EDMONTON – The Edmonton Oilers have been riddled by the flu, but defenceman Ladislav Smid, the lone member of the team to test positive for the H1N1 variety of the virus, hasn’t been the hardest hit.
Smid, as the Oilers announced late Tuesday, tested positive for H1N1, but the 23-year-old defenceman didn’t miss a game and was back on his skates after two days of rest.
Gilbert Brule, meanwhile, one of a half-dozen Oilers players laid low by the flu, was bed-ridden with a non-H1N1 variety of it and missed three games. Results for Brule, the only other Oiler tested for H1N1, came back negative.
“I guess I got lucky and it didn’t hit me that bad,” said Smid, who began feeling ill Oct. 20. “I stayed home with a fever.
“Outside of a fever for a day-and-a-half, I felt better on the game day (Oct. 22 against Columbus) so I tried to skate in the morning and I felt good enough to play so I played.”
In the past 10 days, Ales Hemsky, Dustin Penner, Mike Comrie, Denis Grebeshkov, Brule and Smid suffered a variety of flu-like symptoms. Brule missed three games, Comrie two and Hemsky one.
“I’m still a few days away,” Brule, who played in a 3-0 loss to Colorado at Rexall Place Tuesday, said of making a full recovery.
“Skating today, my legs didn’t feel 100 per cent. I’m fatigued still, a bit, but I think I’ll be back 100 per cent.”
Lubomir Visnovsky, who is Smid’s defensive partner and sits next to him in the dressing room, didn’t play late in the loss to the Avalanche after taking ill. He didn’t practice Wednesday. Visnovsky will become the third Oiler tested for H1N1. Results of testing take several days.
“I was kind shocked,” Smid said of his test results. “Brule had way worse flu than me and he didn’t have it (H1N1) and I did.
“I feel bad for him (Visnovsky), you know? Maybe he got it from me, but you never know. Hopefully, he’s going to be back soon.”
The Oilers are taking the same precautions that have been laid out for the public by Alberta Health. They are using hand sanitizer in the dressing room. There is no sharing of water bottles. Players showing symptoms of the flu are asked to stay home and away from the rink.
“People in the community will be affected by this flu and our players are not immune to this new virus,” said Dr. Dhiren Naidu of the Oilers medical staff.
“It’s important to note that our player recovered in very short order and has since resumed playing. We continue to be diligent in our defences against the virus and encourage everyone to do the same.”
While Smid’s diagnosis hits close to home, given the scope of the H1N1 virus, his quick recovery from it lends some perspective.
“When it’s in your dressing room it could spread anywhere,” Brule said. “I think we’ve all been pretty good about staying away from the rink when we were sick.
“Basically, when I was sick, I called into the rink and talked to the trainers and didn’t even come to the rink. I think that’s the first step, to not come in, because the second you come in you can give it to anyone in the room.”
Compounding any concerns about the threat of H1N1, the Oilers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak and a scoring drought as they prepare to host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
Craig Anderson blanked them with 25 saves Tuesday on the heels of a 27-save shutout by Roberto Luongo in a 2-0 loss to Vancouver Sunday. The Oilers haven’t scored a goal in 141 minutes 25 seconds. Their last goal came at 18:35 of the second period in a 5-2 loss to the Flames in Calgary on Saturday.
“There’s no excuses for losing three in a row,” said Andrew Cogliano. “We’re not using it as an excuse at all. Nobody really talks about it that much, whether guys are sick or not. We’re just coming to the rink and playing.”
AROUND THE RINK: At 6-5-1 for 13 points, the Oilers have the same record and same number of points as they did through 12 games last season, a stretch that also included a three-game losing streak.