Injury woes won't change Moreau

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Being counted on is what Ethan Moreau does. It's what he is. In the corners. In the room. When the game turns a little nasty. When the chips are down and the boys need a lift. When the team needs strength and leadership on or off the ice. That's when the 33-year-old captain is most valuable.

So you can imagine how he felt the last two years knowing that the Edmonton Oilers couldn't count on him. Knowing that he couldn't even count on his own body - at least not his separated shoulder and twice-broken leg, anyway - to get him to the starting line more than 32 times in two full seasons.

As badly as those season-ending injuries hurt, his heart hurt worse.

"That was one of the hardest things, watching and knowing what I could do if I was out there," said the longest-serving member of the Oilers. "Knowing the things that I bring to the team were the things that we were sometimes lacking."

MISSED 132 GAMES

After missing just 15 games in the previous four seasons, nothing could prepare Moreau for missing 132 in the last two (75 in 2006-07 after separating his shoulder seven games in and 57 last year after breaking his leg in preseason and re-breaking it in February).

"There's not really many positives, to be honest with you. It was a difficult time for me.

" I love to play. It was a really tough period to go through. Two (long-term injuries in a row) is too much."

It wasn't until two months after last season ended that Moreau's leg felt 100%.

"It was hard, a little bit frustrating," he said. "I went down to L.A. with Horc (Shawn Horcoff) in June and he was kicking my butt in all the drills. It was kind of humbling, but I think by the end of the summer I was probably in better shape than before because the leg I hurt was my dominant leg; now my right leg is dominant and my left leg is back to where it was. It actually made me a better athlete.

"It was a lot of hard work, but by the end of the summer I was completely pain free and 100%. I'm excactly where I was all the other years. It's over with and I feel great. I feel great about my health and excited about the team."

Excited as he's ever been.

When you've been away as long as he has, opening night can seem like Christmas morning.

"This whole thing gives you a better appreciation for what you do," said Moreau, who has had the first game of the season circled on his calendar since the day the schedule came out.

"I just can't wait. I've been looking forward to Oct. 12 for a long time. All my training and preparations have been geared toward Oct. 12. I can't wait for opening day."

He expects to hit the ground running, just like he did the last time he came back (after missing 113 games in a row)."

"I play a pretty simple game so it's not like I have to re-invent myself," he said. "I guess the only positive is that I don't have those extra 130 games on my body. I'm a young 33, I guess."

Which brings him to his third attempt in as many years to make it through October in one piece.

No player ever wants to think about injuries, or to begin a season worried about getting hurt, but after all he's been through, you have to wonder if Moreau isn't stocking up on rabbit's feet and four-leaf clovers.

DESERVES SOME LUCK

If anybody deserves a break (the figurative kind, not another literal one), it's him.

But, as we all know, life and sports aren't always fair.

"I don't want to get hurt, but I'm not going to play any differently," said Moreau.

"I've played this game a long time, 13 years, and I've played full-out for every season I've played and I've been pretty lucky, for the most part. But stuff is going to happen. You can't protect yourself. It's a tough game.

"My mindset is going to be the same, go out and do my thing and hopefully everything works out."


Videos

Photos