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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Business Day

Saturday, 09.10.2010 / 4:05 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Business Day

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 9

BUSINESS DAY

While the positive energy and overall good vibes carried into Saturday morning’s practice, the plan of attack was much different in comparison to Friday’s session of individual skills.

The team participated in a much shorter one-hour practice, but competed with an incredibly high pace and enjoyment in the routine.

Rather than focusing soley on individual skills, one-on-ones, and offensive zone creativity, the Oilers worked diligently throughout the session on breakouts and special teams positioning; with the powerplay and penalty kill receiving equal attention.

The team skated in familiar lines as they have been over the past few days, although injured forward Gilbert Brule re-introduced himself to the fray and split time with fellow energy player Ryan Jones on the third line. At this point, it's still unclear if Brule will be ready to go for tomorrow night, but Brule remains optimistic.

"I feel pretty good. It was a good skate today and the ankle feels good.

I guess we'll see what the coaches want tomorrow. Everything felt good; stopping, cutting, everything felt good.

With Cogliano, Paajarvi, Brule and Jones all flanking the revamped third line, the fourth line saw an increase in toughness with the addition of Zack Stortini. With Colin Fraser centering both Stortini and MacIntyre, it was definitely a line made for the dirty areas and not for show.

While the tough fourth line is aware of its role, the hot topic of fighting in hockey crept up once again following the skate.

Steve MacIntyre delivered a knockout punch to Raitis Ivanans during Thursday's home-opener. (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
MacIntyre's decisive victory over Calgary's Raitis Ivanans during the home opener received some negative press, but  he insists that fighting is part of the game and that there's no ill-will between combatants.

"I hope Raitis is okay. Obviously, you go into a fight and take that into consideration – it could happen. Obviously you feel for him, because I've been in his shoes. It was unfortunate, but it's part of the business. Like I said, I hope he's alright."

Up front, Shawn Horcoff, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall continued their strong chemistry and look to be improving their finish in the process. Eberle and Hall in particular were cashing  Horcoff passes with precision and ease, and appear ready to shoulder the offensive load against the Panthers tomorrow night. Eberle noted that, while his game and confidence is improving, he needs to keep an even keel and continue to support his teammates offensively.

"I want to build on my confidence and build on my game.

Obviously if they score, you're just as happy. We're a team. The more they put the puck in the net, the more we have a chance at winning. Obviously they're tremendous players and ther'es a reason why they're on the team. It should be a good year."

Ales Hemsky was one of the session’s greatest standouts after further developing the familiarity between he and linemates Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner. Not only is his offensive game in full flight, but his body language signals that he’s enjoying every moment of this young season as well.


Kurtis Foster scores during the Joey Moss Cup in September. (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
On the defensive side, the pairings were constant and veteran Jason Strudwick remained on spot duty as he occassionally received some practice action on the third pairing; filling in for either Theo Peckham and Jim Vandermeer.

It would appear at this point that the defensive pairings will remain the same for tomorrow's date with the Panthers, and off-season arrival Kurtis Foster has been pleased with the early chemistry that has developed with partner Ryan Whitney.

"It was our first game together, we moved the puck pretty well and I thought we did a good job of just rolling six all night and it didn't really matter who was up. Didn't matter who we were playing against or who was playing against Iginla, we just kind of rolled the six 'D' and I thought everyone did a pretty good job.

We're just kind of getting used to each other and I'm going to try to the shoot the puck a little more; as much as I can."

As for the experience as the team prepares for its second home game of the season, Foster remarked that it was something he hasn't seen before.

"It was amazing. I had some family in town and my parents have been to a few rinks now through the years, and they've been to Montreal and they've been to Toronto, but I don't think anyone touches what it was like the other night when we scored a couple third period goals and had that big fight from Mac."

The practice ended with a bit of fun and light-hearted competition as the team broke into two groups and had a full-team shootout competition. Whenever a goal was scored or a save was made for one team, the other had to take part in some heart-pumping skating as a punishment.

Much to the surprise of everyone on the ice, notable goal-scorers Ladislav Smid and Jason Strudwick gave their teams a boost with some slick moves that fooled Deslauriers and Dubnyk. Taylor Hall, among other offensive forwards Magnus Paajarvi and Gilbert Brule, failed to capitalize on their chances and became entirely too exhausted from the punishment skates to perform the moves they wanted.

When all was said and done, everyone had fun. Again. The mood around the rink continues to be infectious and the players are loving every minute of the atmosphere.

The Oilers will hold in an optional skate tomorrow morning as they prepare to take on the Florida Panthers tomorrow evening at Rexall Place. Great seats are still available!

  Purchase tickets for tomorrow night


ON LOCATION IN OKLAHOMA CITY

In a week of firsts for the Oilers organization, we're on location in Oklahoma City to get the inside scoop on the Barons historic season opener.

Taylor Chorney, Alexandre Giroux & Head Coach Todd Nelson talk about tonight's game.


ONE-ON-ONE

Jordan Eberle's first NHL goal.

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Veronica of Regina, SK submitted a question for Sam Gagner.

VERONICA:
"Hey Jordan,I just want to say I think your goal was pretty amazing. I must have caught the reply like a hundred times! What did it feel like to get your first NHL goal? What was going through your mind at the time?"

JORDAN:
"It was obviously pretty special, I mean anytime you get that chance - everyone remembers their first goal, you can probably ask anyone in the NHL. So, you know, it was definitely something to remember.

And the puck is still in my locker - not sure what they're going to do with it yet."


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

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


Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com

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