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Souray & Hemsky back; Garon starting

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
Edmonton Oilers' Sheldon Souray, left, collides with St. Louis Blues' Ryan Johnson during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008, in St. Louis. The Oilers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
After a one-game absence, the Edmonton Oilers will see defenceman Sheldon Souray back in the lineup tonight against the New York Rangers. Souray flew home after the team’s game Wednesday in St. Louis to rest his shoulder.“It stems from the same problem I had at the beginning of the year. I knew coming back it wasn’t going to be quite 100% this year and there was a chance I was going to miss a game here and there,” Souray said following the morning skate Saturday.

“It’s not too serious, we just needed to be a little cautious because it was getting to the point where I wasn’t being very effective. I took a step back, got the treatment I needed back here and am starting to feel a little better today.”

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Souray knows that the shoulder problem is something he’s going to have to deal with for the remainder of the season but knows that playing with aches and pains is part of being in the NHL.

“If you went around the room here, there’s no one who I think’s playing at 100%. I wish I was feeling better for sure but hey it’s a part of the game. Nobody else is complaining about it and I’m certainly not going to,” he said.

The shoulder injury, suffered on October 13 in a game against the Vancouver Canucks, took much longer to heal than anticipated. Souray missed 25 games and several months of action after falling on it awkwardly following a fight with Vancouver’s Byron Ritchie. As a result, he hasn’t had much of a chance to show the Oilers what he can do.

“I think it’s particularly hard this year because it’s a new team and a new situation. There’s certain expectations and right now it’s frustrating because you’re not able to meet those expectations.”

When Souray was ready to return to the lineup, he had to make a decision whether he wanted to play with a shoulder that wasn’t going to be 100% or call it a season.

“There’s no time any more in our schedule to take time off. It was either miss a season or a miss a big portion of it and deal with the injury you have. That’s the situation we’re in and it’s frustrating but you’ve just got to keep going.”

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish noted that he has to be wary of Souray’s injury during the game.

Souray congratulates Ales Hemsky after scoring a goal against St. Louis on December 11, 2007. (Getty Images)
“It’s out there for sure that you know he’s not 100%. There’s a sense that he’s not going to be able to play the whole year with it. You’ve just got to try and manage it as best you can. Manage what he can play with and structurally the damage that you can do,” said MacTavish.

“It’s a concern for us but you just have to deal with the circumstances and manage it as best you can.”

The injury doesn’t necessarily hamper any one aspect of Souray’s game, he remarked that it’s just a nagging soreness.

“I think it’s really just an overall feeling I have. It’s not one thing in particular. It’s a combination of everything whether it’s shooting the puck, being physical or just being able to contain guys. There’s a lot you take for granted when you’re healthy, you don’t realize what you use or don’t use,” said the Oilers defenceman.

The blueliner added that it was something that would be evaluated on a game-to-game basis from here on out and has been ever since he returned from injury.

“Right now with the situation I’m in I look at getting through tonight. If you look at the big picture it’s going to look like a mountain. I don’t want to make it sound worse than it is but it’s something we’re going to have to monitor,” he said. “If we do that then I don’t see why I wouldn’t be able to be as healthy as I possibly could going into the playoffs.”

Souray also wanted to make sure to point out that this is not an injury that will be chronic – as in beyond this season.

“You have a lot of time off in the summer to regroup and rehab. It’s just that during the season you don’t have time to rehab,” he commented.

“It will be a temporary thing. We’ll get through this year and we’ll be alright.”


Edmonton Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon, left, makes a save as St. Louis Blues' David Backes (42) looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008, in St. Louis. The Oilers won 3-2 in overtime. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
For the third straight game, the Oilers are going with Mathieu Garon between the pipes as the Oilers prepare to take on the New York Rangers. The move is a bold one for Oilers coach Craig MacTavish considering it’s the team’s third game in four nights and Garon was in goal for Thursday’s 5-2 loss in Nashville.

“I’m reasonably happy with the way that he’s played. He’s played very well virtually all year long,” said MacTavish. “We’re at a stage now where we’ve got to see what Matty can do for us given a few more games here.”

Garon played remarkably well on Thursday despite allowing five goals. He faced 20 shots in the first period but kept the team in the game down only 3-1 after 20 minutes. He had no chance on the goals that beat him, either.

MacTavish wanted to stress that this decision had more to do with how Garon’s playing than how Roloson has played.

“Dwayne will work hard, he’s a hard working guy. We’ll get ready to put him in but there’s a still lot of opportunity for both of them,” he said.

Garon was Edmonton’s December Molson Cup winner with three first star selections, two second star selections and one third star selection for 30 points. Overall, he leads the Oilers this season with 55 points but is followed closely by Roloson at 45.  

“We’re at a real critical stretch in our season right now with these five games at home. It’s been tough to decide between the two because they’ve both played pretty well but from my perspective Matty’s been a little sharper so we’re going to go with him.”


Vancouver Canucks' Markus Naslund (19), of Sweden, gets knocked down by Edmonton Oilers' Matt Greene during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Oct. 13, 2007, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Richard Lam)
Another player who will be returning to the lineup tonight is Ales Hemsky. With Hemsky and Souray now back plus Ethan Moreau, right now the Oilers are as healthy as they’ve been in a long time.

“We’re getting closer,” said MacTavish. “(Greene’s) a couple or three weeks away. Raffi, we’ve got to make a decision on him but we’re getting closer”

Midway through the season, the team has missed 181 man games due to injury or illness. To put that in perspective, last year they lost 286 man games and that was a franchise record at the time. Their previous high before that was 216 in 1997-98.

MacTavish said the worst part about all the injuries this season is that the majority of players who have been out bring a physical element to their game – one that the Oilers have been sorely lacking this season.

“It really hurt the physical play having even Fernie (Fernando Pisani) out, he’s a guy who’s really strong on the puck,” he said.

MacTavish noted that he can see a difference in the team now as opposed to several months ago in terms of being able to compete with the opposition.

“Having Ethan, Sheldon and Matt Greene out for a prolonged period of time hurt our ability to crank up the physical part of the game. We’re getting closer to being able to do that,” MacTavish noted. “This road trip, we had more success from the faceoff circles on down in the offensive zone than we’ve had in awhile. That ends up speaking to the strength on the puck and the toughness.”

With Greene still out, having Souray miss the game on Thursday really took away from the team’s physical game on defence. It had MacTavish scrambling to find the right line match-ups.

“When you lose a guy like Sheldon on your back end you’re scrambling to get two pairs you can play against anybody.”
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