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.
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.
|Steve MacIntyre delivered a knockout punch to Raitis Ivanans during Thursday's home-opener. (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
"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.
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.
|Kurtis Foster scores during the Joey Moss Cup in September. (Photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)
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!
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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.
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."
Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer & Tom Gazzola