EDMONTON - With two goals in his last two games, Gilbert Brule should be one of the hottest players on the team.
Problem is, his last two games were six games ago. Since then he's been wrestling with a pair of ailments that have kept him off the ice and out of sight, derailing the momentum it took him months to gain.
"It's the same ankle that was bothering me last year and I got hit pretty hard by (Milan) Jurcina in the (Jan. 6) Islanders game," said Brule, who spent a night in hospital over concerns that he might have damaged his spleen.
"I kind of bruised between my rib line and my spleen. They had to do tests on my spleen and all this blood work in case my spleen was leaking."
He was at the airport, all ready to fly with the team to Vancouver when he began feeling dizzy and started sweating. That's when they shut him down.
Given that last year's team suffered ailments ranging from two waves of swine flu, a case of ulcerative colitis and another case of mononucleosis in its 500-plus man games lost to injury, Brule's spleen and Jordan Eberle's recent appendicitis attack shouldn't come as a surprise.
"You never want injuries and it seems like our team has it the worst all the time," said Brule. "In the last couple of years that I've been here we've had a lot of injuries and a lot of missed games. It's a part of the game and these are injuries that I want to let heal before I rush back."
He said the rib and spleen are fine and the ankle, since a cortisone shot last week, is really coming along.
"It's feeling good actually," he said. "I'm ready, I hope to play but I don't expect to."
Head coach Tom Renney said he wants to see Brule bring the fitness level back up before he returns to the mix.
Brule's sore ankle left four Oilers with the same injury at the same time ó he, Ryan Whitney, Eberle and Jim Vandermeer.
"It was funny, there were four of us there and we were all rehabbing our ankles," he said. "It makes it easier on the training staff."
FOURTH AND LONG: The Oilers fourth line, in whatever form it's taken, has struggled to make much of an impact this season, but the trio of Zack Stortini, JF Jacques and Colin Fraser turned in a solid physical night Tuesday against Minnesota.
"I liked that line," said head coach Tom Renney. "When they've played together they've been generally good for us. They give us a look of character and toughness."
LATE HITS: Devan Dubnyk, who spent last game in the dressing room instead of on the end of the bench because of flu-like symptoms, should be healthy enough to back up against the Stars ... Eberle isn't quite ready yet.