The Team Today: Roadie Continues in Ohio
Oilers practice in Columbus Sunday afternoon, focus on final 14 games
SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 2010HELLO OHIO
But once on the ice, the team got down to business for a 45-minute skate in the Blue Jackets practice facility, which adjoins the main Nationwide ice surface.
With the exception of Fernando Pisani, who also didn't skate Saturday night in Toronto, a full contingent was present for practice.
Head Coach Pat Quinn slightly modified the lines, with Chris Minard switching places with Robert Nilsson. As such, Minard skated with Ryan Potulny and Zack Stortini, while Nilsson skated with Sam Gagner and Marc Pouliot.
FOCUS ON FINISHING STRONG
With two tough losses in their recent memory and an early summer in the near future, the Oilers are focusing on staying positive and closing the season with some solid performances.
"Everybody understands our situation now, but even if we weren't in this 'rebuilding phase' let's call it, and we were in a good playoff spot, we would still be trying to make our team better, to help the individual players improve. And as long as they're willing to put the time in -- and they are -- then we're all in a good place," Associate Coach Tom Renney explained.
"I almost feel sorry for them, but you can't let that creep into what's going on there either," he added. "They're trying, there's no question about that. We've had circumstances that have really forced us to play above and beyond what we're maybe capable of as individuals and maybe even as a team, who's to say."
THE COACHING FACTOR
The risk of coasting through the final 14 games is great, and Renney says it's up to the coaches to provide a good example and continue to get the most out of the players.
"We have to be the source for a lot of things, and often times that's confidence, it's work habits, it's a good attitude, it's being professional," Renney explained. "This is adversity, as the cliche would suggest, and we have to find ways to overcome and persevere through that."
According to the coach, the tactics are different for every player.
"Everybody's wired a little different, and again it comes to the coach as to how you might steer people, help them out with some good dialogue, some feedback. You'd like to think you've got some wisdom you can share with those guys, but there's nothing like experience. There comes a point in time where talking about it doesn't matter anymore. They've got to get out there and just live through it."
"It's always nice," Brule said about returning to Columbus. "I started my career here and the fans were great here and obviously I want to play a good game when I come here."
Columbus isn't the only city Brule wants to play well in, and he emphasized that his desire to score and win will remain strong through to the end of the season.
"I have personal goals, I'm sure everyone on our team has their own goals, but obviously I want to help our team win. Even though we're still out, I want to play for pride and still put the puck in the back of the net."
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com
SATURDAY, MARCH 13, 2010OILERS at MAPLE LEAFS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers hit the Air Canada Centre at 11:30am EST Saturday morning, armed with a full contingent.
After suffering from a neck injury for the past 11 days, captain Ethan Moreau is ready to make his return to the line-up tonight vs. the Maple Leafs.
"I feel good," the captain said. "It will probably take a game to feel completely comfortable. I haven't skated much but I had a good skate yesterday and I skated this morning so it should be fine."
Moreau will likely skate with Mike Comrie and Shawn Horcoff, replacing Fernando Pisani. Pisani is not expected to dress tonight.
The Oilers projected lines are as follows:
Comrie - Horcoff - Moreau
Penner - Cogliano - Brule
Minard - Gagner - Pouliot
Nilsson - Potulny - Stortini
Gilbert - Whitney
Chorney - Strudwick
Johnson - Peckham
Whitney good to go
After suffering a knee injury in the second period in Montreal, Ryan Whitney was questionable for tonight's game. But after decreasing swelling over night and fully participating in the morning skate, the defenceman said he's "good enough to play."
"It's one of those things you can't injure any more, it's just a bad bone bruise," Whitney explained. "So I'm excited. You don't want to miss games -- Hockey Night in Canada and you're playing in Toronto, it's fun to play in these type games."
Quinn returns to T.O.
The Oiler who is perhaps the most excited for tonight's game is Head Coach Pat Quinn. Tonight's game marks Quinn's first appearance behind an NHL bench since leaving the Maple Leafs organization in 2006.
"This is a place that's always been enjoyable to come to whether you're a player or coach, it doesn't matter," Quinn said to the media throng. "This is a great city and this has become a great building here."
When asked about his emotions returning to Air Canada Center, Quinn said that it's the people and not the place that make great memories.
"This is a nice facility but the people here are special people to me, from the guys that are taking the tickets to the guys that do the ice. Certainly there's only one player left from the time I was around, but he's a terrific young man too."
The players understand their coach's excitement.
"For a guy like myself and being from Ontario I can understand why he's so excited," Moreau said. "I think there's always extra motivation to play well here. It's on a national stage and we realize how he would enjoy a victory tonight."
MAPLE LEAFS 6 - OILERS 4
It was a game packed with 23 penalties, 10 goals, and a handful of scraps, but after 60 minutes it was the Maple Leafs who earned what really counts -- two points -- with a 6-4 victory over the Oilers Saturday night in Toronto.
Starting goalie Jeff Deslauriers allowed five goals on 28 shots through 40 minutes, followed by Devan Dubnyk, who made 18 saves on 19 attempts in the third period. Goals by Andrew Cogliano, Gilbert Brule, Dustin Penner, and Aaron Johnson encouraged several comeback attempts but, in the end, weren't enough for the win.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer
FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2010CAPTAIN'S NOTES
Before the full team skate, Associate Coach Tom Renney did an on-ice assessment with captain Ethan Moreau to determine if he is ready to play vs. Toronto Saturday night. Moreau has been plagued by a neck injury for the past 10 days.
"He tested out pretty good on the ice in that little test we started doing, and so there's a good chance he'll be playing," Head Coach Pat Quinn stated after practice.
While Moreau is expected to return to the line-up Saturday night, defenceman Ryan Whitney is questionable. Whitney blocked a shot at the tail end of the second period in Montreal Thursday night and missed the final frame.
"I was just going to the net, I can't remember with who but I was facing sideways, and (Andrei) Markov took a shot. My shinpad had moved and it just caught me right in the knee, so it's pretty swollen and sore today but I'll try to skate tomorrow in the morning and see how it feels," Whitney explained.
"I got x-rays and everything done this morning at the hospital here and it seems to be fine, so just one of those deep bone bruises."
The injury comes at a difficult time for the newly-acquired defenceman and the Oilers. The club already has two rookies on the blueline, Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney, and may call up a third if Whitney can't dress Saturday night.
"Haven't placed a call yet but both Ken (Lowe, Head Medical Trainer) and myself will be talking to Steve (Tambellini) about someone coming in," Quinn announced.
"There's lots of considerations because a big part of the game today is contracts and so planning has to be done there and planning can best be done after a bit of an evaluation."
Earlier this week, the Oilers lost forward Patrick O'Sullivan to a hand injury and recalled Chris Minard. Quinn expects the Ontario-native to play vs. Toronto.
"One game wouldn't have been fair, so I'm pretty sure he'll be going tomorrow," the coach said.
The Oilers currently have eight players out of the line-up due to injury.
Forward Fernando Pisani didn't participate in Friday's practice, but Quinn downplayed the absence.
"He has a groin pull that was considered to be better to be off today rather than skate."
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer