EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers practiced at Rexall Place on Saturday morning prior to a mid-afternoon departure for Vancouver ahead of Sunday night's season opener against the Canucks.
The team went with similar lines to what they have gone with all week:
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Yakupov - Gagner - Hemsky
Smyth - Horcoff - Hartikainen
Eager - Belanger - Petrell
Smid - Petry
Schultz - Schultz
Whitney - Potter
The extra skaters were Hordichuk and Paajarvi up front and Peckham and Fistric on defence.
However, nothing has been announced with respect to the opening night roster says head coach Ralph Krueger.
"We'd like to announce that lineup tomorrow after the pre-game skate and just keep everybody here ready for game one," said Krueger. "Theo Peckham and Nikolai Khabibulin will be staying here to practice tomorrow morning but all the other players are coming (and will be) prepared. We haven't given that message yet. We'll be passing it on to them tomorrow morning."
If he does play Sunday, Potter said he was looking forward to the opportunity.
"It's a pretty quick turnaround here. There's not much time to get nervous or think about things so it's definitely a good feeling to get started right away," said Potter.
"Last year I was on the power play and playing with some good guys and using my shot as best as I could, getting the puck on net. If that's five-on-five this year, I'll just keep doing the same thing and if I get the puck on the point I'll try and keep my head up and find some open guys in front."
Potter also talked about being paired with Whitney and noted that the two played well together last season.
"We played with each other a bit last year and we got to feel each other out a little bit last year," he began. "We've got the same chemistry going this year and just need to communicate out there and we'll be alright."
The blueliner noted that the team doesn't have anything special in mind in terms of shutting down the Canucks.
"We're just going to try and play to our game plan and keep it as simple as possible. We'll get the puck up to those skilled forwards and let them do the work."
The anticipation for game one is there for Ralph Krueger as well, with his first game as the head coach of an NHL team going tomorrow night.
"It's pleasure in where I am right now as a coach and that I have this opportunity. The opportunity to go with a group like this, especially, into the National Hockey League season is what's exciting. We really had an excellent week of work and I wish the players the start that they're really bubbling for. You can see it in the anxiousness of the group today to get this practice done so we can get on with the season."
That anxiousness, Coach Krueger believes, will help the team more than hurt them heading into that opener.
"Let's go for it," said Krueger. "It's a game in Vancouver where everybody's expecting Vancouver to take the points so let's go right at them, right away and let's play to win and not to try and keep the game close or not to lose. It's about playing forward, playing with our speed and using our weapons all the time. That's what we're going to worry about."
An interesting quirk to this season is having no pre-season games. This is a situation that Krueger noted he's familiar with having coached in plenty of tournaments in international play.
"I'm really comfortable with it because that's what the Olympics and World Championships are like," he said. "I don't want to keep mentioning that but it is that way. You don't know what the referees are going to be like at all. You get them from different countries. The players have usually slipped in just a few days before and you hope that the work you've done off the ice in the meetings have sunk in."
HORCOFF BACK ON THE ICE
After missing Friday's practice with the flu, Shawn Horcoff was back skating Saturday and pronounced himself ready to go for the opener.
"Yesterday was a tough day. The night before was tough but I feel a little better today," said Horcoff. "It was nice to get a skate in but I'm hoping I feel better tomorrow."
The captain noted that he felt great all week but then was hit with the bug all of a sudden on Thursday evening.
"It just hit me. I went out for dinner with the guys and just got an upset stomach at the movie and then had a really bad night. Yesterday wasn't great but I got a good sleep last night and I'm starting to feel a little better now. I'm hoping it was just a couple day thing and it'll be gone by tomorrow."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
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