Dark days for Oilers' Whitney

Ryan Whitney was in a foul mood when, after missing the second half of last season, he managed to...

Ryan Whitney was in a foul mood when, after missing the second half of last season, he managed to play only four games with the Oilers before a minor knee sprain again knocked him out of the lineup. (Reuters)

Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 PM ET

One could excuse Ryan Whitney for being in a foul mood recently.

This wasn’t the way the Edmonton Oilers defenceman envisioned his season after undergoing surgery this summer.

Yet mere days after finally being able to play on his surgically-repaired ankle, Whitney found himself out of the lineup again, spraining his knee less than two weeks ago in a game against the Vancouver Canucks.

He won’t be available when the Oilers take on the Phoenix Coyotes (8 p.m.) on Saturday.

“That’s probably why I didn’t talk to you guys before (media), I was just really bummed out,” Whitney said. “I really appreciate that Tom (Renney) and Tamby (Steve Tambellini) brought me on this trip. It was really nice of them. They didn’t have to, and it helps out a little bit.”

Whitney has suited up in just four games for the Oilers this season.

The recovery from his ankle injury took longer than first anticipated, costing the Boston native all of training camp and the preseason.

He was just getting back into form when the knee injury took place, setting him back even further this season.

“If this had happened and I’d been healthy, then it’s no big deal, it’s just a couple of weeks,” Whitney said. “But because of the other thing, it just made it that much tougher.

“That night and the next day, I felt bad being around the team and being that grumpy, but it was tough. But now I feel better and it’s over with.”

Whitney originally injured his ankle last season when his skate got caught in a rut. At the time he was playing arguably the best hockey of his career, collecting 27 points in 35 games and being the only plus player on a last-place club.

The hope was that after being shut down for the last half of the season, Whitney would return this year and regain the form that saw him develop into one of the Oilers’ most valuable players.

“It’s so embarrassing as a player, you get paid a lot of money and you want to be out there, but when you’re not playing — there’s nothing you can do, obviously — but you don’t feel like you’re doing what you’re paid to do. You’re not earning your money, in a way,” Whitney said. “You don’t really feel like a part of the team. It’s nothing that the players do, but after, they’re talking about the game and you’re not a part of it.”

The Oilers brought Whitney along for the first two games of a six-game road trip. The club flew some of the players’ mothers into Phoenix to join the team. Whitney will see the team doctor in Edmonton Monday and hopes to get the green light to start skating. If all goes well, he may be able to join the team towards the end of the trip.

“It actually feels really good,” Whitney said. “It’s a little sore, but the way the injury was it could have been a lot worse. (Athletic therapist) T.D. (Forss) said when I went down, he thought I blew out my whole knee. Lucky that didn’t happen, it’s just a minor sprain.”

Whitney was injured after getting tangled up with Corey Potter while skating back to retrieve the puck in his own end. Whitney’s knee buckled, eventually forcing him out of the contest.

“I went to stride and my foot got caught behind his foot, he was going the other way,” Whitney said. “I do remember thinking right away that I didn’t feel a pop, so that’s got to be good. Then I got on the ice and it felt a little loose and that’s when I knew something was wrong, and I thought. ‘Are you kidding me?’”

Having moved beyond the point of cursing his back luck, figuring that eventually it has to change, Whitney is looking forward to getting back in the lineup. The Oilers have done an outstanding job holding the fort while their top defenceman recovers from his latest setback.

“They’ve been great, everyone has been impressed by how good Potter has been and (Andy) Sutton has added a lot,” Whitney said. “I think Gibby (Tom Gilbert) is playing the best he’s every played, he’s been unbelievable.

“You miss not playing when you’re winning, though. It sucks. I was part of the losses and I want to be part of these wins.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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