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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Return to Rexall

Oilers return to Rexall Place for practice, continue to tinker with top lines

Wednesday, 20.10.2010 / 4:17 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Return to Rexall
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 20

RETURN TO REXALL

The Oilers were back on familiar territory Wednesday morning when they returned to Rexall Place for practice.

After debuting three new lines Tuesday, Head Coach Tom Renney reinstated his original line combinations, with two notable changes: Magnus Paajarvi manned the left wing with Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle, while Taylor Hall skated with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule.

When asked to compare former linemate Paajarvi with new linemate Hall, Brule was diplomatic.

"Obviously when we had Magnus on our line, we still had lots of speed, but Taylor's got that one-on-one skill," he said. "I think we just need to come to the puck more together, and I think that's why they changed things up a bit."

Yesterday Renney told media not to read too much into the new lines, and today he hinted that the current combinations should stick for tomorrow's game vs. Minnesota.

"[Tuesday's practice] was maybe a different venue, a couple days off, just a little different look at the practice through different combinations of people," he said. "There's a chance today that that's what we would go into tomorrow night with based on what you saw."

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT?

The line changes have spiced up a prolonged stretch of practices between games. Following Saturday's loss to Calgary, the Oilers have had four days to work on drills and build chemistry before meeting the Wild Thursday night.

Renney said practices are good, but "it's important to play."

"We need to put this stuff to practice; we need to know where we really are. We've played four games and we're starting to see taillights now just in games played, never mind points or anything like that," he explained. "We want to know how we're doing. We can throw darts and guess but we need to know by playing hockey."

Jordan Eberle can see both sides of the argument.

"We have a lot of new faces and it's good to kind of work on things in practice, but it's probably a double-edged sword," the rookie said. "At this time of year, you want to play games and then maybe at the end of the year, when you have a lot of games in a row, you probably want to mix in a day off or a practice.

"But you can't complain obviously. The schedule's going to get pretty rough here, so it's good to rest up."

WELL RESTED VS. WILD

Ladislav Smid in Minnesota

The club is hoping the rest works in their favour Thursday night. The Oilers surrendered four power-play goals in Minnesota a week ago, and Ladislav Smid thinks specialty teams will be key in the upcoming rematch at Rexall Place.

"You could see in Minnesota, they scored on their power-play four times and that pretty much decided the game, so we'll have to be really solid on our PK, stay out of the box, and be good on our power-play, and on five-on-five hopefully we'll get some goals as well," the defenceman said.

Brule added the team will need to put forth a consistent effort.

"I thought we had a couple decent periods in Minnesota, but we have to put a full 60 together here," he said.

GET TICKETS FOR MINNESOTA GAME

RALLY CALL

In off-ice news, the players started Wednesday bright and early by putting pen to paper. Each player signed 350 player cards that will accompany Oilers rally scarves for the Rally Against Cancer during Saturday's game at Rexall Place.

For $20, fans can purchase a scarf and player card on the concourse, with all proceeds going towards cancer research and treatment, as well as the Edmonton Oilers Community Foundation.

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

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.

GET TICKETS

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.

GET TICKETS


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


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