SUN Hockey Pool

It could get worse

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

The red practice sweater - the international symbol for no contact - is normally a warning for players to tread lightly around a teammate who's skating with an injury.

But defencemen have become such a scarce commodity in Edmonton right now that the Oilers blueliners (all five of them) were decked out in bright red yesterday at Millenium Place.

With no spares left, they can't afford to lose any more to a practice mishap.

But they might have.

Ladislav Smid skated off with some shoulder trouble after jostling with J.F. Jacques late in practice.

"I hurt it, but I think it's going to be OK," said Smid, who's been having trouble with the shoulder all year.

"I'll go see Kenny (Lowe, athletic therapist) for some treatment. I've had this three times before this season, so it's like normal."

Head coach Craig MacTavish can only shake his head.

"I just deal with it, there's nothing you can do about it," he said. "You just try to make the most of your lineup on every given night."

BOOGAARD ALERT

The last player the Oilers want to see right now is Derek Boogaard, the 6-foot-7 ruffian who sent three of their players to the doctor's office this season.

Are they concerned about the not-so-gentle giant?

"Totally concerned about him," said MacTavish. "He's been super effective against us the last two games. You can point to Pavol Demitra and Marian Gaborik, but you can make a case for him being as effective as either one of those guys."

Marty Reasoner, Ales Hemsky and Smid have all been injured after colliding with Boogaard.

"We don't have the smarts yet to get out of the way of his checks," said MacTavish. "You can hear him coming, but you have to avoid the checks. If you can do that you probably make him ineffective, but we haven't been able to do that.

"We're reacting to him, taking penalties. (The last two games) have been two of his most effective games."


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