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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Battle Lines

Heavy emphasis on winning battles during Wednesday's physical practice

Wednesday, 03.11.2010 / 3:20 PM / The Team Today
By Marc Ciampa  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Battle Lines
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3

BATTLE LINES

After falling to the Canucks 4-3 in a game where the team was physically pushed around at times - particularly in the early going - the Oilers coaching staff aimed to remedy that situation at practice on Wednesday with a hard practice that involved a lot of physical confrontation.

"If you watched practice today, we did a lot of battling and there's a reason for that," Oilers head coach Tom Renney said.

"We have to conjure that up in our players and demand that of them all the time because it's a great equalizer. You might not have the experience, the technical expertise but if your battle is where it needs to be it can really create an equal footing for your team."

The players felt that this type of practice was very much welcomed. Fourth-liner Colin Fraser in particular remarked that the team needs a bit more sandpaper.

"A lot of battle drills today. That's the message, we've got to battle more. Not only that but battle drills for the puck, coming out with the puck. Being hard on the puck, too," said Fraser.

It wasn't without its casualties as Andrew Cogliano left the ice after a one-on-one battle with Shawn Horcoff. He did return, however.

"That's the way it goes," said Renney. "I had no problem with that."

(PAINFULLY) LOOKING BACK

Head Coach Tom Renney had a painful expression when asked if getting beat by Raffi Torres was a lot worse than simply getting beat by the Sedins in a loss to Vancouver.

"I was thinking about that all night," he said. "How about that last goal? Come on. Stop in the high slot, sticks down, defensive side, be alert and the thing doesn't make it through the slot. And it's in the back of our net."

Renney did find the ability to crack a joke at Raffi's expense, however.

"Good for Raffi, what the hell," he laughed. "He's fighting for a job, just trying to make a living. Just do it somewhere else."

The slow starts is also something the team needs to overcome, Ales Hemsky added.

"We have to have better starts. We always talk about it before the game but we never do it. If you go down 3-0 or 2-0 all the time it's so tough to get back. You just spend so much energy to come back. I don't know why, we've just got to get into the game a little bit more, that's all," he said.

PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT ON THE SCENE

Kimberley Amirault

The Oilers have hired a Performance Consultant, Kimberley Amirault. Her background in pro sports includes some time with the New York Rangers, New York Knicks and Columbus Blue Jackets.

"With all the teams I've worked with, it's a whole variety around performance consulting. Helping people be at their ideal performance state consistenly playing at their highest level," she said.

Amirault has an impressive background that includes her current work with the Canadian Olympic Committee. 

"I also work for the Canadian Olympic Committee where I headed up Sports Psychology Department for the 2010 Olympics for Canada and was just hired for the 2012 Games. I also work for the Canadian Sports Centre in Calgary where I'm the Director of Sports Psychology."

"The objective is to make sure that she's available to our players when they need that. It's completely optional for them. Athletes nowadays have some type of connection to a mental skills coach. We're providing that to them," said Renney.

Renney has a history with Amerault, having worked with her not only with the Rangers but also with the Canadian Olympic program in the late 90s.

"I mentioned her to Glen and worked with her in the '98 or '99 National Team. That's where I met Kimberly. He then brought her in to work the Rangers and the Knicks."

Amirault has a wide background when it comes to sports.

"I started out volunteering literally with Pee Wee hockey teams as I did with other high school teams and University teams. It was a good fit, I found out. I also worked with cross country skiing and women's hockey."

JACQUES OFFICIALLY ASSIGNED TO OKLAHOMA

Oilers forward J-F Jacques was officially assigned today to the Oklahoma City Barons on a conditioning stint. Jacques has been out of action since February with a back injury. He'll skate with the Barons for a maximum of two weeks before returning to Edmonton.

READ THE PRESS RELEASE

ONE-ON-ONE

Devan Dubnyk

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Richard of Red Deer submitted a question for Devan Dubnyk.

RICHARD: "What is the most significant change you have to make now that you have secured the  lone back-up position?"

DEVAN: "I think the biggest thing is to not change anything. I've tried to keep a level head throughout the whole thing and not think too much about it - whether I'm the only goalie or one of five goalies. It feels a little different but the important thing is to just stay steady and confident and that's how you're going to perform when you get a chance."

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: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2

OILERS vs. CANUCKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

Following their most impressive offensive performance of the season last Friday, the Oilers are back in action tonight when they take on the Vancouver Canucks. Edmonton is hoping to bring some of that Chicago success into Rexall Place, but they know it won't be easy against a tough division rival.

"[The Canucks are] a good team, and we've said it before, we've had good teams in here not so long ago and we have to measure up," Head Coach Tom Renney said after the morning skate. "A team like Vancouver really helps you sharpen your senses to the point where you have to be spot-on."

The Canucks have a lot going for them, Renney added.

"They've got a nice blend of [antagonism] and skill and talent, obviously. Their goaltending is certainly solid, so you've got to play a complete game to beat them."

Forward Sam Gagner is looking forward to the challenge.

"They're definitely a fun team to play against," he said. "Every time we play against them it's usually a pretty big battle. We seem to have a really good rivalry with them and I think the biggest thing for us is getting off to a good start, getting pucks in deep and make sure we get our forechecking game going and hopefully we'll get some offence off of that."

Thankfully, the tactics that resulted in a 7-4 win over the Blackhawks is fresh in the Oilers' minds.

"Any time you play against Stanley Cup Champions, it seems to raise your level of play," Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger explained. "We scored six goals, I think, off the rush and obviously we've got to really watch tonight against the Sedins and make sure we work their D."

Captain Shawn Horcoff said the win was great but consistency is required.

"The biggest thing is trying to find some consistency and be in there night in, night out," he explained. "That's the hardest thing that comes with youth is trying to find a way to be there every day. Our schedule has been pretty easy on us so far and obviously it's going to be tough here in the month of November so it'll be a good test to see how we can hold up."

DESLAURIERS CLEARS

Jeff Deslauriers will play in Oklahoma City
Nikolai Khabibulin will start the game for the Oilers, but the big goaltending news involves a player who is no longer with the team. After being placed on waivers Monday morning, Jeff Deslauriers officially cleared at 10am this morning and will be assigned to the Oilers AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Renney said he was "a little bit" surprised Deslauriers wasn't picked up by another team.

"I hold him, as well all do, in pretty high regard as a goaltender and I guess it's one of those situations where it's early enough, people don't quite know what their needs are and feel that they have to have a better idea of what they need," the coach explained. "But having said that, he's a good goaltender, he's our guy, and he'll head to Oklahoma City and play."


CANUCKS 4 - OILERS 3

Ales Hemsky battles Henrik Sedin

A sluggish first period had the Oilers in an early 3-0 hole, but a second-period goal by Dustin Penner and third-period markers from Ryan Jones and Gilbert Brule put the club even with the Canucks after 45 minutes. The comeback was cut there, however, as Vancouver's Raffi Torres added his third goal of the night to seal a hat trick and salvage a 4-3 win for the Canucks.

Ladislav Smid and Andrew Cogliano registered two assists each for the Oilers, while Kevin Bieksa matched Torres' point total with three helpers of his own. In net, Nikolai Khabibulin finished with 26 saves and Roberto Luongo with 23.

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

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 1

AND THEN THERE WERE TWO

The Oilers took to the ice for practice at 10am Monday morning with three notable absentees: Ryan Whitney, Steve MacIntyre, and Jeff Deslauriers.

Oilers staff later confirmed that Deslauriers was placed on waivers, meaning Devan Dubnyk has secured the spot as back-up goaltender to Nikolai Khabibulin.

Management's decision to trim the goaltenders was inevitable, but  as the odd man out, Deslauriers was understandably disappointed by the news.

"I felt part of the family here and been in that organization since '02 and I never wanted to go play somewhere else, but that's what it is right now and we'll see what happens next for me," he said. "It's going to be a new start and a new challenge for sure."

Other NHL teams have until 10am MT Tuesday to claim Deslauriers off waivers. If he clears, he will likely be assigned to the Oilers AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City.

Although Deslauriers' is currently in NHL limbo, the soft-spoken netminder is no stranger to uncertainty and is ready to start the next phase of his career.

"I've been put in different situations since my debut in the NHL: went through three goalies my first year; second year I was expecting to play 20 games, it turned out to be 48; and this year the three-goalie situation again," he explained. "I think you just grow up mentally, and it's not a matter of how you take the situation, it's a matter of how you're going to rebound from it."

"It makes me a better person and a better NHL goalie," Deslauriers added. "It's through adversity that you learn to improve yourself."

As teammates, roommates and challengers for the back-up position, Deslauriers and Dubnyk had a close and unique relationship. Upon hearing word about Deslauriers on waivers, Dubnyk said there was "a little bit of shock."

"Obviously coming to the rink, you know something's going to happen at some point but you never really know when," he said. "I haven't got a chance to talk to Jeff yet but I'm certainly going to try to do that because he's a friend of mine and I'm sure it's not a situation that anybody wants to go through."

When asked if there was tension between the two goalies leading up to the decision, Dubnyk said no.

"We're grownups. We know the reality that one of us is going somewhere at some point, so there's no point in making it weird or having awkward competition or whatnot. We've grown together here since I first got drafted in 2004 and we've been through a lot, so there's certainly nothing that way."

ON THE FRONT END

Andrew Cogliano

With the Oilers goaltending situation clear for now, the other hot topic in the Oilers locker room continues to be Friday night's offensive outburst in Chicago. Andrew Cogliano was an important contributor, scoring his first goal of the season -- the eventual game-winner -- early in the second period.

Following Monday's practice, Cogliano said he feels like "it's all coming together."

"I wasn't pressing last game, I just let things come naturally. I'm getting some good support with guys like Pens (Dustin Penner) and Bru (Gilbert Brule), who I enjoy playing with. I feel like my face-offs are a step in the right process," he explained. "I had a good game last game and I'm going to build on that."

Cogliano added that with young guns Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, and Magnus Paajarvi putting up points, as well vets like Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff, there is less external pressure on a small group of players and more individual drive to succeed.

"A lot of guys have the onus on themselves to score. There's a lot of offensive talent in here, so those guys are taking it on themselves, and I think that it takes the pressure off certain guys," he said. "You can see when we all have a collective good game and guys are all pulling the weight offensively, we end up winning."

WHAT'S NEXT

Game Day returns to Rexall Place Tuesday as the Oilers host the Canucks at 7pm MT. Singles and standing room tickets are still available.

  Click here to purchase tickets for Tuesday night

ONE-ON-ONE

Gilbert Brule's Movember 2009 efforts.

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Jason Toshach of Edmonton submitted a question for Gilbert Brule.

JASON: "Are you and any other teammates participating in "Movember" this year?"

GILBERT: "Yes, I will be participating and so are a bunch of other guys on the team. Day one is looking good for far for me and there's 30 days left so we'll see how it goes from there."

Watch edmontonoilers.com for more news about Oilers Movember in the next few days!

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 Jack Michaels & Tom Gazzola

 
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

 
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28

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

Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com

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