The Team Today: Forward focus
Hemsky, O'Sullivan & Jones take to the ice as team preps for 3rd straight win
MONDAY, MARCH 22, 2010ALES ON THE ICE
The first player out was Ryan Jones, who hit the ice in a track suit and fired some shots on net. Jones injured his right knee March 5 vs. Minnesota and continues on his road to recovery.
Then, as the rest of the team filed out for practice, Ales Hemsky emerged from the locker room and participated in his first skate since since suffering a season-ending shoulder injury November 26th. Although he participated in the drills, his 'no contact' grey jersey signalled that he is not ready to return to action.
"It's not a question if I want to play, I'm not ready to play," Hemsky explained. "The shoulder is not healed enough to get any body check and stuff like that. If I can take the time and just heal 100% for next year, I will take it."
O'SULLIVAN READY TO RETURN
Hemsky wasn't the only injured Oiler to skate Monday. After skating with the team for the past few days, Patrick O'Sullivan stated that he's ready to return to the line-up Tuesday night vs. Vancouver.
"I've been working pretty hard for the past week. I'm not 100% sure yet but I think there's a good chance I'll play tomorrow and I'm happy about that," he said.
O'Sullivan's injury was a painful and gory one. March 9 vs. Ottawa, the forward received a slash to his left hand. The blow destroyed the nail on his ring finger and sent him to the operating room, where doctors replaced the nail with a metal plate.
"When I got hit, the nail pretty much exploded. It's supposed to stabilize my finger and protect the tissue underneath, which was also damaged," he explained. "It's one of the most painful injuries I've ever had. It's kind of a freak accident -- there wasn't even a penalty on the play."
"At this point, it's either I play or just forget about it for the season," he said. "I've got a brace that I'm going to wear in my glove. It's uncomfortable and it's going to bother me, but like I said, I want to play."
The injury is among the latest that has plagued the Oilers this season.
"That's kind of the way the year has gone for our team, so many injures and bad luck," O'Sullivan said. "It's frustrating. I think everybody's disappointed with what's happened, and then you get an injury towards the end of the year, it makes it even harder."
DEAN ON THE SCENE
While positive things are happening on the Oilers front lines, fresh injuries continue to plague the blue line. Late in Sunday's game vs. San Jose, Theo Peckham seperated his shoulder after a check by Shark Douglas Murray.
The rookie defenceman is out for the remainder of the season, and as a result, the club called up Dean Arsene from the Springfield Falcons.
LOOKING TO MAKE IT THREE
With two straight wins on the books, the Oilers are looking to make it three Tuesday night vs. their northwest division rivals, the Vancouver Canucks. Limited tickets remain.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Dan Tencer
SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 2010OILERS vs SHARKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers met at Rexall Place Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. for a meeting before taking to the ice at 9:15 a.m. in preparation for tonight's game against the Sharks.
Edmonton comes into the game on somewhat of a role on home ice having won five of their last seven at Rexall Place. The Sharks, meanwhile, have dropped four in a row and now have their once-insurmountable lead on first place in the Pacific Division somewhat in jeopardy.
"We feel confident at home. A big start is necessary, maybe get the first goal and see what's going to happen," remarked Oilers forward Marc Pouliot.
For the Sharks, it's a back to basics approach for tonight.
"I think a key for us is to get it in, get in their end and really work their D down low in their end. The past two or three games against them where we've had success we've done that," noted Sharks forward Dany Heatley.
Dubnyk versus Nabokov
Trying to build off Friday's big shootout win against Detroit - the first win of his NHL career - Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal once again tonight as head coach Pat Quinn sticks to his "win and you're in" strategy.
"I was definitely excited to get that win out of the way and another opportunity right away," said Dubnyk.
"If they're struggling a little bit, they're going to be trying to turn it around even harder," Dubnyk continued. "They're not a team you can take lightly. If you don't come prepared to play the entire game, it's not going to turn out in your favour."
Sharks head coach Todd McLellan announced that Evgeni Nabokov will get the call tonight for San Jose. Nabokov has appeared in all but 10 games this season for San Jose but the coach isn't concerned about overworking his netminder.
"He had a day off yesterday, everybody got some time to rest and he's going to play again," said McLellan. "There might be people out there wondering why we're overplaying this guy. He's our number one goaltender. He's proving he plays better when he plays more games and when I look at the top eight or nine goaltenders he's right there with all of them (in games played)."
Fleming back behind the bench
For the second straight game, assistant coach Wayne Fleming will be behind the bench for the Oilers.
Fleming has spent most of the season up in the pressbox but head coach Pat Quinn decided to give him more of an ice-level view of things for Friday's game.
"Pat just wanted to make some adjustments and change some of the interaction a little bit. It was a lot of fun," said Fleming.
O'Sullivan still on the shelf
While getting closer to returning, forward Patrick O'Sullivan stayed out on the ice well after the rest of his teammates returned to the dressing room and as a result will miss his sixth straight game tonight.
"I think he's just about at a spot where he will (get back in), but he won't play today. He's had a couple of decent practices. Seems like the pain's gone there. We're going to give him a little conditioning test (tomorrow) and if he gets through that we'll have him in Tuesday," Quinn remarked.
With the demotion of Chris Minard to Springfield, Mike Comrie will draw back in the lineup.
OILERS 5 - SHARKS 1
Despite being consistently outshot by the dangerous Sharks, the Oilers made their attempts count and, with help from rookie backstopper Devan Dubnyk, secured a dominant 5-1 win Sunday night.
Robert Nilsson, Dustin Penner, Fernando Pisani, Shawn Horcoff, and Aaron Johnson scored for Edmonton, while Dubnyk finished with 27 saves for his second consecutive win.
Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer
SATURDAY, MARCH 20, 2010ONE DOWN ...
It took 11 starts but Dubnyk earned his first NHL win Friday night vs. Detroit and was still all smiles the day after accomplishing the milestone.
"It was tough going to sleep last night, just keep going through the game in my head," he said. "It feels really good today, a relief. It's been a little while since I won a game and that one was obviously pretty special."
HEARTBREAK, THEN CELEBRATE
The win wasn't so easy to come by: Edmonton held a 2-1 lead into the dying moments of regulation, but with 0.3 seconds left on the clock, Detroit's Brian Rafalski caught the puck and snapped it into the net to force sudden death.
Dubnyk isn't dwelling on the game-tying goal and is instead proud of the result.
"I'm just happy it turned out the way it did," he explained. "It's just one of those things -- it happened the way it did, and it was unfortunate, but in the end we got the two points, we got the win and it really doesn't matter how it turned out as long as we got that win."
The win was secured in three shootout rounds, capped by a pad save on Valtteri Filppula.
"It was amazing -- just seeing the puck rolling into the corner, just finally got it done. I just wanted to go head first into the bench with those guys but I thought that might be a bit much," Dubnyk laughed.
"It was great and special to celebrate it with those guys. I know that they were all working real hard for me, it was fun to win one with everybody out there."
FLOCK OF FALCONS ON HAND
Due to an astounding number of injuries this season, the Oilers roster is currently packed with Springfield Falcons call-ups, including Dubnyk and defenceman Theo Peckham.
"We've been playing together for the last three years. I've been going over to his house to play PlayStation every day for the past three years, so it was definitely cool to get him his first win," Peckham said.
"You've been through a lot with those guys, obviously a tough year last year and we were doing well this year when we were there, so you get to know these guys as teammates and as friends and it's fun to battle with them," Dubnyk added.
"As much of a personal good feeling it is to win the game, I think more than anything for me, it feels great to be out there with all those guys and have them all working as hard as they did to get the win."
NEXT UP: SHARKS
The rookie goalie isn't taking it easy now that he's in the win column: after dedicating part of Saturday to replying to 76 congratulatory texts from friends and family -- "I didn't even know I knew that many people," he joked -- he's setting his sights on Sunday's battle vs. the Sharks.
"It's just a relief to get that first one out of the way, but the way the schedule is, we're right back at it and it's not time to sit back and sit on one win," he said. "It's a good day today, enjoy it, and get ready for tomorrow."
OILERS ASSIGN MINARD
One call-up who assisted with Friday's victory but won't be on hand for Dubnyk's next test is forward Chris Minard. Saturday afternoon, the Oilers announced that Minard had been assigned to Springfield.
Minard was called up as an emergency replacement for forward Patrick O'Sullivan.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com