THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Camp continues

Oilers Training Camp moves to Millennium Place in Sherwood Park Sunday

Sunday, 19.09.2010 / 12:41 AM / The Team Today
By Marc Ciampa  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Camp continues
 
Sunday, September 19

CAMP CONTINUES

Millennium Place was jammed to the rafters on Sunday as over 2,000 Oilers fans came to watch the team skate for the second on-ice day of Main Training Camp.

View full camp roster
View Team Rosters

TEAM B

Once again, head coach Tom Renney was heavy on drills and heavy on skating as the Oilers were put through the paces.

"Today was pretty much a straight two-hour skate. Up-and-down the ice. It was definitely not an easy day out there for us," noted defenceman Tom Gilbert.

Despite the heavy workload, the intensity was high once again.

"That's what the young mentality brings," Gilbert continued. "There's a lot of energy. There's spots that are available and a lot of guys are fighting for them. It just makes this camp a lot more competitive and that's what you're look for at the start of the season."

Gilbert finished last season at a torrid pace, putting up 19 points in the season's final 16 games -- and 16 in the final 11 with a +8 rating.

"That's in the back of my mind," Gilbert said of his finish to 2009-10. "It was a great stretch for me and a lot had to do with my defence partner, Whitney. We just gelled. It was easy to go out there and play. We knew where each other were going to be."

Gilbert has been skating with Theo Peckham the past few days with Whitney going on a different group but the two will be reunited soon enough.

One notable change from the group was goaltender Tyler Bunz was moved from Team B to Team C. After the sessions, Coach Renney commented that they took him out to get more rubber for Nikolai Khabibulin who will likely see the bulk of the workload during pre-season as he tries to get back into game shape.

TEAM C

Team C was the second group to take the ice on Sunday. Once again, the session was filled with plenty of skating and drills with not much scrimmaging. While the early part of the session was heavy on skating, the later was much more tactical. Associate Coach Ralph Krueger put the players through the paces.

During line rushes, the trio of Linus Omark, Ryan Jones and Colin Fraser skated together once again and once again looked solid.

Linus Omark

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe (I could make the team)," said Omark following his off-ice workout. For the second straight day, Omark brushed off any mentions that he has impressed at all, noting that he's not even wearing his own equipment.

"When I get my gloves it's going to be a piece of cake," Omark joked.

Although Omark wasn't impressed with his own play, Ryan Jones was very impressed with both his linemates.

"I've got a couple good guys on my line here in the drills," said Jones. "We seem to be clicking a bit. Linus has been flying down the wing there and me an Fraser are the grinders. Got a little bit of chemistry going on"

Fraser has been impressed with camp so far. 

"So far, so good. I think a lot of teaching so when we do start playing games everybody knows the system. I think it's good to get that out of the way early so everybody's on the same page," said Fraser.

Despite moving from the Stanley Cup Champions to the 30th place team in the NHL, Fraser is very excited for the upcoming season.

"You look in Chicago, two or three years ago they were rebuilding and it didn't take long. To be part of it right from the get-go, I'm really looking forward to it."

Fraser lives in Sylvan Lake so he's only an hour away.

"Really excited to play in Canada and close to home," he said.

TEAM A

Another player very close to home is Ben Ondrus. The Sherwood Park native skated in hs hometown today as part of the third group of Oilers skaters.

"Expectations are to make the team," said Ondrus. "If not, I'll help in any way I can."

Ondrus had played his whole career to this point in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, getting in 52 NHL games. A rough and tumble winger, Ondrus brings a lot of sandpaper to the Oilers.

"You can't come in and be pushed around and let other teams take liberties on you. As long as everybody's sticking together and chipping in you can make it real tough to play against."

Tyler Pitlick

Another player with some grit to his game, Tyler Pitlick, has been skating with Ondrus on one of the more impressive trios so far.

"He's really caught my eye," Ondrus said of Pitlick. "He has a lot of skill and he can really move. He's asked me a couple questions and he's a quiet guy. By the looks of things him and a lot of young guys (on this team) definitely have a lot to look forward to."


Pitlick had a very strong Young Stars tournament and has followed that up with a couple of good showings at training camp so far.

"You notice all the other guys on the team and you know their names from watching them on TV," said Pitlick when asked of his impressions from camp so far.  "Just make sure you pay attention, don't screw up and make sure you're on time for everything."

After playing college last season for Minnesota State Mankato, Pitlick will move on to the WHL this upcoming season where he'll suit up for the Medicine Hat Tigers.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year in Med Hat. I'm really excited for the season to start," he said.

The 18-year-old was also quick to point out how unbelievable the crowd support has been in Edmonton during his experience.

"The town loves hockey here. It was like that for prospect camp and it was like that the last couple of days. It's great that they support us for practice, it's unbelievable. You wouldn't get that anywhere else."

ONE-ON-ONE

Linus Omark

In another edition of our fan question series, Marcel of Edmonton submitted a question for Linus Omark.

MARCEL: "There are a lot of great Oilers prospects vying for a spot on the roster. What sets you apart? What do you bring to the table that no other player can do?"

LINUS: "You can watch and see."

MARCEL:
"And if you make the team, who would you like to play with on a line?"

LINUS: "I want to always play with the best guys. Hemsky is a really good player. Penner, too and Horcoff."

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.


Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola & Dan Tencer

Saturday, September 18

ON THE ICE

Following arguably the toughest day of the year -- medicals & fitness testing -- the Oilers strapped on their skates Saturday morning for the first on-ice sessions.

View full camp roster
View Day 1 Team Rosters

TEAM A

With hundreds of fans filling up on a free pancake breakfast and over 5,000 filling the stands, the first group of 21 players took to the ice.

Dustin Penner, Sam Gagner, and Ales Hemsky skated together, as did Teemu Hartikainen, Liam Reddox, and Zack Stortini.

On the blue line, Ryan Whitney teamed up with rookie Jeff Petry, Jason Strudwick with Jeremie Blain, and Brandon Davidson with Jordan Bendfeld. Devan Dubnyk and Bryan Pitton manned the pipes.

Following the skate, Whitney admitted he was a bit rusty but said everyone will improve as camp progresses.

"Everyone's been skating but today's just a little up-tempo compared to the skates we've been having on our own," he explained. "It's good to get the first skate out of the way and just to go over things the way we did, instead of scrimmaging and going out there and killing each other. We really learned some new things and I think that's what's going to be good for us."

Gagner agreed.

"Obviously first day of training camp, you're trying to get used to the pace and the intensity and I felt like it was a good pace out there. Guys were moving and you're just hoping to get better every day of training camp."

TEAM B

The second group took to the ice at 10:15am, led by the line of Magnus Paajarvi, Andrew Cogliano, and Gilbert Brule. Jeff Deslauriers, Nikolai Khabibulin and Tyler Bunz took turns in net.

For Paajarvi, Saturday's skate marked his first main training camp experience. Despite being among the youngest guys on the ice, the Swedish forward was comfortable skating with the veterans.

Magnus Paajarvi

"I've been playing with men for three years now, so that difference is not going to be that big for me I think," he said. "It goes faster obviously -- it's older guys -- but it's alright. The drills were pretty much the same as for the rookie tournament so I was pretty comfortable out there."

10 years Paajarvi's senior, Alexandre Giroux has a wealth of pro hockey experience. After three years in the deep Washington Capitals organizaion, the 29-year-old is hoping for a fresh start with the Oilers.

"Washington was a tough team to crack up there; they had so much talent up front.," he explained. "This summer, I was looking to find a team I had a chance to play in. Edmonton was the right fit for me and we'll see what happens in the next couple of weeks."

TEAM C

For many fans, it was worth the wait to see the final group of Oilers take to the ice. For the first time ever, first-overall draft pick Taylor Hall donned his Oilers jersey and stepped on the ice at Rexall Place. Hall was joined by Shawn Horcoff at centre and Jordan Eberle on the right side.

On the back end, the high-flying top line was supported by a group of experienced defencemen. Summer acquisitions Jim Vandermeer and Kurtis Foster skated together, as did Ladislav Smid and Taylor Chorney.

Swedish import Linus Omark stood out in the skate, powering up the ice and dominating some drills. Another highlight was when Hall's quick snapshot shattered a pane of glass behind Olivier Roy's net.

"I didn't know I had that kind of shot in me. Maybe all the beach workouts I've been doing all summer, but it was definitely a fun practice," Hall said with a smile.

Although Hall and Eberle have played plenty together, Horcoff was a new addition to their line. All players were pleased with the combination.

"Taylor, he's a guy that's got a ton of speed," Horcoff said. "With that speed, you're going to want to give him the puck. And with Jordan, he's got a great shot and he's got a lot of really good hockey sense and seems to be a really good overall player.

"So I think for me in the middle, it's just going to be a matter of trying to support those guys as much as possible, support the puck, and get it to them when they're open because they're guys that think the game at a high level offensively."

Hall is thankful for Horcoff's veteran advice on the ice and off.

"Any chance I got to ask him a question or anything, he's always very polite. He knows what it's like to be a young guy, and for them to put us with me and Ebs, it's a pretty good honour and something that's going to help us out."

The whole Oilers crew returns to the ice Sunday when they hold three practice sessions at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park.

ONE-ON-ONE

Colin Fraser

In another edition of our fan question series, Matt Dwyer of Medicine Hat submitted a question for Colin Fraser.

MATT: "You played for Red Deer in the WHL. How does it feel to be back in Oil Country, playing for the Oilers?"

COLIN: "It feels really good. I live in Sylvan Lake now in the off-season so it's as close to home as I'm going to get. I'm excited to be back in Canada, for one, and to be part of the rebuilding process here. I'm really excited. I just want to get going here -- I just want to start playing some hockey games!"

Fill out the form on the right to submit a question for one of the Oilers. We will ask one of the submitted questions after the next practice and will post the answer in the next Team Today.


Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola

Friday, September 17

TRAINING DAY

Exactly one week after Oilers prospects met at Rexall Place for medicals & fitness testing, the older players gathered to complete the same tests Friday morning.

Although it was established NHLers like Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky performing the rigorous Wingate test & VO2 Max, the younger rookies were also present to meet with human resources and
complete other pre-season duties.

GM Steve Tambellini invited all 29 rookies to main camp, meaning over 60 players will be competing for spots on the Oilers roster over the next two weeks.

NEW FACES

With youngsters like Taylor Hall at camp, along with off-season acquisitions like Jim Vandermeer and Colin Fraser, the three team locker rooms are filled with fresh faces and an exciting atmosphere.

"It's a whole new locker room so it's a different feel," Horcoff said after testing. "I think obviously all of us going through the last year was disappointed and it left for a really long summer. But coming back now and seeing all the new faces and a lot of the young guys and seeing how excited they are just to get [here], it brings back old memories and it definitely erases a lot of the bad ones from last year."

The big news of camp so far as been the rookie trio of Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Vet Jason Strudwick is looking forward to having them around, even if they do make him feel old.

"I went out for dinner with them a little while ago, with Cogs and those guys. It was funny sitting there -- it was like 19, 20, 21, 23 and then me at 35. The guys kept giving me a hard time, saying they were out with their dad, but I said 'Your dad's not this good looking,' Strudwick joked.

"I'm excited to see what they can do, and I think the rest of the city is," he added. "The young guys, you just want to harness their enthusiasm."

The coaching staff is also optimistic about the season ahead.

"I think we're well organized, well prepared, and I think everybody understands what their individual marching orders are, including myself," Head Coach Tom Renney stated. "We're ready to go."

KHABIBULIN'S BACK

We'll deal with anything that comes our way this year, no matter what it is, as a group. - Tom Renney


One player whose status at training camp was uncertain is Nikolai Khabibulin. The Oilers goalie is currently appealing a drunk driving conviction in Arizona but was able to participate in training camp and is happy to be back with the team.

"This is something I wish I didn't have to deal with," he said. "I spent a lot of time on it during the summer and I'm taking it very seriously, but it is what it is right now and it's an ongoing process. Right now I'm just so excited to be back and practicing and be with the teammates."

Renney wouldn't comment specifically on how Khabibulin's charges may affect the team, but the coach said the organization is prepared to face any challenges that come their way.

"We're at the front end of a process here, and so is he. We'll deal with anything that comes our way this year, no matter what it is, as a group. And at some point at that time, that may or may not be one of them


Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola

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