Bug puts damper on hot start

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:58 AM ET

It's a nice little run the Oilers are on right now ... too bad so many of them are too messed up to enjoy it.

As Edmonton's list of illnesses and injuries grows longer, the list of merry men grows shorter.

Face it, it's a little tough to celebrate the moment when your head is still spinning from a two-week-old concussion, or the flu has you so beaten down you can't crawl out of bed or venture more than sprinting distance from a toilet.

And, speaking of uncomfortable afflictions, we're not even counting the surgery Marc Pouliot needed to repair an inflamed pubic bone.

"Injuries happen, you hope that they happen earlier in the season rather than later," said Oilers centre Shawn Horcoff, who's watched eight of his teammates be stricken so far.

"We have to battle through it. You can only try and weather the storm until they get back."

Just eight games into the season, Fernando Pisani (back), Pouliot (pubitis), Sheldon Souray (concussion), Steve Staios (concussion) and Ryan Stone (knee) are all out with injures while the flu bug that's cutting a swath through the room has already taken down Gilbert Brule, Ales Hemsky and Ladislav Smid.

There's no telling who'll be checking into the sick bay next.

"It's spreading like wildfire here," said Horcoff. "Let's hope that we get it under control, quick."

Maybe that's why they only scored two against Vancouver -- nobody wants to be hugging anyone after a goal.

"We're sure that all of this is just ordinary flu," said head coach Pat Quinn, who's been given assurances that it isn't of the swine strain. "Our medical staff is staying right on top of it to make sure we make the right decisions."

Hemsky wasn't even supposed to play on Monday, but was pressed into action when Brule, who looked fine at the morning skate, barely had the energy to call in sick.

"I was sleeping and they called me three hours before the game to see if I wanted to come down and try the warm-up," said Hemsky, who played a lot like a guy who was coming off the flu, but deserves a lot of credit for grinding it out anyway. "It was hard."

Smid, who became ill after the Vancouver game, remains a question mark for tonight against Columbus. If he can't go, it leaves Edmonton with only five defencemen.

"We have to call someone if he's not ready to go," said Quinn. "At this moment, we think he'll play."

One player who's benefiting from Edmonton's run of bad luck is Taylor Chorney, who started the season in the minors but was back in Edmonton a week later after Staios and Souray got hurt. He's making the most of it, going plus two over his first four games and averaging 16 minutes a night.

"It's nuts, it's crazy," he said of Edmonton's misfortune on the blue-line. "That's why I wanted to make sure I had a really good start to the year in Springfield, because you never know when you're going to get the opportunity."

Stone may be out month

Stone, who injured his knee early in the Vancouver game, had arthroscopic surgery and will be out two to four weeks.

"They're pretty sure on the MRI that there's some meniscus problems," said Quinn.

"They're giving us the old two-to-four (weeks), but until we hear from the medical people, we're not sure."

Souray back at the rink

Souray, who's been out since the third game of the season, is finally able to come to the rink. He refuses to speak with the media, but Quinn says he's feeling a little better.

"I saw him for the first time today," the coach said. "He's doing some exercising for the first time. He said he feels not bad, so we'll see."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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