowe and MacTavish admit they'd never been through anything like that before and had no real desire to go through it ever again.

A playoff series is different. There's an excitement level built in, a visible scene surrounding the series which can't help but get a player pumped.

'NEVER A PROBLEM WITH ENERGY LEVEL'

"We've never had a problem with our energy level in the playoffs," said Lowe."And this year is different. We don't have to rely on just energy like past years going against Dallas."

In fact, controlled energy level is more what the brain trust has in mind for this series. With lots of legs.

"Detroit is probably the smartest team in the league," said Lowe. "We have to play a cerebral game with them. At the same time they've got a lot of older guys. We need them to pay over seven games."

The game plan, in other words, will be much like it was in 1998. That's when they ran into a Colorado team in the first round, a team very much like the Red Wings this year, a team with lineup of nine veteran players who went to the Olympics.

The Oilers ran them out of gas.

"Re-energizing mentally is the big thing," said Smyth. "But we also want to be able to skate teams like Calgary did two years ago. They really skated teams down."

Fresh legs. And mental health.

That's what this week is all about.


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