24 HOURS LATER
Only 24 hours after the team’s worst loss of the season, the Oilers wasted no time in returning to business in preparation for the week ahead.
The Oilers held an hour-long practice this morning at Millennium Place in Sherwood Park, where the players were put through the paces in an intense session that helped to stem the disappointment of the recent road swing.
While the atmosphere at the rink couldn’t be described as jovial, the players were showing some tremendous focus and attention to detail as the drills intended to push the limits of the players’ physical stamina.
The bulk of Monday’s practice was spent running line rushes, quick transitions and in-zone offensive systems that helped establish a more competitive edge to the session. As well, players and coaches alike demanded a greater physical tone. Players weren’t hesitant to throw the body and battle in front of the net as if it were a game situation, which again helped to raise the intensity of an already up-tempo practice.
With four consecutive losses to conclude the five-game road trip, some line shuffling was to be expected. Magnus Paajarvi was back skating with the team, while Ladislav Smid did not participate this morning due to his run-in with Sean Avery a day ago.
As a result, the Oilers rolled these lines at this morning’s practice:
Eberle – Horcoff – Hemsky
Hall – Gagner – Penner
Paajarvi – Cogliano – Brule
Jones – Fraser – Stortini/MacIntyre
Peckham – Gilbert
Vandermeer – Whitney
Strudwick - Foster
Head Coach Tom Renney was perhaps as vocal as he has been all season, as he communicated to his players in a firm manner when a drill was run incorrectly, or if the pace needed to be quickened. From coaches to players, this was a day of business and product on the ice reflected that tone.
ALL ABOUT AVERY
While the primary focus on the ice was getting back to business, the attention afterward shifted. Yesterday’s altercation between Ladislav Smid and Sean Avery, which included a subsequent line brawl, was still a hot topic and sensitive issue for some.
Colin Fraser, the teammate that Smid came to the defence of, was still is disbelief of Avery’s cowardly act.
“I think it’s gutless. That’s expected from Sean Avery, I think that’s no secret. Ladi (Ladislav Smid) asked him fair and square, one-on-one, man-on-man. He says no, we’ll go later.
So Ladi’s half-turned and he decides to jump him. I don’t think any man would do that. A man had his chance one-on-one and I think he crossed the line,” said the gritty centerman.
Fraser added that the close family atmosphere in the Oilers’ locker room is something strong, and definitely an unbreakable component of this team.
“Whether it’s 1-0, 0-0, or 8-2 we’re going to stick up for each other in here and I think we did a heck of a job doing that after that incident.”
Defenceman Theo Peckham also commented on Avery, but cautioned that his involvement in the situation may have been an ill-advised action in the way that he approached it.
“It was necessary, but I kind of let my emotions get the best of me. I wanted to send a message and I might have went about it the wrong way,” said a soft-spoken Peckham.
“It’s tough when you see a guy that battles as hard as Smidder (Ladislav Smid) does – he’s always there for you – needing help off the ice by one of the trainers. And then you look over and he’s (Sean Avery) laughing at your bench. I mean, I didn’t take that too well.”
Head Coach Tom Renney added his thoughts on the brawl, but said that the fire and passion exuded during that the third period needed to be shown at the beginning of the game.
|Head Coach Tom Renney
“We needed to be that engaged and that fired up and that emotional and passionate about playing the game from the puck drop – not when there was minutes to go in the game,” said Renney.
“Hats off to Ladi (Ladislav Smid) for going to a teammate’s defence. That’s good. He compromised himself, he should have known who he was up against and just taken it from there. That being said, I thought the hit on Fraser was clean, but I thought Ladi presented him well on behalf of his teammate.”
ADDRESSING THE ISSUES
While the hot-button topic of the day revolved around Sean Avery, captain Shawn Horcoff was quick to respond to the issues plaguing the now 4-9-3 Oilers.
“We’re not mentally in games right now and doing the things we need to do to be successful. We had a 2-1 lead in the second period on the road in a pretty tough building and we immediately go out in the next four-five shifts and play like we’re down by two goals,” said a passionate Horcoff.
We’re taking chances at the lines, giving up odd-man rushes and we’re not physical enough in our own zone, and we’re not physical enough in the offensive zone either; going to the tough areas to get goals, and that’s where all the goals are being scored around the league.
Whe asked to sum up the issues ailing the team, Horcoff simply responded with:
“It’s a combination of a lot of things right now.”
After taking the sucker-punch from New York’s Sean Avery, Ladislav Smid was absent from today’s practice. The latest update from Head Coach Tom Renney is that there’s nothing new to report at the moment.
“I don’t know for sure. I have not seen him yet today and have not talked to our medical people yet.”
While the Oilers have unquestionably struggled of late, the tonic for revitalization may be on its way. On Wednesday evening, the Oilers will take on the Chicago Blawkhawks at home at Rexall Place. With two wins already collected against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Oilers will be looking to continue their Chicago hot streak.
In the latest edition of our fan question series, Jacob of Edmonton, AB submitted a question for Devan Dubnyk.
JACOB: "Can you explain why you put what you did on your helmet?"
DEVAN: "I always had a rink my backyard when I was a kid and it was a pretty important part of my growing up, so I wanted to have that theme on the side and just stick to the colours.
On the back, my nickhame was "Giraffe" in junior so I stuck with that on the backplate. I've got the breast cancer ribbon for my mom, and on the other side I have my niece playing in the snow.
It's pretty simple, but I like it."
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 Tom Gazzola