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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Ready for Hawk hunting

Oilers continue to practice in Sherwood Park, prep to host Chicago Wednesday

Tuesday, 16.11.2010 / 3:56 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Ready for Hawk hunting
 
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 16

READY FOR HAWK HUNTING

For the second straight day, the Oilers took to the ice in Sherwood Park for an off-day practice at Millenium Place.

Like Monday, the club was without defenceman Ladislav Smid, who continues to suffer the effects of an attack by Rangers forward Sean Avery Sunday afternoon.

"He's not ready to play. He can't play tomorrow definitely. Beyond that, I'm not sure," head coach Tom Renney said after practice. "I have to talk to T.D. (Forss, Oilers head athletic therapist) and the player and see where we are after that."

BELLE & JACQUES RECALLED

As a result of Smid's injury, the Oilers recalled defenceman Shawn Belle from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Tuesday morning.

The club also recalled forward J.F. Jacques, who was sent to Oklahoma on a conditioning assignment two weeks ago.

Read the press release

Renney is looking forward to seeing Jacques' contributions in Edmonton.

"When we've got it, we need to use our size as a strength, and he has that, there's no question," the coach explained. "We've got to make sure that we play a game that's simple enough to allow him to do those things.

"You can make a big statement for yourself if you're on top of people and finishing your checks and going hard to the net, and that's right up his alley."

CHI-TOWN CHALLENGE

Although the Oilers are struggling with only two wins in the past 14 games, both of those wins have come against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions. It's an accomplishment that hasn't gone unnoticed in the locker room.

"Most people wouldn't say that having the defending Stanley Cup Champions in town is a good thing, but for our club we've had quite a bit of success against them this year and if there's any game to win, this one will be the one we're looking for, especially with what's happened as of late," forward Dustin Penner said.

The team's recent road trip was a disappointment, producing only three of a possible 10 points, and both players and coaches agree that there is no simple solution to their current on-ice problems.

"You hope you never go through it in your career, but things like this happen -- you've got to continue to keep working through them on and off the ice," defenceman Tom Gilbert said. "It's not going to be the next game all of a sudden everything's going back to normal. It's going to be next game first shift, next game second shift, and just continue to try to get a rhythm going in your game."

Renney said there's a fine balance between reflecting on the past to learn from your mistakes and moving forward.

"You've got to remember why you lose, and we can't afford ourselves the luxury of not doing that. At the same time as I say that, you do have to turn the page and apply the game plan to your next team and you do that by practicing and paying attention to the details you think will allow you to do that.," he explained. "I think every single one of us is looking forward to Chicago."


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Lennis Maxwell of Rocky Mountain House submitted a question for Jordan Eberle.

LENNIS: "Do you feel pressure is added or taken away from you, being on a team with the likes of Hall and Paajarvi as first year players?"

Jordan Eberle

JORDAN: "I think it's the same either way. If you're a young guy, you put the added pressure on yourself to do well. It doesn't really matter if there's other guys on the team in the same situation. I feel like either way I'd be putting the same amount of pressure on myself. 

The thing that helps having the other guys too is from the crowd perspective. They put pressure on us and you can bounce it across from one another, so from that aspect it helps."

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

 
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 15

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
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
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.

“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.”

SMID UPDATE


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.”

WHAT'S NEXT

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.


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Jacob of Edmonton, AB submitted a question for Devan Dubnyk.

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

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12

OILERS at DEVILS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers had little time to lick their wounds after Thursday's 6-2 loss in Detroit. The team held a meeting Friday morning and took to the ice for a quick skate at Prudential Center to prepare for tonight's battle against New Jersey.

After being out-scored 13-3 in their last two games, the club is certainly struggling, but players and coaches alike are trying to think positively.

"The games don't go really well for us and it's tough to stay positive, but it's the only thing we can do is stay positive, focus on the other game, and leave those two games behind us," forward Ales Hemsky said.

"Obviously you don't want the results of the past two games to let your confidence suffer," blueliner Theo Peckham added.  "You want to move on, but you want to learn from your mistakes and make sure that stuff doesn't happen again."

Head coach Tom Renney said the players' good intentions and coachability makes this tough time easier to handle.

"It becomes more difficult to find positive parts of your game, but when you know what they're capable of because you've seen it, and you know what those good intentions are because they're genuine, you press on."

SHAWN STILL OUT

Edmonton will have to press on without Shawn Horcoff. The Oilers captain suffered a deep thigh bruise in his left leg Sunday night in Chicago and is not yet ready to play.

"It's super stiff, I don't have the range that I need, and all that strength from the contusion itself is limiting the strength in my leg. I've got to get that out of there," he explained.

"It's getting better but it's not 100% yet so we'll treat it this afternoon and probably make a decision then."

The Oilers are feeling Horcoff's absence, Renney said.

"His two-way play is exemplary ... His leadership in the dressing room, his leadership on the bench, and just his effort in general is something that we miss. He's got a hockey IQ that only experience can bring to a team like this, and we miss that as well.

"But it's an opportunity for others to step up and demonstrate clearly that a) they're more than willing to take on the responsibility, and b) capable of following through."

DUBNYK IN

One Oiler who will play tonight is Devan Dubnyk. The young goalie came in to relieve Nikolai Khabibulin Tuesday night in Carolina but hasn't started a game since October 28 in Columbus.

He is eager to return to the pipes tonight.

"Looking ahead at the schedule, this seemed to be one that was probably going to be one of the ones I get a chance to play, so I've been prepared for it and looking forward to it," Dubnyk said. "I shouldn't say it was nice to get in the other night, because you never want to come in under those circumstances, but I got some good minutes a few nights ago, so I feel comfortable and ready to play."

Renney is confident in his back-up's abilities.

"He's got good size, he's got good range, got great legs, he's upright as a butterfly goaltender, his rebound control has certainly improved, he's very poised with the puck. I like that.

"But that being said," the coach added, "we'll see if I'm accurate."

DEVILS 4 - OILERS 3 (OT)

Despite carrying a lead through 49 minutes, the Oilers couldn't tie down the Devils late in the game. New Jersey dominated the final frame, outshooting Edmonton 12-3 and forcing overtime, paving the way for Ilya Kovalchuk's power-play game-winner in sudden death.

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

 


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