THE TEAM TODAY: Take a Picture
Oilers practice once more at Rexall Place; snap their team photo
TAKE A PICTUREEDMONTON - Ales Hemsky laced up his skates for team photo day at Rexall Place but did not stay on the ice to participate in practice. Afterwards, he addressed the media to talk about this injury status.
"It's no excuse, I decided to play with the injury and I don't want to make any excuses but it's been a struggle. I was in a lot of pain," said Hemsky. "I will take a week without playing and try to regroup and get ready for next week hopefully."
Hemsky said that after he rests for the next seven days, he'll get some more X-Rays and then assess where he's at with his foot injury.
"I blocked a shot in Detroit on that big road trip about 20 games ago and it's been a struggle from there," he said.
In that game, Hemsky blocked a shot from Jakub Kindl. He missed the team's game the very next night in Nashville but did return to the lineup two days later in Chicago. He has only scored one goal since the injury -- a span of 15 games -- after having eight in his first 19 games of the season.
"I knew we were battling for a playoff spot and I wanted to be in to try and help the team. That's why I played," he said.
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger talked about Hemsky's battle with the foot injury throughout nearly half the season.
"He will not be playing against Calgary. It's quite clear that he's had more than a month of ups and downs. You've been aware of him out of practices and I told you earlier on when we didn't say what the injury was as he tried to play through it," Krueger began.
"Due to the fact that it's actually gotten worse on him, it's time for a break. He was showing a lot of courage. He was there for the team and he wanted to play. Kudos to him for trying to play through it. He's reached a point where we need to take a step back."
With Hemsky's absence, the Oilers did some line shuffling. The top two lines remained intact with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins centring Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov making up the second unit.
But the third line had Ryan Jones with Shawn Horcoff and Lennart Petrell and Ryan Smyth was playing on the left side of line four with Jerred Smithson and Mike Brown.
On defence, Corey Potter was skating with Ryan Whitney as it appeared Mark Fistric will be out on Saturday.
"It's definitely exciting to get back in there," said Potter. "This is an important time for us and it's a must-win coming down the line here so (I just want to) get back in there and give this team the best chance to win."
With Hemsky out, Potter also found his way onto the team's top power play unit in practice with Justin Schultz, RNH, Horcoff and Hall.
"Unfortunately Hemmer's going to be out for a little bit here and I get to jump into that spot and play with some good players. Hopefully they can move the puck around and my job back there is to get the puck on net and try to create some opportunities for a second chance."
Eric Belanger also skated with the team on Friday with the hope that he will be ready to play very soon, though likely not tomorrow against the Flames.
"It's long, it's frustrating and it's in a time of year when you want to be playing," said Belanger. "It's part of the game and I've been lucky enough in the last seven or eight years that I didn't miss too many games because of injuries so this year's been frustrating with the toes, the wrist and the groin twice but I'm hopeful that it's going in the right direction."
Belanger said that he felt good when he returned to action from his initial groin injury but then something went wrong again.
"I felt good enough to get back in and play a game. The first game went well and then the second game back, the second or third shift in that game something popped. It's one of those things, muscle injuries in the groin are one of the worst things you can have. You never know when it's going to be fine. Now that it's twice you're a little antsy on the ice and don't want to push it too hard to pop it again."
Belanger said at this point there's still no timeline for his return.
"We've been cautious about it. It'll be three weeks Monday so hopefully I can leave it behind and get some games in before the end of the year."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com