SUN Hockey Pool

Ales paying the price

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

Goals and guts don't often come in the same package, particularly when the package is postmarked Pardubice, Czech Republic, and weighs about 190 pounds.

But as Ales Hemsky grows into his career here, he's proving he's one gutsy guy.

On an Oilers team that will establish a franchise season record for man-games lost because of injuries and illness - a team that would have to go 14-3 the rest of the way to have a hope of making the playoffs - the talented 24-year-old is proving he's a player willing to pay the price.

Considering the wrist injury he's been playing with since before theAll-Star Game - one which has forced him to wear a day cast when he's not playing - Hemsky could be forgiven for floating or picking his spots.

Instead, he's proving he's got game, no matter if it's hard to convince yourself there's any reason to go hard in the remaining games for the Oilers, who beat the next lowest team in the standings 5-4 last night at Rexall Place.

If you don't believe that, you weren't watching when Hemsky scored the kind of goal that defines the player he's become.

It was eight minutes into the second period when No. 83 cut across the crease and, essentially airborne, scored a beauty against Los Angeles goalie Dan Cloutier.

But what goes up must come down, and after Hemsky came down hard on his injured left wrist he proceeded to the end of the bench, clearly in agony.

There's no lack of fancy skaters in this league who would have pulled the parachute then and there and headed to the dressing room.

The goal, Hemsky's 16th of the season, tied the game 2-2. Before the period was over, he scored his 17th on a 40-foot wrist shot that he never would have considered throwing at the net a year and a half ago.

That one gave the Oilers a 4-3 lead. Along with an assist, it was a three-point game -- his 14th multiple-point game.

Hemsky now has 55 points in 58 games, and last night he was the no-brainer pick as the first star.

"He's a gutsy guy. He's been banged up for the better part of a month and tonight you could really see him battle through it," said coach Craig MacTavish.

"I've seen it long enough to know he's going to play with a little bit of pain and still go to the tough areas of the ice."

Hemsky said it's part of being a pro.

"Sometimes you really have to battle and fight through things," he said.

"On that first goal, I jammed it a little bit. I jam it just about every game."

When you have the number of impressionable kids that the Oilers have breaking into the league this season, there's no telling the value of them watching the team's most talented player pay the price like Hemsky paid it last night.

"He's a warrior," said Sam Gagner.

"It's impressive to watch him battle through his injury. He's going through pain to be our best player at the time of year when you want your best players to be your best players.

"He's sacrificing his body for the team, going into the corners and coming out with the puck. He's a great example for our young guys."

Andrew Cogliano, who was the second-best Oiler on the ice last night, said you take a lot of things in as you experience your first year in the NHL and watching Hemsky right now definitely ranks up there.,

"He's showing how tough he is," said Cogliano.

"He never takes a night off. You can tell he's injured but he goes out there knowing he has to be our go-to guy and plays a game like that," he added, in reference to Hemsky leading the Oilers in shots on goal (five) and shots at goal (nine).

When Hemsky was breaking into the league, there were entire weeks when he didn't take that many shots.

"He's playing with an injury that makes it difficult to do a lot of things he does, yet he's still making players around him better," said Cogliano, who scored the first goal of the game on a slick set-up from Hemsky.

"It's a good feeling to take a pass from him right now and get a goal."


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