THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Saturday school

Oilers fill Battle of Alberta sandwich with Saturday practice at Rexall Place

Saturday, 02.10.2010 / 2:43 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
X
Share with your Friends


THE TEAM TODAY: Saturday school
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2

SATURDAY SCHOOL

The Oilers had a few hours to lick their wounds from Friday's Battle of Alberta before returning to the battleground Saturday morning.

The team was split into two groups, starting with the squad that is expected to take on the Flames in Sunday's rematch.

The line combinations were as follows:

Penner - Cogliano - Eberle
Giroux - Gagner - Brule
Omark - Fraser - Jones
MacIntyre - O'Marra - Ondrus

Smid - Peckham
Petiot - Belle
Strudwick - Gilbert

After practice, Alexandre Giroux said he is looking forward to playing with young, speedy forwards Sam Gagner and Gilbert Brule.

"I've played with different players every game. The last one I played with two really offensive guys so that's going to be a lot of fun to make some plays with these guys," he said.

Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk will share netminding duties tomorrow, but there is no confirmation on who will start.

TIME TO SHINE

Sunday's game in Calgary is Edmonton's final pre-season match-up and the final opportunity for coaches and management to assess the players before opening day rosters are due Wednesday, October. 6

With 32 players remaining on the roster, the Oilers must cut nine prior to the deadline. Head Coach Tom Renney said it won't be an easy task.

"We'll have to make some tough decisions after that game, so yeah, there's some people in the game that we're going to pay close attention to," the coach explained. "We still have a number of guys here, and the numbers are large, so we'll place an emphasis on that."

The coach admitted that he wasn't anticipating having such an over-loaded roster at the start of October.

"I was hoping that we would be able to play our line-up in even these last couple of games, but it's a testament to the players -- they've made it difficult, they've made it interesting for us," he added.

Some of those players can be found on the blue line. Shawn Belle and Richard Petiot are expected to be paired up in Sunday's game, and both players are battling for a prized spot on the Oilers blue line.

"Going into tomorrow night, I'm just going to go out there and work as hard as I can and try not to do too much, just keep playing the way I'm playing," Petiot said.

Belle is expecting another tough challenge from the Flames and is looking to prove he can excel at the NHL level.

"Talking to some of the Calgary guys, it's going to be a tune-up game. They're probably going to have their better guys in the line-up, so for young guys like myself going in, we're going to view it as trying to play against top-flight NHLers," Belle explained.

ONE-ON-ONE

Alexandre Giroux

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Craig McArthur of Whitecourt, AB submitted a question for Alexandre Giroux.

CRAIG: "How well does the Oilers depth pool compare to the Capitals four or five years ago?"

ALEXANDRE: "I think every team has a lot of good players coming up every year. It's a little different with  (Washington's AHL affiliate) Hershey -- they've got a big market for the American League so it always brings some older veterans to win down there.

This year we've got three rookies that are unbelievable. I'm not sure every team has got that talent.

My first year in Ottawa it was Spezza and Vermette coming up, then I went to Washington and I saw Backstrom and those guys, so obviously every team has got good scouts that bring some good young players and that's what's going to happen here too."

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 Jack Michaels & Marc Ciampa

 
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 1

OILERS vs. FLAMES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers started game day with a skate at Rexall Place. Edmonton is expected to pull out its big guns vs. undefeated Calgary, with Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff, and Jordan Eberle skating together, as well as Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, and Ales Hemsky.

In net, the Oilers are going with Nikolai Khabibulin for the full 60 minutes. Devan Dubnyk will back-up. The young goalies will get a chance to play Sunday, however, as Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers are slated to split netminding duties in Calgary.

According to Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger, the balance between experience and youth has paid off so far.

"I think we're really happy the way the players have played so far in pre-season, with young players coming in and older players gravitating to them and making them part of the team right away," he said. "Obviously there's jobs to be won yet and we're eager to see what happens in the next four days."

BATTLE-READY

The Oil are hoping the four-day stretch starts positively with a win tonight. Last season, Edmonton went 0-for-6 in the Battle of Alberta, but with a perfect 4-0 pre-season record, this season's team has confidence and success to draw upon.

"It was funny last year -- they seemed to win that first game on a late goal and it seems from there we couldn't build any confidence," Buchberger reflected. "But we know we have a different team, a different outlook this year and we have a lot of young energy that's going to come to play. We go into every game to win and we're going the same way tonight."

The players are equally excited for tonight's match-up.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Taylor Hall said. "I was a fan of the team and a lot of players on the team I remember watching growing up and now I'm going to be facing off against them. That's very cool, but at the same time I have to make sure I'm competing and making sure I'm doing my job."

Center Chris Vande Velde is sticking to his game plan.

"I've just got to go out there and play my game and hopefully get some bounces and just work hard," he said. "The Alberta battle in rookie camp was pretty fun so I can imagine this is going to be a step up from that. I'm excited and I'm ready to go."


FLAMES 5 - OILERS 1

The Oilers kept even with the Flames through 39:43, but a late second-period goal paved the way for a difficult third. Four Edmonton penalties helped Calgary add three goals in the final frame to steal a 5-1 victory in the season's first Battle of Alberta.

Steve MacIntyre inspired the crowd with a vigorous fight and opening goal, while Liam Reddox was named third star for his scrappy second-period brawl and four shots. Like the rest of his teammates, Nikolai Khabibulin had a tough third period and finished with 26 saves on 31 shots.

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

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30


BACK TO BASICS

Practice makes perfect. This is the message that head coach Tom Renney and his coaching staff have been preaching since day one of camp, and it continued today with a steady diet of drills focused on the basics rather than system play and line rushes. Although Edmonton is one of the NHL’s best pre-season teams with a perfect 4-0 record, there’s always room for improvement – especially under the guidance of thieir positively tactical coaching staff.

View full camp roster

GROUP 1

With 33 players remaining in camp, the Oilers continued to skate in two groups today. Although not yet confirmed, the first group that participated looked to be the game group for tomorrow night’s matchup against the Flames. Shawn Horcoff continued to centre the top line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle on his wings. Up until now the two groups have split top line duties, but with the camp numbers dwindling, an influx of skill and youth took to the ice at the same time. Along with the aforementioned top line, Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, and Ales Hemsky continued to skate on a line at practice after their successful debut as a trio one night ago.

The bottom six was a sign of things to come. Guys fighting for jobs have been put in similar roles to further increase the competition between one another. Last night’s energy line of Liam Reddox, Ryan O’Marra, and Ryan Jones continued to provide a furious forecheck attack as they worked the defensive pairings in the pressure and breakout drills; practice that was suited to their respective skillsets as they all continue to push for a spot on the roster. Liam Reddox commented on the pressure and nerves that come with the final few days.

"Every day you're coming to the rink and you don't know if it's your last, so it's definitely a pressure cooker; but it's fun and exciting and hopefully I can be a part of this for a long time to come. I just have to continue to come to the rink and put my best foot forward, continue to work hard ,and just do the things that make me successful."

While skill and energy dominated the top three lines, the fourth is built for strength. Steve MacIntyre along with Zack Stortini shared the ice on the same line as camp standout and faceoff ace Chris Vande Velde centred the two. Vande Velde says that his role isn't necessarily imperative
– he just wants to contribute.

Chris Vande Velde 
"I'm just going out there and working hard and doing what I do best, and what I'm asked to do. If that's fourth line forward, or if that's to score goals, that's what I'm going to do. I've been pretty happy with my play so far and I hope it continues."

On defence, Ryan Whitney skated alongside Tom Gilbert; both of whom looked strong, confident, and precise with their puck possession and breakout passes. Ladislav Smid skated with newcomer Kurtis Foster who continued to work the goaltenders with his rocket shot and otherwise excellent offensive mobility. The third pairing, much like the fourth forward line, was built for toughness. Jim Vandermeer and Theo Peckham were ready to cause problems for the opposing forwards in the breakout drills. Although the physical tone wasn’t set to a great degree during the session, both Vandermeer and Peckham had no issue in imposing their physical will.

The two goaltenders that manned the pipes were Devan Dubnyk and Nikolai Khabibulin, who looks poised and physicall ready for another start on Friday night in the first edition of the 2010-2011 Battle of Alberta.

While the drills weren’t necessarily catered to game action, the coaching staff wanted to implement a higher degree of pace and intensity; the final two pre-season games will not only be an evaluation for many, but also preparation for the rapidly approaching regular season.


GROUP 2

Group two took the ice and it was much of the same in the way of intensity and pace. With roster assignments completed earlier in the morning, group two turned out to be much smaller than originally expected; only 12 players, including the two goaltenders, participated in the second session.

The lines were generally a mix of what we’ve seen to this point, with some random assignments due to lack of numbers on the ice. Only two forward lines and defensive pairings took part, with Dustin Penner, Gilbert Brule and Linus Omark leading the offensive charge in the drills. The second forward line was a mixed bag, as Andrew Cogliano centred Alexandre Giroux and J-F Jacques.

Richard Petiot
On the backend, the top two defencemen fighting for a roster spot, Richard Petiot and Shawn Belle, were paired together and looked poised to make an impact in their final few days at camp. Crisp puck movement, strong physical play and a seemingly infinite supply of energy continued to feature their camp resumes.

On the other side, Jason Strudwick and forward Ben Ondrus , who was forced on the blueline for today’s session due to the lack of defencemen left in camp, manned the defensive duties at the other end of the rink.

In goal, Martin Gerber and Jeff Deslauriers were the men between the pipes and both continued their solid showings in camp. Although Gerber was recently put on waivers, his strong showing and utmost professionalism should be an incredible positive for the Oklahoma City Barons should be clear. 

NUMBERS GAME

With four players being assigned to Oklahoma City this morning, the Oilers now have 33 players, including three goaltenders, remaining in camp with two pre-season games to play. The Oilers must be down to their 23-man roster by next Wednesday, October 6th.


ONE-ON-ONE

Sam Gagner
In another edition of our One-on-One series, Joey from Calgary asks this question for Sam Gagner:

JOEY:
"Is making the playoffs this year a realistic expectation considering all the youth on the team?"

SAM: "We think so. In our dressing room, we think it's a realistic expectation to make the playoffs. Obviously with the way last year ended, it wasn't fun for anybody, and it kind of gives you a sense of hunger and determination heading into the off-season to be ready for the following season."



Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola


INSIDE THE OILERS