THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Up Tempo

Oilers Training Camp continues at Rexall Place Monday.

Monday, 20.09.2010 / 8:43 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
Monday, September 20


UP TEMPO

The Edmonton Oilers were back at Rexall Place on Monday morning to continue with Main Training Camp as they prepare for a busy week ahead.

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TEAM C

Head coach Tom Renney pushed the pace this morning as the staff put a tremendous emphasis on tempo. There was little time spent at the white board, as the players continued with drills that have been worked on over the past few days. Communication between players and coaches was higher than it has been so far through camp, as the staff again was emphasizing hard work, a quick pace, and making sure the players were doing the drills correctly. Renney was only briefly a part of the first session this morning, where he then handed the reigns to Associate Coach Ralph Krueger to work the practices for the rest of the day.

"He's going to teach a lot and it's going to be tough practices as you see today. It's going to be a lot of skating, but at the end of the day, it's going to make us all better players" noted new-arrival defenceman Kurtis Foster.

The first half of the session, much like what was done on the weekend, was spent working on drills, with the coaching staff showing particular attention to full-ice breakouts and line rushes. Each line was put through the paces, as the drill was repeated several times to give the players a good workout and to establish some chemistry with their linemates.

Hard-working veteran Shawn Horcoff was again a notable standout during the first session, as he continued his mentorship with young prospects Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. In addition, his goal-scoring touch continued to be in fine form as he was picking the corners on all three Team C netminders.

After the first hour, the ice was flooded and the group worked briefly on drills before being rewarded with a scrimmage; the first of Training Camp, as the team prepares for a busy week that includes the Joey Moss Cup and two pre-season games in three consecutive days that will begin Tuesday night at Rexall Place. The lone goals of the brief scrimmage came from Shawn Belle for navy after some excellent work down low by Linus Omark. Drew Czerwonka replied moments later for light blue when he cashed in a rebound following a Taylor Chorney point shot. The scrimmage ended in a 1-1 tie.

Martin Gerber
With roster moves expected to be made shortly, players are realizing that they need to be making the most of their opportunities. Goaltender Martin Gerber, who was very solid during today's session, commented on his opportunity and what he needs to do to earn a roster spot with the Oilers.

"You have to prove yourself every day. Hockey business goes so quick and there's so many good players out there, so you have to prove yourself every day and that's basically what I'm trying to do. I just try to look out for myself and make sure I put everything out there. I need to put my best out  there every day and see what happens."

TEAM A

The second group to hit the ice was Team A, led by the current top line of Sam GagnerAles Hemsky and Dustin Penner. The same furious pace that was set earlier in the day continued for Team A, as the drills were run with precision and tremendous energy.

Forward Zack Stortini noted the pace and commented on the system play that the coaching staff has been working on so far.

"I think it's great. It's a great experience out there. We've been going through a lot of systems stuff, and it's definitely no surprise. Tom's a great teacher. It's very competitive out there, guys are working hard. It's an intense camp; requires a lot of effort, a lot of hard work to go through all the drills and to get the job done out there."

While Gagner, Hemsky and Penner continued their strong showings, Tyler Pitlick was one of the standouts of this session. Pitlick has been strong throughout camp so far and his creative hands and blazing speed were on display, much to the dismay of goaltenders Bryan Pitton and Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk was pleased with the high intensity practice and is looking forward to getting some game action soon.

"It's a good practice. Obviously I haven't had the chance to get into game situations, but it's good to get out there and get a high intensity, structured practice. You get lots of young kids trying to show their stuff out there; everyone's flying around and it's fun to get out there and really get back to working on things."

Liam Reddox
Also on the board for standouts were forwards Zack Stortini and Liam Reddox, who were excellent in all the forechecking drills in bringing an enthusiastic attack which pressured some of the more inexperienced defenders. Reddox in particular was not only energetic as he usually is, but he also brought a degree of creativity to the offensive attack which seemed to please the Oilers coaching staff. Teemu Hartikainen, Reddox and Stortini's linemates, was not to be forgotten. He was the leader on the line in gaining the zone and finishing chances around the net. For all three, day four was an excellent showing.

Exactly like the morning session, Team A concluded their practice with a brief scrimmage which featured work with the powerplay. Jeremie Blain of navy scored the opening goal when he slapped home a rolling puck that fooled goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The top line for light blue which featured Gagner, Hemsky and Penner replied just moments later as they got their opportunity on the attack. Gagner and Penner both scored from nifty passes from Hemsky which ended the scrimmage session in a 2-1 win for light blue.

TEAM B


The third and final group to hit the ice today was Team B, who again continued to push the strong pace set by the earlier groups. Coach Krueger worked them hard as skating and neutral zone play continued to be the theme of the day. Forward Gilbert Brule thinks the fast pace set early will be a benefit to the team as we approach the regular season.

"I think if you look at our camp and the roster that we've got coming in here - and the team's not set yet - but we've got a lot of offensive guys here and a lot of young guys and a lot of speed . It's really good to see. It's going to have a fast hockey team."

Gilbert Brule
Magnus Paajarvi, Gilbert Brule and Colin McDonald were the session's standouts. All continued their strong showings from earlier sessions, but were much more refined today with a obvious emphasis on precision with their passing and shooting. All three have progressed nicely over the past three days have been developing some nice familiarity with their respective linemates.

Andrew Cogliano spoke of the chemistry and familiarity already developing between he and linemate Gilbert Brule.

"We have chemistry already, I think we played a good 20 games together last year at the end of the year and we had success. He's a guy that you can talk to and be comfortable playing with. I think there's a lot of opportunity this year with guys leaving, new guys coming in, and Tom establishing that guys will have the opportunity to take spots and play different positions."

In net, Nikolai Khabibulin looked better again today. Khabibulin struggled early on day one of on-ice sessions, but with increased ice-time due to the roster shuffle, he seems to be getting more and more comfortable in the crease.

When it came time to scrimmage, both the navy and light blue teams played the bulk of their brief game in the neutral zone. Much of the in-zone play was scrambled and was often dictated by board play. The lone goal came from Mike Thomas of the light blue team following a Tom Gilbert giveaway behind the net.

While the 3-on-3 portions were largely uneventful for the other two groups, Steve MacIntyre changed that for Team B when he scored a nifty backhand goal which incited a great reception from his teammates. 

ONE-ON-ONE

In another edition of our fan question series, Jason of Edmonton asks a question for forward Zack Stortini:

Zack Stortini
Jason: "Do you feel with the addition of the new trio, given their size and style, along with current key players like Sam and Andrew, that your role of toughness and protection will be drastically increased this season compared to previous?"

Zack:  "I think it's always an important role out there. I know what my role is and what I have to do out there and it's something I enjoy doing. It's a great part of the game. It's hard to do it each and every night, but I'm not alone doing it. We have a lot of good guys on the team that are able to carry that load. Jason Strudwick, we brought in Jim Vandermeer, Steve MacIntyre's back - just to name a few guys. I'm there for any teammate. Doesn't matter if they're young or old, small or big, doesn't matter. I'm there for anybody. We're all brothers in here, we're sticking together - doesn't matter who it is."



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: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Nyki Scheuerman & Tom Gazzola

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.

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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.

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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

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