THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Road Prep

Oilers practice at Rexall Place before departing for the season's first road trip

Wednesday, 13.10.2010 / 3:30 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Road Prep
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 13

ROAD PREP

OIL SPILLS

With the team enjoying some early season success at home, a new test begins Thursday night when the Oilers will take on the Minnesota Wild as part of their first road trip of the 2010-2011 season. In preparation for that, the Oilers practiced one last time at Rexall Place Wednesday morning before departing to the central US.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Defenceman Ryan Whitney is looking forward to the road trip and says these are always great opportunities to bond with teammates.

"It's nice to finally get away. We've been here for a quite a while now, and it's just good to go kind of go out to dinner with each toher and do those type of things where you really kind of get to know guys. People have families at home and you don't see them that often, except at the rink, so it's good."

Whitney expanded further on the team's recent struggles at the Xcel Energy Center, but says there needs to be a system in place to have success on the road.

"You got to play a little different. You got to play simple on the road. It seems like it takes a lot more to win there, and just making simple plays. There is a way to play a road game to be successful, so it's just to up to us to do that and realize that it's going to be a little tougher without our fans."

Rookie Jordan Eberle is equally as excited to start his first road trip of his young NHL career and is looking to make a deeper connection with his teammates in a setting he hasn't yet experienced.

"You learn things about guys you didn't know before, especially when you have a roommmate, so that really brings the team together."

SYSTEM SCHOOL

Being a travel day, the pace wasn’t quite as intense as it has been over the past few days, but the players were still providing the utmost energy in their participation. Of sorts, it was a “back to basics” day as the team worked meticulously on familiar drills and areas that head coach Tom Renney feels needs improvement.

Oilers players prepare for an incoming shot from the point.
Although the practice didn’t officially begin until 10am, the entire team was on the ice well before the scheduled start-time to play around and enjoy some relaxed ice-time before the coaches began the session. Once the session began, it was all business during the drills but the players weren’t shy to hide their excitement of the atmosphere and overall mood.

While the Oilers showed tremendous precision and decisiveness during their 4-0 stomping of the Calgary Flames on opening night, the team struggled in certain areas two nights later against the visiting Florida Panthers. Passes weren’t crisp, the team was trying to get too creative when a simple shot would suffice, and the breakout was disjointed which led to a misaligned offensive attack.

Head coach Tom Renney agreed that the team still has plenty of work to do regarding systems, but insists that practice time is only part of the equation.

"We're still trying to tidy up parts of our game, where everybody is on the same page and we know what the execution is that's required. At the end of the day, we have to play; we have to play to make that determination. We can practice it all we want, but we have to have something on the line other than just getting it done that ten seconds of a drill."

As a result of the opposite ends in the two games played so far, the coaching staff instituted a greater emphasis on their system play today. Breakouts were the primary point of concern, as the team spent much of the session breaking out of the zone with various techniques and re-doing the drills to perfection.

THE TRAINING FILE

Tom Renney addresses the media following Wednesday's skate.
While head coach Tom Renney was cryptic during yesterday’s media availability regarding a potential reason for the team’s sluggish performance, he clarified that point today and says it was likely due to a training and communication error on the part of the coaching staff.

"I think we may have done some damage with how we trained in preparing for Florida, and there was a lactate build-up and we couldn't flush it out in time to play the way we really wanted to. I think we had heavy legs, because we might have done a little bit too much work in the fitness, skating, metabolic department."

While the coaching staff admitted an error in their methods, the players weren't about to use it as an excuse for their uninspired play. Jordan Eberle commented on the fact that the team simply wasn't prepared to match Florida's intensity.

"Anytime you're not getting chances and not doing what you usually do, it is frustrating. They worked hard - they outworked us. That was the key thing. We didn't come to work and they outworked us. Obviously Khabi played unreal, probably why we won the game, but obviously we have to be ready."

STRUGGLE IN ST. PAUL

The Oilers currently find themselves in a 13-game winless stretch at the Xcel Energy Center in Minnnesota. Considering the Wild are a primary divisional foe, the need for success is especially important. While the Oilers have had their share of struggles in Minnesota, this group is a new team with a new mentality; head coach Tom Renney feels that the new youthful enthusiasm could actually pay dividends for the
psychological effect.

"I like the energy of our guys; old, young, experienced, inexperienced. I just like the energy of our group anyway, not withstanding our last game where we seemed to struggle a little bit. I like our energy, and I think we're maybe just naive enough, too, where it doesn't really matter - whatever happened in the past is that. And maybe we can create an advanage for ourselves by really not caring. Just go play."

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ONE-ON-ONE

Magnus Paajarvi celebrates a pre-season goal.

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Justin of Edmonton submitted this great question for Magnus Paajarvi:

JUSTIN: "Magnus, First of all, "welcome"! Second, what are some the major differences between playing in the NHL and Elite? And what adjustments have you had to make to your game?"

MAGNUS: "The biggest difference is definitely the rink. Especially behind the net and in the corners, because there's no ice at all over there. You really have to make a play fast. And and that's what I ntoiced too: The time. You don't have much time. It doesn't where you are. Every team wants to pressure and be aggressive in this league, I noticed.

I would say those are the two biggest differences; the bigger rink and the aggressiveness, which I've had to get used to."

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

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 12

BACK TO SCHOOL

After struggling through a 3-2 win over Florida Sunday evening and enjoying a relaxing Thanksgiving Monday, the Oilers started their day of learning with an intense 90-minute practice Tuesday morning.

The practice was geared towards rectifying the issues that plagued the team Sunday night.
Despite registering only 13 shots through 60 minutes, the Oil squeaked out two points, thanks in large part to Nikolai Khabibulin.

The goalie credited mental preparation and confidence in his rehabilitated back for his performance.

"The only pressure I put was to go out there, do the best I can, battle hard, and try 100% every time on every shot," he explained. "I don't have to think about [my back] during practice or games or days off. It feels very good."

Excluding Khabibulin's strong 26-save performance, Head Coach Tom Renney pointed out a handful of areas for improvement Sunday night.

"I think we have to retrieve pucks quicker, we have to move pucks to a destination quicker, we have to support the puck quicker, we have to attack with numbers and more vigour, we have to shoot off the rush, we have to pay the price in that slot area  around the blue paint," he listed. "Just about every part of the game needed to be broken down so that we can draw some conclusions on how effective we were or weren't."

"I think we looked like a team that thought it might be a little easier than it was," Renney continued. "I think we underestimated as a team Florida's structure, attention to detail, commitment to their plan, to the point where it took us outside of ours and we had to rely too much on one guy to make the difference."

The message was strong and clear in the locker room, according to Ryan Whitney.

"I think we were sitting back a little bit and maybe got a little overconfident after the first game, so we've got to play a lot harder," he said.

WILD ONE AHEAD

The Oilers are looking for a better effort -- but the same winning result -- Thursday night. The team starts its road schedule in Minnesota, where success has eluded the club for 13 straight games. But Renney isn't paying too much attention to the Xcel Energy Center curse.

"I think what's really important for us is we look at it as the next great challenge for us to finally get to play a game on the road, which we've all been looking forward to," the coach said. "I know we'll be ready to play."

"We're getting away for the first time, away from here, and we get to travel together as a team and we have that dinner on the road and have the morning skate -- just the whole set of dynamics that are just different. And right now I think we need different."

SCHOOL IN SESSION

Following practice, the Oilers players broke into groups and visited 15 local elementary schools to launch the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation's Share a Book program. The program is in its fourth year and annually provides 1200 students with 2500 books to support literacy throughout Oil Country.

Don't miss a report on Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi's visit to St. Gerard school on this Thursday's episode of The Link.

Jordan Eberle reads a book to students of Madonna Catholic School in Sherwood Park, AB on Tuesday, October 12, 2010.


ONE-ON-ONE

Shawn Horcoff

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Danny Krauskopf of Kingston, ON submitted a question for Shawn Horcoff.

DANNY: "I am in the Military and as a team leader, I ensure that I lead by example. How do you as the Captain exemplify that on the ice, and do you feel your game or on-ice attitude has changed since becoming Captain?"

SHAWN: "I think maybe my attitude has. I hope my play hasn't changed, I hope that's been the same. I've always been a guy that puts 100% effort into every game and every situation when I'm out on the ice, but I think your mentality does change.

You know people respond better to actions than words, so you want to be a guy that's out there doing all the little things, making all the tough plays, and you hope that when people see you doing it, they're going to want to do it themselves in return."

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

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 10

OILERS vs. PANTHERS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

After holding two consecutive days of hard practices, the Oilers opted to go with an optional morning skate as the Florida Panthers get set to prowl into Rexall Place Sunday night.

While the skate was optional, most of the team participated in the session and brought the same intensity that we’ve seen over the past few days of practice.

There were a few notable absentees, including newly-named captain Shawn Horcoff, so the few line rushes that were run were generally a mix of all the offensive lines. Gilbert Brule skated with his regular linemates in Magnus Paajarvi and Andrew Cogliano, while Ryan Jones found himself in a familiar spot on the fourth line.

MAINTAINING INTENSITY

The common theme this morning was about maintaining the intensity that made the team so successful the other night against the division rival Flames. Tom Gilbert noted that the team needs to take that seriously and keep pushing to improve.

“We did a lot of things right but you got to look at  that it's just one game of 82. We can't be anywhere near satisfied with the way that we want to play our game. We have to come out the exact same way, we got to play just as well as we did last game at home; and we got to use this energy we that we've got in this rink to our advantage.”

Assistant Coach Steve Smith agreed and expanded further on Gilbert's thoughts of executing battles.

"I think, again, the key is the start for us. We've got to get on them quickly; we've got to make them pay the price early, and I think we did a real nice job of just creating battles all over the ice and winning battles all over the ice. That was a really critical thing the other night and I think we've got to get back to the same again tonight."

Forward Sam Gagner agreed with the assessment and says that the team needs to put an even greater emphasis on system play in order to continue their hot start.

"Just try to stay on the same type of things. We got to get off to a good start and keep the intensity up, but the biggest thing for us is making sure our system play is good and we're on the same page; and I think that's what was so good against Calgary."

SYSTEM PLAY

While this morning’s skate was more of a warm-up for tonight’s game, the past few days of practice have, indeed, put that emphasis on system play that Gagner had alluded to. The bulk of yesterday’s session focused on special teams positioning and breakouts, while the previous day saw the team work extensively on offensive zone creativity.

The two combined should give the Oilers a good idea of what they want to accomplish tonight on special teams. Head Coach Tom Renney says the opportunities and possibilities are nearly endless with his group of offensively gifted players.

"The bottom line is if you're performing, if it's going, that you'll get that chance. There's certainly a possibility of having three combinations of people that can do some things. There's also a possibility of really loading up and maybe even doing something on the backend, for example, with a forward that might change the look a little bit; so I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."

While the Oilers will be playing in their second game of this young season, the visiting Florida Panthers will be getting their first taste of the 2010-11 season after waiting for over a week since their last pre-season game.

MINOR CHANGES

Renney confirmed this morning that there will be a few minor changes to tonight's lineup despite the opening night success. While the bulk of the lines will remain the same, Zack Stortini will draw in for heavyweight Steve MacIntyre on the fourth line. In addition, Jeff Deslauriers will be getting the backup role tonight as Devan Dubnyk will be regulated to pressbox duty.


OILERS 3 - PANTHERS 2

On the strength of 26 saves from goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin - many of them difficult - the Edmonton Oilers held on to defeat the Florida Panthers 3-2 at Rexall Place on Sunday night.


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

 


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