Ales Hemsky skated on a leg and a prayer the last time the Edmonton Oilers faced the Montreal Canadiens.

The veteran winger willed himself to a goal and two assists in 18-1/2 minutes of work in the Oilers 5-4 overtime rally at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Dec. 1.

But Hemsky limped back to the bench a couple of times and later in the dressing room admitted he was really hurting. It turned out it wasn't just a groin pull, but a groin muscle tear.

He ended up missing a month.

"Looking back, I shouldn't have played. I wanted to because that's what I like doing, you know, playing hockey ... and I had the injury last year (shoulder surgery) and didn't want to miss more games. I had already sat out three," said Hemsky. "I thought I'd battle through it, then I ended up missing four weeks.

"Did I tear the muscle during the game or before? I don't know."

That's the thing about Hemsky. He always wants to play, but his body doesn't always agree.

Before the 27-year-old had his shoulder repaired last season, he gutted it out through about 10 games. He still gets plenty of points in a short period — 22 in 22 games in 2009-10 as 35 in 40 this season.

Last month, Hemsky took a shot behind the ear from teammate Theo Peckham in a game against the Vancouver Canucks. He took a few blows to the head later, but kept going.

He eventually had to be scratched from the NHL all-star game due to a concussion.

When Hemsky's healthy and when he's flying, as he was against the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, you see just how good he can be.

The Stars lineup was hurting missing Brad Richards, Nicklas Grossman, Jamie Benn and Adam Burish, but Hemsky had one of those nights when it really didn't matter who was playing and who wasn't.