Flu bugging Oilers early in season

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

Mike Comrie and Gilbert Brule didn't even make the trip.

A handful of others battled through the bug last night.

But almost every member of the Edmonton Oilers was feeling the ill-effects of a virus that has been making its way through their ranks over the past week.

"I don't think there's anyone who feels 100% normal -- whether it's a little bit of a cold or what," said Oilers forward Patrick O'Sullivan, one of the few remaining Oilers to avoid the worst of it so far.

"We've been battling it pretty tough."

Peering into the visitors' locker-room yesterday morning before the Oilers and Flames dropped the puck on the third instalment of the Battle of Alberta this season, you could see proof of the battle.

Tom Gilbert was a pale version of himself with bags under his eyes that looked like they could hold the whole team's luggage for the trip.

An equally ghostly J-F Jacques took his soaked equipment off across the room. Others were heard hacking every few minutes.

All are hoping the worst is over.

"We've got guys down and out, and we've got guys kind of in the middle," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau.

"I'm just trying to stay away. My whole house is sick."

Sickness is hard to avoid in professional sports.

Sharing towels and water bottles and close quarters is part of the team atmosphere.

Throw in the H1N1 virus and things get a little more frightening -- even though the current strain going through their room is not thought to be the H1N1 variety that has killed more than 5,000 across the globe. A message on the big screen last night urged Calgarians to get their immunizations for both H1N1 and the seasonal strain of influenza.

"Absolutely, it's scary," O'Sullivan said. "We try to prevent it as much as we can. You can only prevent so much.

"It really is a breeding ground for people passing stuff to each other. We're together every day. We're physically active, and that weakens your body a little bit.

"We sit on the airplane all the time together, and we share hotel rooms. It is different than the average person.

"It's all the more reason to clean your hands and try to protect yourselves as much as you can."

Players have their own numbered water bottles and try to avoid using the same towels to wipe down.

"It's something to worry about," O'Sullivan added. "But at the end of the day ... you've got to live your life, too."


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