Taking downtime

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

COLUMBUS -- Shawn Horcoff has been averaging well over 21 minutes a game for the Edmonton Oilers on their current road trip.

He's playing a regular shift, taking all the important faceoffs, killing penalties and playing on the power play.

So Horcoff can probably be excused if he sits out a practice or two.

Yesterday Horcoff, Ryan Smyth, Jason Smith and Steve Staios stayed off the ice to nurse a few nagging injuries while the rest of the team skated.

"I don't like a double standard," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "If you're healthy enough to practise, you generally practise and we've practised a lot lately. I think that's important. When things aren't going well, you have to practise and get out there on the ice."

The four veterans have all played big minutes through the first four games of the Oilers current seven-game road trip.

BUMPS AND BRUISES

They all have the bumps, bruises and sprains associated with the stretch drive of a long season.

"I've seen it enough to know that we are better when we're practising," MacTavish said. "There are issues of fatigue, certainly on some guys, but at the same time what I'm seeing is that we play better when we practise. But you don't want to put guys in that are hurt like Ryan and Jason.

"In a lot of other situations a lot of other players wouldn't be playing what they're playing through right now. So it's hard for me to ask them to get out there and practise right now."

NAGGING INJURY

At this time of year players and coaches are reluctant to reveal what nagging injury someone might have.

And as long as a player is able to suit up, he's considered healthy.

"Days like this don't hurt," said Horcoff, who despite not practising, still worked out while his teammates were on the ice.

"When we're practising and working on stuff you want to be out there and be a part of it. But when you've got those little injuries you get the rest when you can."

The Oilers have yet to take a day off during this road trip. And with back-to-back games in Columbus and Detroit, they won't be able to get one until at least Saturday. That will be dependent on how they play.

"I don't give guys the day off frivolously," MacTavish said. "You have to manage that and make sure that everybody is expected to come to work. But those guys are very legitimate."


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