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THE TEAM TODAY: Switching it up

Oilers debut new line combinations at Tuesday's practice in Sherwood Park

Tuesday, 19.10.2010 / 4:18 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19

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.

NEW LINEMATES

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.

Colin Fraser
"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.

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ASK-AN-OILER: SHAWN HORCOFF

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


ONE-ON-ONE

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 Penner

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

MONDAY, OCTOBER 18

BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN

After a disappointing first road trip in which the Oilers dropped games in Minnesota and Calgary, the team rested Sunday and returned to Rexall Place for an off-ice workout Monday morning.

Edmonton had a successful start to the season with big wins over Calgary and Florida, but two losses since then have tempered optimism in Oil Country.

The Oilers are preaching patience and urging fans, media and players themselves to lay off the panic button.

"There are things now that we have to eliminate from our game, no question about that, but we have to stick with it, and that's probably the patience part is just keep hammering that through and make sure the guys understand that," Head Coach Tom Renney explained. "We can recognize parts of players' games, and our game in general, we just cannot have. I think that the Edmonton fan will remind us of that, if anybody does."

Growing pains are to be expected, he added.

"You want to minimize the pain, you want to grow quick, but you know you've got to go through it," Renney said. "I remind myself of that too. I have to make sure that I kind of keep myself in check. It's not productive to blow a gasket and go kind of cuckoo coaching this team out of these circumstances right now.

"There is a time, and it's coming, where the demands become greater, the attention to detail is pressed into them deeper than it is now. I'm looking forward to that, but certainly my cue will be them and the mental state of this team, and where the effort is."

WEEKEND REVIEW

From a player perspective, the weekend's results were disappointing but the games weren't without some positives.

"I felt like we were in both games, we had a chance to win both games, but obviously there's things we want to improve on as well," Sam Gagner said. "We feel like Khabi played great for us again, and we're relying on him a little too much. We've got to try and play in their end a little more, generate chances off the forecheck, get pucks in deep, and limit the turnovers.

"I feel like it's a work in progress and we've got to keep driving it in and keep getting better."

Ladislav Smid agrees.

"The Minnesota game wasn't our best, but I think we have to learn from our mistakes, what we did wrong," he added. "The Calgary loss, we were up by one after two periods and obviously it's a real disappointing loss for us, but those losses are going to help us in the long run."

WILD ONE AHEAD

Oilers vs. Wild coming up Thursday

The Oilers are hoping to apply those lessons learned in the rematch vs. the Wild Thursday, October 21 at Rexall Place. The puck drops at 7:30pm.

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ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Braden of Calgary submitted a question for Ladislav Smid.

BRADEN: "You have seen your role increase year by year and change on occasion. How do you prepare yourself today for the changes that have taken place?"

Ladislav Smid
LADISLAV: "I'm still learning a lot. Obviously I'm happy that I've got more ice time, but every game is a big learning opportunity for me. I'm just 24. I'm just trying to work my best and get better and better.

As for my preparation, I prepare the same for every game. It hasn't changed at all since I've been given more responsibility."

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 Tom Gazzola

 
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16

OILERS at FLAMES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers started game day with morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. Although Shawn Horcoff and Colin Fraser missed Friday's practice to heal injuries suffered the previous game, the centermen were back on the ice Saturday.

"The extra day helped to get the swelling out of there and it feels good today," Horcoff said after the skate.

One notable change to the Oilers line-up is the re-addition of enforcer Steve MacIntyre. In the season-opening Battle of Alberta October 7, MacIntyre thrilled fans by knocking out Calgary's Raitis Ivanans in a fight. Oilers Head Coach Tom Renney added that he had not yet decided if Zack Stortini will also dress vs. the Flames.

WILD BEHIND THEM, FLAMES AHEAD

After suffering their first loss of the season Thursday night vs. the Wild, the Oilers are looking to get back in the win column tonight. With only three goals in three games, the Flames have struggled out of the gate, but the Oilers aren't taking their provincial rivals lightly.

"They're a much better team than their record would suggest, and I know they believe that inside, and so they should," Renney said. "We have to man up. This is one of those games where we really have to perform well in every aspect of the game in order to have success."

"We know they're going to come out hard -- they always do -- and they'll be extra motivated tonight," captain Shawn Horcoff explained. "I think for us it's just going to be able to manage the first part of the game, not really try to give them any easy offence, and just a good, hard skate and an aggressive game."

One area in which the club will need to improve is penalty killing. The Oilers allowed four power-play goals vs. the Wild, a situation none of the players want to repeat.

"[The Wild] capitalized on our mistakes there, but first and foremost it starts by doing a better job of just staying out of the box," Horcoff continued. "We gave them too many power-plays at a time when we pretty much took the game over and we had them in a good spot there. We take a couple penalties and they score back-to-back, and that was pretty much the story."

Fraser agreed.

"It starts with staying out of the box, but at the same time, myself included, the killers have got to be better and we've got to kill those off," he said. "You can't give up four PK goals in a game and expect to win."

HALL IN HOMETOWN

The Oilers always have a lot of fan support when they play in Calgary, but tonight's game will receive an extra jolt of copper and blue thanks to Taylor Hall. The first-overall pick grew up in Calgary and is looking forward to playing his first regular-season game in front of friends and family at the Saddledome.

"I've learned so far that every NHL game is a lot of fun and there's a lot of firsts for me here, but definitely coming back to my home town and the place where I grew up is a lot of fun," Hall said. "I have a lot of friends coming to the game and it's going to be nice to play. Hopefully we can get the win."

REMATCH VS. MINNY


Following tonight's game, the Oilers will fly north to Edmonton and prepare for their next game, a rematch vs. Minnesota Thursday, October 21.

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FLAMES 5 - OILERS 3

The Oilers kept an edge in everything but shots through most of this back-and-forth Battle of Alberta, but a three goal-push by the Flames in the final frame ensured a different outcome. A late go-ahead goal by Jarome Iginla, plus empty-netter by Alex Tanguay, sealed a 5-3 win for Calgary over Edmonton.

Rookie Magnus Paajarvi registered his first NHL goal and assist in the game, supplementing markers by Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner. At the other end of the ice, Nikolai Khabibulin earned third-star honours for his 41-save effort in net.

Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer


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