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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Home Again

Oilers return home to Rexall Place as they prepare to battle the Canucks on Tuesday

Sunday, 31.10.2010 / 1:27 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Home Again
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 31

HOME AGAIN

After coming away with four out of a possible six points on their recent road swing, Edmonton returned home to Rexall Place today and held an hour-long practice that pushed the pace and put the players back to work in a hurry.

With an extra day in between games before the Vancouver Canucks come to town on Tuesday night, the Oilers spent the bulk of today's session working on end-to-end skating drills, which included a heavy emphasis on heart-pumping one-on-one
exercises.

While line rushes and in-zone offensive plays weren't the focus on this day, they were touched on briefly midway through the practice when the forwards attacked on a series of odd-man chances up the ice.

The lines were the same as they have been over the past few games, although with Ales Hemsky notably absent from today's practice, spot placement was necessary to complete each line.

Although Hemsky did not participate in today's session, he's not injured and was in attendance at the rink as he conducted a "maintendance day."

The rotation on the fourth line continued, with all of Steve MacIntyre, Zack Stortini and Ryan Jones splitting duty on the unit to accompany centerman Colin Fraser.

The story was the same on the blueline as well, with Jason Strudwick and Jim Vandermeer parsing duty on the third pairing with Theo Peckham.

CHARACTER BUILDING

While the Oilers only came away with one victory on the road trip, -- against the Stanley Cup champions, however -- the Oilers skated away without a single regulation loss. Losing their first two games in a shootout following some impressive third period come-from-behind efforts has helped the team bond and build some confidence moving forward.

"We did a lot of things that were better on the ice, especially as a team. Obviously it's nice scoring seven goals against a team like Chicago. But, I think a lot of it showed a lot of our character when we came back in the first two games; never gave up, our first periods were great, and that's what we're looking for," remarked defenceman Tom Gilbert.

"We did a lot of good things. We moved the puck well and when we do that, success is definitely something that might come."

Centerman Colin Fraser agreed with Gilbert, but cautions that there's still plenty of work to be done.

"We're making steps in the right direction, obviously. With the last game in Chicago, I think we had a really good start; still need things to work on. I don't think we can be satisfied with the win -- we still gave up four goals and whatnot. They still had some chances, but I think it was a step in the right direction for us."

PK IMPROVEMENTS

Tom Renney
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons for the team's recent success has been the stark improvement on the penalty kill.

The Oilers have been shuffling different combinations around to try and find a formula that works, and it would appear that the inclusion of some offensive firepower is providing a lift.

"We would like to be able to make sure everyone makes a contribution on our team, and you'd like to see your third and fourth line guys really contribute to the penalty kill. We believe that we can get there. At the same time, I don't have a problem that with that little bit of an offensive threat on the PK, where that other team might not just give you everything that they have because of the artillery you might have as a killer," said head coach Tom Renney

"That said, the job is to kill penalties."

COACH COMPLIMENTS

While the players and coaches all admit that there's still some improvement to be made, Renney was fervent to compliment his team's improvements and overall strengths over the past few games.

"I like the fact that we really competed for three periods. I liked our attack game, I thought our transition game was good, I thought we moved the puck through the neutral zone with quickness, I thought we got it to the net with purpose. For the most part, we didn't lose people in the offensive zone or on our forecheck."

NUMBER ONE'S FIRST

Taylor Hall's first career NHL goal
Fresh off a road trip in which Taylor Hall scored his first and second career goals in consecutive nights, the 18-year old was thrilled but wanted to keep an even keel as he hopes to continue his recent offensive production into Tuesday night.

"It's definitely nice to get that first one out of the play, and once I kind of did that I was a little more relaxed out there.

Playing with Horc (Shawn Horcoff) and Ebs (Jordan Eberle), it's not hard to get points if you do the right things. It was a pretty good weekend for myself."

While his on-ice performance certainly got a rise out of his teammates when he scored in Columbus, Hall says the outpouring of support from family and friends has been tremendous.

"It was good. Everyone was pretty happy to see me get that goal, obviously; a lot of text messages and all that kind of stuff, so it's good to have people support you. I have some family coming here soon, so that should be nice."

WHAT'S NEXT

The Oilers will be back on the ice tomorrow for practice as they prepare to host the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night. Singles and standing room tickets are still available.

  Click here to purchase tickets for Tuesday night


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Kenton of Winnipeg, MB submitted this question for Taylor Hall:

KENTON: "
This being your first season in the NHL, how is the OHL compared to the NHL? How much harder is it?"

Taylor Hall
TAYLOR: "Probably the biggest thing is the goalies. They're just so good in this league, and you really have to pinpoint your shots to put them in. They challenge so well, too, so that's probably the biggest thing that I've noticed.

The strength is obviously a factor, but it hasn't been as big of a factor as I thought it would be because there's so much speed. The faster players really have an advantage because they call every penalty and if you're fast you can get away from guys; you don't really have to use the strength, so speed is definitely an advantage.

Other than that, I'm having a blast. Staying in the hotels, in the airplanes, and just being around this team. It's been a lot of fun."



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

 
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29

OILERS at BLACKHAWKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Edmonton Oilers wrap up a three-game road trip tonight in Chicago. It's the first time this season that the team has played back-to-back games. A win tonight would give the team a very respectable 1-0-2 record (4 points) on the road swing.

"It's good to be playing," said head coach Tom Renney. "Back-to-back games is not a bad thing. We've got an opportunity to see, number one what we're all about and number two what we're all about against a good team."

Renney felt confident about what type of performance he might get from his team tonight.

"I think we're going to be all right. I think we're going to play hard tonight, I think we're going to give Chicago something to think about. The big thing for me is to play 200x85 responsibly, with some passion and we'll see what we're made of."

Nikolai Khabibulin will get the start in goal tonight for the Oilers after Devan Dubnyk put in a strong performance in Columbus last night.

"It was cool to watch a game from upstairs just to see what the guys are doing," Khabibulin remarked.

Squaring off against his former team, the Stanley Cup Champions on back-to-back nights, Khabibulin was aware of the difficulty of the situation.

"It's going to be a big challenge for us," he continued. "We have to have our A game to beat them."

Head Coach Tom Renney wasn't tipping his hand when it came to who would dress tonight between Zack Stortini and Steve MacIntyre.

"I'm going to make a game-time decision in a couple of instances," he said, noting that Kurtis Foster did skate today and he will make a call on his playing status as well.

THE RETURN OF FRASER

Oilers forward Colin Fraser makes his return to the city where he collected a Stanley Cup ring last season. Fraser stated that he was looking forward to tonight's match-up but that it'll be a little strange to be on the opposite side of the ice.

"I've never really been in this situation before, being traded and playing against friends. It'll be different but I'm really looking forward to it. It should be fun," Fraser remarked.

Blackhawks forward Fernando Pisani will also be facing his former team for the first time.

"From a distance, watching him play I always had a huge respect for his ability to play a complete game," said Renney.

THE DAY AFTER

Taylor Hall wasn't getting too high or too low the day after he scored his first career NHL goal.

"It's nice to get that first one out of the way but I can't not have a good game tonight because then it's not going to mean anything. I have to be consistent every night."

The marker was a timely one as it knotted the game up at 2-2 and earned the Oilers a point in the come-from-behind win. Tonight Hall has another motivation, playing against the Blackhawks' young superstars.

"It's obviously very exciting. It's different than playing the other superstars in the league because these guys are so young and so close to our age," said Hall. "At the same time, this would be a huge win for us."

OILERS 7 - BLACKHAWKS 4


The Edmonton Oilers took a three-goal outburst in a minute and nine seconds in the opening period and carried that to a 7-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on Friday night. Seven Oilers had two points on the night including a pair of goals from Sam Gagner. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 37 of 41 shots for the win.


Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28

OILERS at BLUE JACKETS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

Fresh from a spirited comeback from a three-goal deficit that saw the team earn a point in Calgary, the Oilers arrived in Columbus yesterday evening and hit the ice today at Nationwide Arena.

Kurtis Foster was not on the ice once again as Jim Vandermeer comes back in to replace the Oilers defenceman against the Blue Jackets. Steve MacIntyre will also play his second game in a row with Zack Stortini in the press box.

DUBNYK GETS THE START

For the first time this season, a goaltender other than Nikolai Khabibulin gets the call in net. Devan Dubnyk will start his first game of the year.

"It's time to give Khabi a rest, there's no question of that. We tossed it back and forth on who should go. We decided on Devan and JD will back him up and we'll go from there," head coach Tom Renney stated.

Dubnyk mentioned that he was excited and ready for tonight's opportunity.

"I'm very excited. Looking at the schedule before the season, it was pretty obvious that this was probably one of the first chances for one of us to play," he said. 

"I'm really happy that I got the start. I'm going to try not to over-prepare, just relax and go have fun," Dubnyk continued.

The 6'6" netminder said that watching Khabibulin regularly in games and in practice has helped his game.

"You can learn from watching anybody. When you get a chance to play with a guy of his calibre it's important that you do (learn)," he said. "I'm just trying to soak it up as much as I can."

Dubnyk felt that rust wouldn't be an issue despite it being his first game action in a month.

"It's not difficult to stay sharp. That's our job to come to the rink every day and be prepared for practice. As far as being game ready there's no way to do that besides play games but you have to be as ready as you can."

HALL OF A REUNION

Taylor Hall's head coach with the Windsor Spitfires, Bob Boughner, is now an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets. The former bench boss had high praise for the Oilers rookie.

"It was a pleasure. You don't get kids like that very often. He was just a young 15-year-old when I met him. I asked him his goals the first time I ever met him. His goals were to be the Canadian Hockey League Rookie of the Year and lead our league in scoring.

"He wants to be the best, he wants to be a difference maker. He plays with a lot of passion on the ice."

With only one point in seven games so far, Boughner is not concerned with Hall's production. He noted that the points will come.

"I could imagine what he's gone through over the last three or four months. He won't crumble under pressure or the microscope. He'll thrive on it. I'm sure he wishes he had that first one under his belt but he's getting chances, he's playing well and doing well in traffic with the puck," Boughner remarked. "I don't think it was any different than the Stamkoses and the Thorntons when they were in their rookie year."

Taylor had high praise for Boughner as well and the role he played in his career to this point.

"He's certainly a very good coach and someone that, early on in my career, was very instrumental," said Hall. "He's such a good guy and someone that you respect and want to play for."

The two have kept in touch since they both departed Windsor for the NHL.

"He's sent me a few texts along the way. Even though we're on the opposition side it's still nice to hear from him," Hall continued.

The first overall pick also stated that it would be nice to get that first goal tonight in Columbus against his former mentor.

"Anytime would feel good to get the first one. Certainly with Bob, I'm sure he wouldn't be too happy about it but I'm going to try and hopefully get one soon."

BRULE BACK AGAIN

Quietly, Gilbert Brule makes his return to Columbus - a place where he was drafted and played several seasons before being dealt to the Oilers. He returned to Columbus last season as a member of the opposition for the first time.

"Every game from here on is important for us. We're down a few games. Last game we put in a good effort," said Brule. "We just need to do it for a full 60 minutes this time."

BLUE JACKETS 3 - OILERS 2 (SO)


Taylor Hall scored his first-career NHL goal in the third period to tie the game and Devan Dubnyk was spectacular in stopping 40 of 42 shots but the Edmonton Oilers dropped their second consecutive shootout decision, 3-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Thursday night.


Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola


Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com

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