Hurry up and wait

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

It's funny till somebody loses a game.

The Edmonton Oilers were all wearing mile-wide grins during a three-day retreat in Jasper, during which they swung a few clubs, had a few laughs and spent exhaustive amounts of time working on special teams.

But the smiles began to fade when the pucks started dropping on TV.

The Oilers, the last team in the NHL to open their season, have been waiting for next year since last year ended, so watching everyone else in the league hit the ice ahead of them is pure torture.

The Sens, Rangers, Penguins and Lightning opened their seasons last weekend in Europe. The Wings, Leafs, Flames, Canucks, Bruins, Avs, Ducks and Sharks played Thursday.

Fourteen teams went at it last night and 26 more go tonight.

Everyone but Edmonton.

The wait is killing them.

"I definitely started to feel it," said Ethan Moreau. "When other teams are playing there's a bit of nervous energy, a bit of anxiety. You want to be in the mix and get off to a good start."

The Hockey Night in Canada doubleheader on Thursday wasn't a period old when the Oilers, who gathered together to watch the games over dinner, had their game faces on.

"Watching those games on TV, man, you want to get going yourself," said veteran centre Shawn Horcoff.

EIGHT MONTHS

"I'm ready. I want to get some games in. It's been almost eight months since I last played (because of a shoulder injury last year).

"No matter how many pre-season games you play or how much you practice, you can't simulate regular season games. I'm just looking forward to getting things started."

With the starting line in sight - tomorrow evening against Colorado - the Oilers wrapped up their training camp within a training camp yesterday and headed for home.

"I thought it was great," head coach Craig MacTavish said of the Jasper jaunt, designed to break up the monotony of a week between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season.

"We got everything done we needed to do and we had some good team exercises away from the rink that went really well. It's time to leave now."

HIT IT HARD

For all the laughs they had during golf games, dinners and Dustin Penner running around in a Saw mask trying to scare everyone silly, the Oilers hit it very hard on the ice.

"These were probably the hardest practices we had all training camp," said Horcoff. "Thursday was really tough, but that's what you need, guys welcomed it.

"We got lots done. Guys worked hard and the practises were long. When you're out here with no family or any other obligations, what else do you have to do? So you can stay out a little longer and work on some things to make sure we're ready for the start."

"We got to know the new guys a little better, there were a lot of laughs and a lot of hard work, so it was mission accomplished," added Moreau. "We're ready to go."

They feel sharp - most players believe they can accomplish more in a hard 90-minute practice than in 12 or 15 minutes of ice time in a preseason game - but they won't know where they are for certain till game time tomorrow.

"I don't think we could have done much else," said MacTavish. "We spent a lot of time fine-tuning our systems play, changing some things from last year.

"It's always a work in progress, but the players have been focusing in and executing well and I think we're going to be better in some of the areas where we were weak last year.

"Obviously, the proof will be how we get out of the gate."


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