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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: High Spirits

Spirits were high at Oilers practice as they prepare to host San Jose

Friday, 22.10.2010 / 4:05 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: High Spirits
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22

HIGH SPIRITS

The Edmonton Oilers have brought a new attitude to the 2010-11 season; an attitude of enjoyment, pride, and fun to a locker room that didn't see much of that a season ago.

Today's practice at Rexall Place was another stone in the wall of change. After suffering their third consecutive defeat one night ago to the visiting Minnesota Wild, the mood around the rink wasn't exactly a highly spirited atmosphere.

MOVING FORWARD

But that's what makes this young squad unique in their approach to practice and coming to work each and every day. The concept of having fun is constantly instilled with a embracement from the players that has indicated a strong culture change across the board.

Rather than coming to work this morning with a downed attitude, the team picked themselves up and a showed a tremendous commitment to improving their game, while still enjoying the benefits of the new culture.

The players, while still accomplishing each drill with high intensity, were joking around with each other and enjoying the newly created atmosphere that this process has created. There's no point in getting down when the business, and the process, is just beginning. It was time to get back to work and prepare for the San Jose Sharks.

If there's one thing we can take from the first five games of this season, it's that the team will move forward and not let the previous day's events affect their future performances. Those are your 2010-11 Edmonton Oilers.

RUSH HALF-HOUR

The Oilers skated for approximately 40-minutes today, although much of the team remained on the ice for much longer to work on some additional skills without the instruction of the coaching staff. Although the practice was brief, the pace was high and generally focused on a few key areas: Line rushes and quick transitions. The team has been steadily improving its breakout since the start of the season and further practice and game-action time helped improve the process.

The lines were the same as last night, although there was one notable change on the blueline. Young defender Theo Peckham nursed a minor hand injury he suffered last night, meaning veteran Jason Strudwick was able to participate regularly in the drills. It's still unclear whether or not Peckham will be able to play tomorrow night.

POSITIVE VIBES


Jim Vandermeer
Defenceman Jim Vandermeer agreed that the increased practice time has helped, but game-action has proven to be the true test, where the Oilers did have some positives to take from last night.

"The day before the game in practice, we really worked on faceoffs; getting five guys involved, making a bigger battle in the faceoff circle and it definitely paid off last night."

However, Vandermeer was also quick to caution that there was still room for improvement.

"They really took it to us on the powerplay and we knew we couldn't give them as many opportunities as the last time we played them, and we didn't do that. So those are some key areas that we've worked on in practice, made mental notes of it, and it definitely improved from last game against them."

Fellow blueliner Ryan Whitney agreed that the start was a letdown, but that the faceoffs were something to carry forward into Saturday night's matchup vs. San Jose.

"You can't give up three goals in the first period when you're at home. Other than that, we really kind of dominated for stretches and we've got to continue the way we played for most of the second and third into tomorrow night. So, we didn't play poorly but you can't come out like that."

"We got a lot of shots. We outshot them, we outchanced them, it was just a -- we didn't spend too much time in our own zone, which is huge. We've got to continue doing those little things; and really, the biggest thing might be the faceoffs. Just starting with the puck, it's such a difference and all of the sudden you're chasing it and you're tired, and it's a lot tougher to play defence. So there were a lot of good things that we can build on."

TAYLOR'S TREK


One night removed from his best game of the season and in the NHL for the Oilers, Taylor Hall was pleased with his effort against the Wild but says he needs to bear down more on his chances. Although he came close last night on several occasions, the talented winger wants to further refine his skills and start capitalizing on his chances on a regular basis.

"There was definitely some chances that I'd like to have back and just put it right where I wanted, but at the same time I'm getting in those positions to score and that's all you can really ask. In saying all this, I still have to come out and play the same way tomorrow night - I'm hoping to produce offensively and be able to contribute and put some points on the board.

I worked a little bit today in practice on just hitting the net and putting the puck exactly where I wanted, so hopefully it works out."

4TH LINE STEP

Zack Stortini vs. Minnesota Thursday night
After having a difficult first two shifts of the game where the fourth line was scored against on both, Zack Stortini and Ryan Jones rode the pine for the rest of the night. Colin Fraser, one of the team's best centermen, got a few shifts late in the third to help balance the lines a little bit when Dustin Penner received a misconduct penalty.

Head Coach Tom Renney was blunt with his answer on the decision, but insists it was the right move to maintain the flow to the game and to accurately send a message to the players.

"It wasn't a lack of energy. It was a little bit of missed assignments and maybe reading the wrong cues.

You need to get a message across. It was their turn and it won't be the last time that happens to somebody. There seemed to be a really good flow with three (lines)."

Colin Fraser wasn't happy about the decision, as he and his linemates wanted another opportunity to redeem themselves, but understands and respects the decision from the coaches.

"First two shifts and two goals against, obviously unacceptable and we didn't play again; that's the way it is and we didn't deserve to play again. Tom sent the message and I think that's okay too. Am I happy? No, but at the same time we have no one to blame but ourselves.

Yeah, you always want to get another shot at it. No one wants to sit there, but with that being said you can understand why you're not playing too, at the same time. I think redemption comes the next game, the next time we're out there and put it behind us. The bottom line is we've got to be better and we've got to come ready for San Jose on Saturday."

SHARKS IN OIL COUNTRY

Edmonton wraps up a quick two-game homestand tomorrow night when the San Jose Sharks roll into Rexall Place. There are still single and standing room tickets available for tomorrow night, so act quickly before they sell out!

  Purchase tickets for tomorrow night


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Amanda of Edmonton submitted this question for Andrew Cogliano:

AMANDA: "How do you deal with all the fan attention? It must get crazy sometimes. What's the weirdest fan encounter you've had?

Andrew Cogliano

ANDREW: "I think you just have to turn a blind eye to it. There's some fans in different cities that heckle and want to get under your skin, but I think you've got to be professional and find a way to stay away from that.

For me, I haven't had any bad experiences which is a good thing; but the only thing I can think of is that there's a guy in LA that sits behind the bench every game, he's always yelling at players, and it's pretty funny. At some point you have to laugh it off and turn a blind eye like I said.

It's good when you're in the community that you have fans, and kids especially, that look up to guys like us; and when they come up for autographs I'm more than happy to sign things and talk about the season and the team. In a city like Edmonton, there's great fans and great people here and like I said, there's just fan support for sure."

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

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21

OILERS VS. WILD

AT THE MORNING SKATE


After four days of practicing, the Oilers were finally back in their game-day routine Thursday morning. Head Coach Tom Renney kept the lines the same as in Wednesday's practice:

Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Eberle
Hall - Cogliano - Brule
Jones - Fraser - Stortini

Andrew Cogliano said skating with Taylor Hall and Gilbert Brule "will be good."

"We've had some conversations with Tom (Renney), we know exactly what we have to do and what will make us successful. We're all good skaters. I think we can all get on the forecheck and turn over pucks and create offence that way," he explained. "Taylor, obviously, he's looking for his first goal, he wants to get things on track, and I'm hoping our line can do that for him tonight."

According to assistant Coach Steve Smith, the recent line changes are based on experimentation and research.

"I think there's a little bit of experimenting going on at this time of the season with everybody, and I don't think it's any one individual thing that happened right, wrong, or indifferent," he said. "Sometimes there's things that happen in the locker room that you see, that you pick up on, little things that guys sometimes get along with one guy a little bit better than another guy. Maybe it's time to try them in the game together and see what happens."

ROUND 2 VS MINNESOTA

It's been a week since the Oilers last played the Wild, and the club is gunning for a better outcome. In the game in Minnesota, the Oilers surrendered four power-play goals, helping the Wild become the top power-play unit in the league.

Renney said discipline will be key tonight.

"Often times at home, there's a tendency to try to do the extraordinary, and with that comes frustration at times, and with frustration comes penalties," he explained. "There's a domino effect there in terms of the discipline. I think that might be the common denominator with respect to our success at home here moving forward."

Assistant Coach Steve Smith is looking forward to the contest, especially since the club hasn't played since last Saturday.

"It has been pretty difficult to get into any kind of a game rhythm at this point in time, and we are excited about getting back in front of our fans again tonight and, quite frankly, excited about getting back at the Minnesota Wild," he said. "There's a little bit of a revenge factor going on right now. Their power-play was pretty spectacular last game and our penalty killing struggled a little bit, so we look forward to getting back at it tonight."

Captain Shawn Horcoff is expecting another challenging game.

"We know against Minnesota there's not going to be a ton of open ice -- there never is," he said. "We'll have to be content with getting the puck in and playing a more chip-and-chase game, and then getting our offence through the cycle. I think last game was a good lesson."

WILD 4 - OILERS 2

Despite benefiting from five more power-plays and tallying 11 more shots than their opponents, the Oilers were unable to battle back from an early 2-0 deficit and lost 4-2 to the Wild Thursday night.

Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff scored Edmonton's first two goals, while rookie Taylor Hall earned second-star honours for his spirited play. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin finished with 21 saves in the loss.

Game Recap
Under the Scope


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

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


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