By GENE PRINCIPE
While the Edmonton Oilers were in Atlanta Friday preparing for Sunday’s game against the Thrashers, Fernando Pisani was headed home because of a setback with the illness he suffers from ulcerative colitis.
“He’s gone back to Edmonton,” Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said. “He’s had a recurrence of the colitis and it was best for him to go back and see his doctor.”
It’s hard to know exactly when it was that Pisani started feeling ill again. He stayed silent for awhile keeping it from the medical staff and it wasn’t until his teammates spoke up that it became known that the Edmontonian was sick again.
“He tried to keep it quiet,” Oilers coach Pat Quinn explained. “He tried to soldier on and this isn’t the time for him to show valour; instead he needs to get himself healthy. That’s more important than anything else.”
Quinn wasn’t around when the disease first hit Pisani the summer of 2007. It caused him to miss 26 games at the start of the season.
“It was tough back then for him,” said Shawn Horcoff. “They were still trying to figure out how to treat it. It was a hard time.”
That sentiment was echoed by another longtime teammate in Ethan Moreau.
“It was very difficult for him but it was something that needed to be treated appropriately.”
That seemed to be the case from the opening bout he had with ulcerative colitis. Since then there were never any public complaints about the disease flaring up. Pisani was able to control it enough, through diet and medicine, so that he could continue playing with the Oilers. That is until now.
“He’s a battler Fernando and he can’t cheat himself,” said Sheldon Souray. “He has to be 100 per cent and be as healthy as he can for the sake of himself and his family.”
No one may know Pisani better than Horcoff, who spoke to him before he returned to Edmonton.
“I had a talk with him over the past couple of days, and I told him, ‘You can’t worry about (the team) right now. You have to get yourself right, get your quality of life in order because this is just hockey.’”
Hockey hasn’t been much fun for Pisani the past three seasons. Along with colitis he’s also had injuries with which to deal. Last year he missed 44 games because of a broken ankle. This year he missed the first 13 games of the year because of a bad back.
Pisani had returned to the lineup Oct. 31 against Boston. He last played Wednesday in Edmonton’s 3-1 loss in Buffalo.
The Oilers have also lost defenceman Dennis Grebeshkov to injury. He will miss the next four-to-six weeks with a torn MCL in his knee.
Grebeshkov was hurt late in Wednesday’s game when he went knee-on-knee with the Sabres’ Derek Roy near the offensive blueline.