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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: T-minus-two

Oilers return to the ice for practice as season-opener approaches

Tuesday, 05.10.2010 / 3:05 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: T-minus-two
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 5

T-MINUS-TWO

With the pre-season schedule completed and the final series of cuts made, the Oilers are gearing up for Thursday's season-opener vs. Calgary.

The team held a lengthy two-hour practice at Rexall Place Tuesday morning, showcasing the opening-day roster for the first time.

Up front, Oilers coaches crafted the following lines:

Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Cogliano - Brule
Jones / MacIntyre - Fraser - Stortini

Head Coach Tom Renney is pleased to be through the pre-season and have his player personnel confirmed.

"It's good to get to this point where now you can really concentrate on your individuals and their needs in terms of development, and I don't think anybody on this team is exclusive to that or excluded from that," he explained. "It does give you a chance to sort of look at what the flavour of this thing might be and have an idea what you want the finished product to look like."

The players are also eager to get started.

"As you get older, [the pre-season] is something you try and get through and try and get the rust off and the kinks out and I think that's what most of the veteran guys use it for," Dustin Penner said.

"I think everybody's excited; everybody deserves their spot here," Ladislav Smid added. "I think we worked extremely hard this camp. We played pretty good games too as well, so we should be feeling good.

"Obviously we still have lots of things to improve but we all know that and we're going to work on it and I think we should be okay for the season."

HALL NEARS GAME 1

Taylor Hall

One of the most excited players is first-overall pick Taylor Hall. After surviving Monday's cuts, Hall will make his NHL debut in Thursday's Battle of Alberta.

"It's still pretty surreal, just thinking back on all the hockey I've played," Hall said after practice. "I was thinking last night that it was pretty cool that I'm officially on a team and I'm going to play a game in the NHL. So it's definitely a great opportunity and I'm just trying to relish it right now."

The easy-going rookie was quick to thank linemate Horcoff for his guidance and support throughout camp.

"
He's a great guy and he's done such a great job with me and Eberle," Hall said. "It's just the little things that he does, just talking to me on the side and showing me drills and stuff like that that makes it a lot easier for us ... I would be cheating myself if I didn't use that experience."

ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Brad of Onoway submitted a question for Ryan Whitney.

BRAD: "What does the Oilers organization bring as a place to play compared to other teams that you have played for?"

Ryan Whitney

RYAN: "I think that the whole organization here is really top notch. You look at the locker room that we have and the facilities, it's all pretty special. The fan base does a great job of making sure we're sold out, even when we were in last place like last year. It's a good group of people that are making sure fans are going to be here.

We're also treated very well. We stay at some great hotels on the road, our flights are always done really well, and it's a great place to play.

All the guys here are happy to be here, they want to play and be an Oiler and that's what you need to have. It's a young group and it's an exciting group. We'll have our ups and downs this year, it's not going to all go smoothly, but I don't think they'll be any quitting in here because everyone's really excited to play."

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

 
MONDAY, OCTOBER 4

FINAL CUTS

Consecutive losses to their arch rivals likely didn't have the Oilers in a great mood to start Monday morning, and for eight players, it only got worse.

Oilers coaches and management made some difficult decisions and trimmed their roster by six forwards and two defencemen, bringing the total number of players in camp to 24 The club must be down to 23 by Wednesday.

Linus Omark and Chris Vande Velde were assigned to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, while Shawn Belle, Alexandre Giroux, Ryan O'Marra, Ben Ondrus, Richard Petiot and Liam Reddox were placed on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Barons.

It was a "tough day," Head Coach Tom Renney said, but he hopes players are motivated by the experience.

"I think that all of these people today need to recognize that this is still very much the front end of a work in progress and it doesn't let anybody off the hook, myself especially," Renney explained. "What they have to remember is that this will be a body of work over time that I think they should want to be a part of because this is a pretty exceptional organization, in my mind, with a great landscape."

PLAYER REACTION

Some of the more veteran players, like Ondrus and Belle, have been through final camp cuts before and had a positive perspective on the experience.

"It's never easy being reassigned but they've got numbers to get down too and unfortunately I was not in the mix right now," Ondrus said. "It's what they feel they need to go ahead and have a good season, and hopefully down the road I can still be a part of it."

"It's a pretty disappointing time right now," Belle added. "There's obviously some positives I've got to take out of it, that I still stuck around here for a little bit.

"I just had my meeting -- it was positive. They just told me to continue to work hard down in Oklahoma City and show that I belong in the NHL and just go from there."

Rookie O'Marra said his first reaction to the 8:30am phone call was shock, then disappointment.

"I was already awake -- I haven't been sleeping much the past few days. I knew it was coming between eight and nine so I was up at about eight, just sitting around and hoping it didn't come," he reflected.

"It was just kind of paralyzing when he (Patrick Garland, Oilers Team Services Manager) called. When I picked up the phone, I didn't say much at first -- I didn't say anything actually -- I just heard Patty say what he had to say. And just said thank you. I couldn't really speak."

Linus Omark

Fellow rookie Omark was also tight-lipped.

"Of course I'm disappointed, but I'm going to go to Oklahoma and do my best there and hopefully come back," he said to the media.

When asked if he felt he was given an opportunity to succeed, Omark replied,"I don't want to discuss that. I want to play, so that's all I can say."

Renney understood Omark's reaction.

"Everybody aspires to the NHL, at least I hope they do, so he can comment however he chooses. I have no trouble with that whatsoever. It's an emotional time -- he believes he's an NHL player. Good for him."


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

 
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 3

OILERS at FLAMES

In just their second road game of the pre-season schedule, the Edmonton Oilers travel south to take on the Calgary Flames at the Saddledome to conclude the 2010 exhibition campaign.

IN THE VIDEO ROOM

The Oilers' game group did not skate on Sunday morning. Instead, they spent time at Rexall Place going over video prior to an afternoon departure for Calgary.

One player looking to make a final impression before final cuts is Linus Omark. Omark has put up a goal and three points in two prior exhibition games.

"It's going to be a tough game, away against Calgary but I'm going to do my best out there and hopefully they want me," said Omark this morning.

In what's expected to be a physical affair, Omark stated that he was up for the challenge.

"I like it when it's tough. I think I get better when it's a tougher game."

Another player needing to make an impression is Shawn Belle. The blueliner has only played in one pre-season game due to a hand injury. He's competing with Richard Petiot and Theo Peckham for that last spot on the blueline.

"It's a big test. I know Calgary's going to dress their top guys so it's going to be a final tune-up for them. For me, it's a chance to prove myself against top-flight NHLers."

"For Shawn, he's missed some hockey. He's going to get an opportunity to play. I want him to keep it simple. Use his size, his strength, his passing skills, his shot. He's a great skater."

'WE WANT TO WIN'

Renney was asked what was of key importance to him in this final exhibition game - ensuring he had a proper evaluation of the remaining players on the bubble or pulling out a victory at the Saddledome.

"The evaluation is what's important to individuals. We have guys that are fighting for jobs, employment and a way of life," Renney remarked. 

The Oilers head coach, however, said that for him personally coming up with the win was the key as he tries to bring the team together.

"We want to win. We have to execute as a team and show the continued growth of our team game, never mind the individual needs of our players."


FLAMES 1 - OILERS 0

Alex Tanguay scored in the opening period and that was all the Flames would need, as they held on to defeat the Edmonton Oilers 1-0 in what was the final pre-season game for both clubs. The two sides will meet again for real on Thursday night at Rexall Place for the NHL regular season opener.

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


INSIDE THE OILERS