Under the best of circumstances Ales Hemsky is considered untouchable at the Edmonton Oilers training camp.
A hit on the Oilers winger would probably have the culprit on the first bus out of town.
This year, the situation is even more extreme, as Hemsky has yet to be cleared for contact following off-season shoulder surgery.
“I can’t do contact for another week probably, and then I’ll see the doctor and go from there,” said Hemsky. “Everything is on the right track.
“I’ll practise normally, but I won’t be doing any scrimmaging, because I can’t do any hitting, that’s the main concern.”
Hemsky was limited to just 47 games last season before being shut down for the year due to a shoulder injury.
He had injured his other shoulder the previous year and required surgery on that one as well.
Hemsky expects to be ready to play towards the end of the exhibition season and hopes to be in the lineup by the start of the regular season.
“The last two seasons were really tough for me,” Hemsky said. “I just want to get back and enjoy hockey again. There are a lot of good players here and hopefully we’ll do better than we did in the last two years.”
Along with Hemsky, the Oilers will also be without the services of Ryan Whitney for the start of the preseason.
Whitney is still recovering from ankle surgery and is not ready for contact either.
Options: Eric Belanger had a few options after becoming a free agent this summer.
Yet, despite their place in the standings and the fact the Oilers are still years away from possibly contending for the Stanley Cup, the veteran chose Edmonton.
“I just felt wanted here,” Belanger said. “I wanted to come and be part of this and see where it could go in the next couple of years. We all feel that we can be in the playoffs this year and hopefully I can help them achieve it.”
Belanger, 33, spent last season with the Phoenix Coyotes, scoring 13 goals adding 27 assists in 82 games.
Among other things, the veteran centre is expected to provide a boost to the Oilers in the face-off circle.
“I feel great physically, I’ve been healthy the last few years, I haven’t missed many games,” he said. “The first week is always tough, no matter what you do in the summer, but I’m ready to go.”