Tonight's the night for Moreau

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:28 AM ET

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- When the Edmonton Oilers awarded him the captaincy, they never imagined it would take Ethan Moreau this long to go for a spin.

Yet three months after becoming the 12th captain in franchise history, he'll finally get an opportunity to put on the jersey.

"It'll be a huge thing for me," Moreau said. "It's the first time I've worn it. I don't take it lightly. It's a huge honour and it'll be special when I put the jersey on. I know a lot of guys in the room will be happy for me and it'll be a special moment in my career for sure."

LONG WAIT

Tonight Moreau will make his season debut when the Oilers face the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

It's been a long time coming for the Oilers winger.

"It's exciting, it's going to be a fun trip for me," Moreau said. "It's been a long time, but I've had a couple of good practices. I'll be playing with some familiar faces. I can't wait it's going to be fun.

"The game hasn't changed, I'll play the same way I've always have. I'll be excited, I'll probably be a little more nervous than I usually am, but I think I can help the team. What I bring is something that we lack right now, which is a positive for me. I think I can make an immediate impact."

The last 14 months have been extremely frustrating for Moreau.

He missed all but seven games last season after separating his shoulder two weeks into the year.

Then he took a puck off the foot in the pre-season which cost him the first 38 games of this year. At first he was expected to be out a few weeks, but later a break was discovered setting him back even further.

"He's going to give us a great lift. I know emotionally he will for sure," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He's everything that we need right now. He gives us physical pop. We have five forwards under five-foot-11 in our lineup and when you come up against a defence the size of Anaheim's and with the skill set that Anaheim has, you get the result offensively that we had (Thursday) night. So we need some size and we need some pop in our lineup and he's going to provide it."

It's been so long since Moreau has been out of the lineup, that many of the current crop of Oilers have never played with him.

Players such as Robert Nilsson, Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner, Joni Pitkanen, Kyle Brodziak, Tom Gilbert and Sam Gagner don't really know what he brings to the table.

They've all heard the legend of Ethan Moreau, but until tonight, they never will have seen it.

And even though no one's ever questioned the selection, they haven't seen first-hand why Moreau was chosen to be the team's captain.

"I think he's anxious, he's chomping at the bit to get out there," said winger Fernando Pisani. "We're happy to have him back, to have him out there skating with us. He's just going to add that much more to our team.

"When you're out for quite a while, it takes a little bit of time to get adjusted to the speed and the pace of the game, just getting back into the flow may take a couple of games. Just getting a grasp of how things are going to be."

For the record, the Oilers have played 113 games without Moreau in the lineup.

One of the team's leaders, they've missed his physical presence and his ability to change the game with pure grit.

NO PRESSURE

"Ethan in the past won us a handful of games by himself just on sheer determination," MacTavish said. "I can think of three games single-handily that he's won for us in the past. If you add a couple or three of those in the mix right now we're in pretty good shape.

"We're going to be counting on him offensively, not to put too much pressure on him early going in, but he's a guy that's a former 20-goal scorer and those are rare commodities in today's game."

Always in great shape, the biggest concern Moreau has going into the game against the Wild is how effective he'll be physically.

It's been a long time since Moreau has thrown a body check in anger. And even longer since he's taken one.

Regardless, Moreau is happy to just be back on the ice.

"I've obviously gone through some points where my morale was down and I was pretty frustrated with the way things were going," he said. "But right now I'm in a great place. I'm excited to play and I don't really think about that too much. I'm just going to focus on how I need to prepare for (tonight)."


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