Fernando Pisani took yet another step in his comeback yesterday, participating in his first full practice with his Oilers teammates.
"He looked good out there, too," said teammate Jarret Stoll. "It's nice to see him doing contact drills, one on ones, stuff he hasn't done before.
"We're bugging him a little bit about when he's coming back."
Ramping up the physicality and intensity of his on-ice work means he's that much closer - a lot closer than the Oilers ever imagined he'd be at this time. They were originally thinking late January.
"Obviously it's way ahead of schedule," said Shawn Horcoff.
"It's funny how things go, from looking really bleak to positive in such a short time.
"Obviously, the gods are smiling."
While the Oilers could use his poise and stability out there, they're being careful to let Pisani progress at his own pace. It's not like an injured shoulder where a guy comes back too early and sets himself back a month. In Pisani's case they're dealing with a much more serious medical issue with much more serious consequences if things go wrong.
"We're just trying to be patient and do the right thing," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "There's a definite timetable with him and it's not days, it's weeks."
Pisani is bigger and stronger and has more wind now than when he began the comeback, after losing some 30 pounds to ulcerative colitis, but he's not there yet.
"I'm going to skate a couple more times with the team and I'll have a definite idea then," he said. "I'm not putting a timeline on it because if I have a setback I don't want to be disappointed."
So far, so good, though.
"It was good to get back to that kind of pace," Pisani said after practice. "Good to see where I was at.
"I want to judge how I feel when I'm battling in the corners, things like that."
PITKANEN ON VERGE
Defenceman Joni Pitkanen went hard in practice yesterday and if his knees feel good this morning there's a chance he'll be in the lineup tonight against Vancouver.
Pitkanen, who had arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 28, has been close before, only to have the knee flare up a day later.
"We'll see how he comes through," said MacTavish. "He could be a decision for (today)."
REDDOX SHIPPED OUT
The Oilers sent winger Liam Reddox back to the Springfield Falcons.
Reddox never got into the lineup, despite coming close when Kyle Brodziak came down with a sore knee.
However, Brodziak was able to go and Reddox didn't get his chance.