His legs were burning, he was out of breath and sweat was pouring down from his head, yet Fernando Pisani couldn't have been happier.
He was skating again which is all that mattered. And suddenly there's a positive outlook - a good chance he could come back to play for the Edmonton Oilers this season.
"It was a tough skate, but it was good to push myself and see where I'm at," Pisani said yesterday after a workout at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park. "I've been on the ice about four or five times now, but it's the first time that I really went pretty hard and did some hard skating drills. Other than my lungs and my legs being really tired, I feel pretty good."
Pisani, 30, has been out of the lineup since a bout with ulcerative colitis put his hockey career in jeopardy.
The Oilers forward began to feel sick in July and by August was in a bad state. He lost about 30 pounds, six pints of blood and was forced to make many trips to the bathroom. Now there's talk he could return before the new year.
"I feel tired right now, but I've been doing pretty good in the last couple of days," Pisani said. "I've been doing a lot of weightlifting trying to get my weight back up and my strength back up. I'm going to do some more biking in the next couple of weeks, but I just wanted to get my strength and my body weight back up.
"It takes time. It's one of those things where you don't want to push it too hard. You want to push yourself to see how your body is going to handle it. I'm going to see how this week goes; I'm going to skate every day, see how I feel, and take it from there."
Just being on the ice is encouraging for Pisani, who, when he first got permission to visit the Oilers dressing room and start moderate exercise, was a shell of his former self and seemingly a long way away from getting back in the lineup.
He's a player the Oilers could definitely use. Pisani provides that third-line scoring the team is craving at the moment. He is also one of the club's top penalty-killers and provides some grit.
"I think it's uplifting for him and for the team to see that he's getting closer," said Oilers assistant Bill Moores, who along with Rob Daum ran the Oilers optional practice yesterday. "I would love to see him out there with the rest of the team, because I'd like to skate him hard. I haven't had a chance to do that yet, but I'm looking forward to it."
Pisani has regained most of the weight he lost. He's working on building his strength to a point where he feels comfortable with it. He plans on skating every day this week and then the following week. If all goes well he could be back practising with the team by the end of the month.
"I wouldn't say I'm 100%, but I feel pretty good," Pisani said. "It's one of those things where every day is different, and just right now, I'm taking it day by day. I'm out of the dark side, and I'm feeling pretty good and hopefully in the next couple of weeks I'll have a good indication of where I'll be at."