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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Fantastic Friday

Friday, 08.10.2010 / 6:00 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Fantastic Friday

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 8

FANTASTIC FRIDAY

After defeating the division rival Calgary Flames by a score of 4-0 one night ago, the Oilers were back on the ice at Rexall Place Friday morning as they prepare to host the Florida Panthers on Sunday evening.

The 2010-11 season began about as well as anyone in Oil Country could have imagined, and the energy and happiness on the ice this morning reflected the positive mood. Although line rushes were only run near the conclusion of the practice, the early drills worked heavily on offensive zone creativity; the players, much to their delight, brought positive vibes and scored several highlight reel goals in the process.

The players celebrated as if it were a goal scored in game action, as the team was clearly enjoying the moment and relishing their early season success. While the season is still young, the way in which the game was won last night provided a moment of enjoyment all throughout the practice and the players weren't shy to hide their excitement. Head coach Tom Renney’s season theme of “having fun” was in full swing this morning. 

Taylor Hall and his delighted teammates are enjoying the fun and more relaxed atmosphere, but he insists that the process is only beginning, and that their  hard work is far from over.

"I think we've just got to stay humble and realize that it's just one out of 82 games; there's going to be ups, there's going to be downs, but if we can stay on an even keel – but carry confidence into the next game knowing that we can be a good team."

It’s also a theme that’s carried over off the ice as well. The Oilers made their dressing room even more competitive today when they re-introduced a familiar game – their old ping pong table was back and head coach Tom Renney was extremely supportive of the decision, as he feels the players need to make the dressing room their own.

Tom Renney
"I think it's great, absolutely. That's their domain, you know, and I've always felt that the rink has to be a destination and a place they want to come to. If as a coaching staff we're making that too difficult, then that doesn't make a lot of sense to me."

While the on and off ice fun was palpable this morning, the theme around the rink was focused on the new Oil Country hero, Jordan Eberle.

His highlight reel goal last night was the hot topic and players, media and fans alike couldn’t get enough. Linemate Taylor Hall commented on the goal and Eberle’s likely reaction to the fanfare.

"I'm not sure if he even went to sleep, I think he just watched the video the whole night. No, I'm happy for him. It was a great goal; and a great first goal."

It certainly wasn’t a one-off. Hall expanded the compliment for his linemate and hopes the chemistry between the two grows as the season progresses.

"You watch him in practice and he does the same thing. I'm sure it's not his first Highlight of the Night (on TSN) and it's not going to be his last. It's good for him. Hopefully he has a lot of confidence now and he carries into the next game.”

Jordan Eberle beats Miikka Kiprusoff for his first NHL goal.
Confidence likely isn’t an issue for the crafty winger, as he handled the pressure of his first NHL game better than most professional rookies. His goal showed the cunning ability desired by many long-time veterans of the game. It’s a special quality that head coach Tom Renney hasn’t seen very often.

"It was as good as it gets, there's no question about that. It's exciting. I mean, the speed in the first place and being able to do all that at high speed, and just the wherewithal to sell the goaltender on this one and give him that one – it's pretty neat.”

When asked to describe how Eberle could put all that together at such a young age in his first NHL game, Renney was blunt about his exceptional qualities as his career hit the ground running.

"Great hockey sense, great anticipation, very good quickness, and an extremely confident player."

While the excitement and attention around the rink was focused on Eberle’s goal and overall performance in his first NHL game, he remained humble and focused as he looks to prepare for Sunday night. 

"I think I caught it once. I think he (Hall) watched it more than I did. But, you know, that's yesterday and I have to move on today. We got the win and it was nice to chip in offensively and feel comfortable out there. Obviously going into the game that's what I was looking for was to get the win and it started off on the right foot."

The right foot, indeed. That as the case for many last night and it continued today as everyone on the ice showed excellent effort and the regular season sharpness that we would expect. In goal, Nikolai Khabibulin continued to look strong in practice and seems to have settled back into the role, both mentally and physically.

At the other end of the ice, Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers shared the net and worked extensively on technical drills prior to the session and afterward as well. At this point it's unclear which goaltender will perform the backup duties tomorrow night, but both Dubnyk and Deslauriers ensured they put forth a great effort in practice to gain an advantage.

Notably absent from today's practice was the man who scored the first goal of 2010-11, Gilbert Brule. Although concerns had arisen when he left the game in the third period last night, Brule says it was simply a precautionary measure resulting from a sore ankle.

"Yeah, I feel fine today. It was kind of just a precautionary thing; just did some treatments today. My ankle, basically from last year that high ankle sprain I had I just tweaked it a little last night. Just went out with 10-minutes left in the third and we were up 4-0, so there was no need to push it."

ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Ryan of Edmonton submitted a question for Ales Hemsky.

Ales Hemsky celebrates his third period goal with his teammates.
RYAN: "Since you are such a great playmaker, puck-handler and skater, have you ever thought about playing centre?"

ALES: "No, because they never put me in that position. I always played left wing and right wing but never played centre, so I never even think about it.

I think my game is the speed and around the boards, on the fly, so I never really think about. I don't know if I'd be comfortable with something like that and getting used to it, just changing to centre. Some guys can do it but it would be a little different, a little tough, so don't think so."

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 Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola

 
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 7

OILERS vs. FLAMES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers starting the first day of the season by participating in a 45-minute skate at Rexall Place. Head Coach Tom Renney kept the lines from the past two days intact:

Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Cogliano - Brule

On the fourth line, Renney said it will be a game-time decision whether Ryan Jones or Steve MacIntyre skates with Colin Fraser and Zack Stortini.


Nikolai Khabibulin will start in net, with Devan Dubnyk serving as his back-up.

Big debuts

The dressing room was packed with media Thursday morning, and as expected, most congregated around the three Oilers rookies who will be making their NHL debuts tonight: Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle.

When asked about their feelings heading into the game, the rookies repeated one word: "excited."

"It's something I've been looking forward to ever since I got drafted here and now it's finally here," Hall said. "I'm not too nervous, I'm just very excited for this opportunity and I'm glad my family's here to see the moment."

Eberle and Paajarvi admitted to some nerves but said they are focused on the task at hand.

"Every kid dreams of playing in their first NHL game; it's obviously pretty exciting,"  Eberle said. "It'll be a game where we're probably going to have to get the jitters out early and kind of get that first shift out of the way, but after that, kind of settle into the pace of the game and do what got us here."

"It's just a couple of hours now so I'm probably going to be nervous before, but once I'm in the game, I don't think it's going to be a problem," Paajarvi added.

The veterans can relate to the rookie experience.

"I remember my first NHL game, it's a dream come true," Ryan Whitney said. "It goes by quick and you can't even feel your legs a little bit, but these guys are pretty mature for their age and I'm excited."

Renney is confident the rookies are ready for their debut.

"I think that they're all obviously ready to go, they feel comfortable about going," the Head Coach said. "I think they're three guys that will certainly work hard, they'll do everything they can to play to their strengths, which we'll encourage, naturally.

"We're in this together and we're going to mess up here and there, but if we play the game properly we'll always be in a position to cover up for each other, and those three guys certainly need to know that too so they can go play."

Alternates named

Also Thursday morning, the Oilers named their alternate captains: Whitney and Ales Hemsky will wear the 'A' and take a leadership role with captain Shawn Horcoff, on and off the ice.


OILERS 4 - FLAMES 0

After surviving a strong Calgary push in the second period, the Edmonton Oilers sealed the deal with three third period goals to dump the Calgary Flames in the season opener for the two clubs. Nikolai Khabibulin returned with a vengeance, as he pitched a 37 save shutout, while Jordan Eberle, Gilbert Brule, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky scored for the Oilers

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

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 6

HORCOFF AT THE HELM

For the first time this season, the big news at Rexall Place didn't take place on the ice or involve one of the hyped rookies.

Following the final practice of the pre-season, the Oilers
held a 45-minute team meeting and officially announced that veteran Shawn Horcoff would be the 13th captain in franchise history.

"It's a big honour," Horcoff said after the announcement. "I think it's something that's the pinnacle of every player in the NHL. It doesn't get any better than this."

GM Steve Tambellini is convinced the 32-year-old center is the right man for the job.

"He's capable, he's an intelligent guy, he cares about the Oilers a great deal," Tambellini said. "I think he presents a good example of a pro package for what our young people need to see."

When asked what kind of captain he'd like to be, Horcoff didn't hesitate.

"I want to be a guy that leads both on and off the ice and is very approachable," he explained. "I think that's the biggest thing, that you have to be a captain that guys can come to when they need help, for various reasons, and they look to him at the toughest times to help them through that, especially as a team."

Horcoff's teammates are confident the new captain will deliver.

"He's the right guy and it's a great fit for us," Sam Gagner said. "He's got unbelievable work habits and he approaches the game the right way; he's always in here doing the right things. He's a guy you can really look up to because of that, because of the way he approaches everything in his life.

"It's obviously really exciting as a teammate to see that he's been given the captaincy because of how hard he's worked over his career, and the guys are going to stand behind him because of that.
"

Tom Gilbert added that Horcoff was the logical choice for captain.

"It was obviously no surprise in this locker room. He's vocal, he leads on the ice, and he's done a great job with not only the guys that have been here for the last couple of years but all the young guys. He's going to be a good guy to fill that spot," Gilbert said.

With his first NHL game on the horizon, Taylor Hall is proud to have the new captain as his linemate.

"Obviously there's a lot of good leaders on this team, and for me to be on his line right now and sitting beside him in the room, and him kind of taking me under his wing is very special," Hall said.

ONE-ON-ONE

Sam Gagner

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Derek of Ottawa, ON submitted a question for Sam Gagner.

DEREK: "In your junior career and your career to date with the Oilers, you have had the opportunity to play with two players that have gone first overall in the NHL entry draft in Patrick Kane and Taylor Hall. Although somewhat different types of players, do you see any striking similarities in the two players in terms of personality, confidence, or passion for the game?

SAM: "I definitely see similarities. In order to go first overall you need to have a sense of confidence in your abilities and the way you play the game, and I think that's something that's very similar in Taylor and Patrick. They're guys that know they're good and because of that, they go out there and show it every night.

They have a great passion for the game where they always want to prove that they're the best player on the ice every night and that's a great testament to them.

They're both obviously great players. Patrick has shown in his first few years in the NHL that he's a game-breaker and one of the top producers in the league, and I expect Taylor to do the same thing. He's a guy that always wants to be the best on the ice and prove that he's the best. That's a great thing for us and we're all obviously really excited to have him as a member of our team and it should be great going forward."

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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