SASKATOON -- The nerves could be detected from the press box. The apprehension evident on the ice.
Lubomir Visnovsky was back in the Edmonton Oilers lineup last night for the first time since separating his shoulder seven months ago.
He was in the starting lineup in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders at the Credit Union Centre, and battled through a tough first period.
Visnovsky fought the puck, got caught up ice on the Islanders opening goal and skated into a teammate coming out from behind his own net.
"I'm happy I survived," Visnovsky said. "The first couple of shifts I was very nervous. It wasn't very good for me and for the team that first period. I was on the ice for the first two goals. But I tried to stay positive and I think I was able to play better in the second and third period."
The trepidation is understandable. Coming off surgery and the ensuing months of rehab, anyone would question how the shoulder would hold up through the rigours of an NHL game.
Ethan Moreau went through it. So did Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray, all of whom are playing with reconstructed shoulders.
They were all able to play through the doubt, and so was Visnovsky, who is vital to the Oilers playoff aspirations this season.
Withstanding a big hit from Justin DiBenedetto early in the second period helped in that regard. Visnovsky was a different player after dusting himself off and went on to pick up an assist on Patrick O'Sullivan's lone goal for the Oilers. Radek Martinek, Josh Bailey and Matt Moulson countered for the Islanders.
"I was more confident after getting hit by somebody," Visnovsky said.
"My body felt good after that, my shoulder was still strong. I'm glad I survived this game. I felt pretty good throughout the game. Here it wasn't easy, the ice is pretty heavy and after five minutes it was tough to skate and the puck was bouncing around a little bit. But I felt good, there is no problem, I'm looking forward to the next game."
The more games Visnovsky plays, the more hits he takes, the more likely he'll be ready when they drop the puck for real on Oct. 3. He was at his best in the third period, especially running the point on the power play late.
"I thought he over-tried tonight, he wanted to catch up to everybody else," said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn.
"Early on especially, he looked like he was trying to do a lot of work, where a little more thought on positioning might have been a little better.
"But everything I've heard about this guy is that he's competitive and that's what competitive guys want to do sometimes. They want to go. And now that he has his first game in we'll go from there."
OIL DROPS: The Oilers trimmed their roster yesterday, sending Johan Motin, Viacheslav Trukhno, Geoff Paukovich, Colin McDonald and Charles Linglet to Springfield, while releasing winger Miroslav Lazo.