SWITCHING IT UP
Following two full days away from skates and sticks, the Oilers returned to the ice Tuesday morning for practice at Millenium Place in Sherwood Park, AB.
The skate felt fresh, partly because Head Coach Tom Renney and his crew juggled the forwards and debuted new line combinations.
The top three lines were as follows:
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Hemsky
Penner - Gagner - Eberle
Hall - Cogliano - Brule
The fourth line of Ryan Jones, Colin Fraser, and Zack Stortini remained unchanged.
When asked about moving up to the top line with Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, rookie Magnus Paajarvi said it's "awesome."
"I'm honoured, but I want to try and go out and do what I do best," he added. "I know that they're such good players that they give you time to make you play your best hockey, so I'm just going to go out there. They're great guys and they help me a lot."
Hemsky is looking forward to skating with speedy Paajarvi and also reuniting with centerman Horcoff.
"I've played with Horc for a long time so nothing's changed for me -- we know what to expect from each other," Hemsky stated. "[Magnus is] a great young player: he's really smart, he can cycle the puck down low, he can get the puck on the fly, and his game is speed on the fly, so we'll see. It will be fun."
With Paajarvi filling the spot to Horcoff's left, Taylor Hall was relocated beside Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule. The first-rounder is no longer skating on the top line, but he isn't letting the change get to him.
"Coming to the rink, you've got to kind of be ready for anything, and that's kind of your job being an athlete, you can't get down just because you go down a line," Hall said. "These are two good players that I'm playing with as well, so I'm not too worried about it. It's a long season, there's going to be more line juggling than just today, so it should be fun."
Renney reiterated Hall's comments, advising media not to read too much into the changes.
"We've got a couple of back-to-back days that we've got to work with here, so we thought we'd throw just some different combinations together, have a look at them, and try not to get too serious about drawing any conclusions just yet," the coach explained.
FOUR-DAY BREAK CONTINUES
Tuesday's practice marked the midway point between Sunday's game in Calgary and Thursday's game vs. Minnesota at Rexall Place. Such a lengthy break is rare, and players and coaches agree that it's not necessarily a good thing.
"I think it's a double-edged sword," Fraser said. "At this time of the year, I think it's good that we get the practice and go over some things, but at the end of the day when you're in February-March and you're playing every second day, you would like to have a couple games in these days off so it wouldn't be so bunched together at that time of the year."
Renney said four days off can be "counter-productive" but added he has faith in his team's ability to play well Thursday.
"These guys are really, really good at paying attention, they're really good coming to the rink ready to work, they bring a great attitude individually and as a group," Renney explained. "I'm not really concerned at all yet, at this point in time, whether or not they're going to come prepared and engaged.
"But you don't want it to cost you a hockey game to find out exactly where they are with that, and that's our job as coaches to make sure that that doesn't happen."
NEXT GAME APPROACHES
The Oilers will look to snap their two-game losing streak in their next battle, Thursday, October 21 vs. Minnesota at Rexall Place. The puck drops at 7:30pm.
ASK-AN-OILER: SHAWN HORCOFF
Your favourite fan-driven Q & A is back! Captain Shawn Horcoff will be this season's first guest on Ask-an-Oiler, so submit your question now.
ASK SHAWN HORCOFF A QUESTION
In the latest edition of our fan question series, Beth of Calgary submitted a question for Dustin Penner.
BETH: "Growing up playing hockey, my dad instilled in me the importance of honoring your heroes and idols. Because of that I wear my dad's hockey number on my jersey every night and my son is now wearing number 27 to honor his hero. I was wondering if there is any significance to why you wear 27 or, when you were with Anaheim, 17?"
DUSTIN: "I wore number 27 back in high school, and I think I picked it out because a player on my local team, the Winkler Flyers, wore it. I'm pretty sure it was Jody Wielgosh. I wore 17 in Anaheim just because Scott Niedermayer had 27."
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