Ethan Moreau has taken another step on his road to recovery from shoulder surgery.
But unfortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, the gritty winger is still nowhere near ready to play.
On the ice for his first practice with the team yesterday since dislocating his right shoulder on Oct. 21, Moreau will likely see his Cleveland-based surgeon in late February - when the Oilers visit Columbus, Ohio - for a more definite timeline.
But his return to the ice yesterday morning definitely sparked his teammates.
"We know he is not going to play for a while, but it's exciting any time you see a guy come back from a surgery - it brings energy and life," said captain Jason Smith.
By participating in several non-contact drills, the practice also helped Moreau.
"The monotony every day of training and doing rehab really gets to you mentally. It is not a lot of fun," he said.
"Any sort of change in my training regime is going to help me a lot."
And so far, the rehab is going extremely smooth.
"(The shoulder) feels great. I don't have any limitations as far as shooting or passing," said the 31-year-old.
"So there is no reason for me not to be out there and taking part in the drills that I can take part in.
"Still, obviously, no contact, but I can do quite a bit."
Ideally, Moreau would like to return for the stretch run games in March.
By starting to practice with the team now, he'll be able to step into the lineup with great conditioning the moment he is cleared from his surgeon and Oiler medical staff, filling several critical roles.
"He sets the bar in terms of work ethic, physical play," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "All the real important intangible factors to the game as well.
"He's a guy that has a lot of professional savvy in terms of recognizing when a team needs a big hit or needs a big energetic shift.
"Our short-handed production has dropped off with him out of the line up, so hopefully he can score a goal or two short-handed, which are always big goals.
"He certainly has been missed."
A return to the roster will also ease Moreau's frustration level.
"When the team doesn't play well I get frustrated just like they do and the fans do," said Moreau, who also finds talking to the players a little difficult right now.
"I want to say more than I probably should.
"It is hard to criticize. It is hard to have a point of view when you are not out there.
"You feel like it is a call-in show and you are putting your two cents in.
"Having said that, I still do it."