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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Tough Love

Oilers coaches crank up intensity during home practice Wednesday afternoon

Wednesday, 24.11.2010 / 5:30 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Tough Love
 
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24

TOUGH LOVE

With Tuesday's embarrassing 5-0 loss to Phoenix fresh in their minds, the Oilers were all business in an aggressive practice at Rexall Place Wednesday afternoon.

The skate wasn't without some drama: a pair of collisions rattled the boards, a stick to Ladislav Smid's face drew blood, and Ales Hemsky limped off the ice with an undisclosed leg injury.

"I don't think it's major but he had to leave because he did something. I don't know what it is," head coach Tom Renney later explained.

LOOKING FOR CONSISTENCY

The mood was somber and serious on the ice and off, and both players and coaches agreed the team's effort, performance, and results need to improve immediately.

"Definitely not a lot of happy faces today," defenceman Kurtis Foster said after practice. "A lot of guys are disappointed with the way we played yesterday, especially after the way we played in Anaheim, where we got a good road win and we played hard."

"If you're giving up five goals against in a game, you're never going to win a hockey game, especially in today's NHL," forward Colin Fraser added. "It seems like we take one step forward, play good against Anaheim, and then think it's going to be easy the next day. And we can't have that mentality because every team's good.

"You've got to bring your business every day, be happy about the win that night but put it behind you, move forward, and be good again the next game."

PROCESS CONTINUES

The Oilers' struggles with consistency aren't new, and Renney continues to look for a solution to the issue.

"I thought we played pretty good in Anaheim and I thought we played pretty good at home here against Phoenix, as much as we let them come back and tie us," he said. "I thought we might have been able to kind of round the corner there, but this appears to be a big corner."

The coach isn't pushing the panic button, however.

"Nobody said we were going to win the Stanley Cup this year," Renney said. "It is a work in progress, and the one thing I don't want to see happen here is people bail out on this, on our expectation of becoming a good team as the season goes on.

"It's not going to happen over night and we've shown some touches where we've been good, and we've shown some times when we haven't been very good, and I don't think that should come as a surprise to anybody."

On his staff's coaching strategy, Renney was clear: "We're still nurturing, we're still supportive, we're still demanding. When we need to be, we draw a hard line. And that's what this year's going to be all about."

The Oilers will apply today's lessons tomorrow vs. the Avalanche. Limited seats remain, so follow the link below to secure your spot in the stands.

Get tickets for Oilers vs. Avalanche

BYE BYE, BELLE

Shawn Belle

Earlier Wednesday, the Oilers announced they have assigned defenceman Shawn Belle to their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. Belle was originally recalled when Smid was forced out of the line-up due to a concussion four games ago.

Read more: Oilers assign Shawn Belle

ONE-ON-ONE

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

JOHN: "You're a guy who can play in a variety of roles. Whether you get put on the third line to be an energy player or more of an offensive role (including powerplay time), you seem to adapt well. Do you prepare any differently for games when the coaching staff mixes the lines or changes your responsibilities?

Gilbert Brule

GILBERT: "I always prepare pretty much the same way. If I'm on the third line, I obviously know before the game, and you just accept that role. Whatever they want me to do, I try to provide energy no matter what role I'm playing in -- I'm playing a two-way game, basically.

It's tough when the lines are changing here and there, but you definitely have to adapt quick and you just have to find that chemistry. For some players, it's not always going to come right away, it might take a couple of games."

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

 
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 23

OILERS at COYOTES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers wrap up a short two-game road trip tonight looking to come home with two wins as they face the Phoenix Coyotes tonight at the Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.

“It’s been good. We’re only halfway through the job here, and we are on the job. That’s what we have to remember,” Oilers head coach Tom Renney pointed out in his interview following the morning skate.

The Oilers last played the Coyotes on Friday night in a game where they raced out to a 3-0 lead only to have the Coyotes battle back and ultimately tie it up in the final minute. Phoenix then took the two points in a shootout.

“They put us into a situation where they got a goal. One of the thing we have to learn as a hockey club is to control those situations,” said Renney.  “There’s all kinds of momentum shifts in a hockey game and we have to learn to control those shifts.”

Oilers forward Jordan Eberle agreed with the head coach.

“Obviously it’s a chance to get a little bit of redemption, giving up three unanswered and losing in the shootout. We’re coming off a pretty good game and we need to continue that.”

The Oilers did show a lot more resolve on Sunday where they once again relinquished a multi-goal lead at 2-0 but showed resolve in getting the victory in the third period.

“I’d like to think that over the last week or 10 days as a coaching staff, we’re capable of (battling through adversity) – regardless of having done it against Anaheim or not,” Renney remarked.

Lineups are expected to be exactly the same as Sunday, with Smid out once again. The defenceman did skate but is likely being held out for one more game for conditioning reasons.

DUBNYK STARTS AGAIN

“Never,” said Dubnyk when asked when the last time he got three straight starts. “Sometime in Springfield, I guess. I was scheduled to last year but ended up getting sick.”

The Oilers netminder has put up solid numbers so far this season with a .929 save percentage and 2.76 goals-against average in six appearances. He has also yet to lose in regulation, with a 1-0-3 record.

“Put simply, that’s pretty much a goaltender’s job is to give his team a chance to win whether it’s 7-6 or 1-0.”

Dubnyk was also in net on Friday against these same Coyotes but doesn’t see the familiarity as a real distinct advantage.

“You get a little bit of an idea what their game plan is but at the same time, every game’s different. You get different momentum swings, power plays, penalties and all that. I just try to keep myself prepared the same way regardless of who the opponent is.”

PAAJARVI BATTLING

Rookie winger Magnus Paajarvi is on the fourth line once again, alongside J-F Jacques and Colin Fraser. He only played 5:33 last time, the shortest amount in his young NHL career.

“Sometimes you can expose a player who’s struggling to too many minutes. This is a good player and everyone in the game knows he’s going to be a great player in the league,” noted Renney.

Paajarvi has not picked up a point in nine games and is -5 during that span. He had two assists and was +3 on October 26 in Chicago.

Despite his struggles, Renney did not rule out using Paajarvi on the power play.

“That’s an audible from the bench. You see who’s going and who isn’t. There’s opportunity for him to participate on the power play. The penalty kill is something we’d like to work on with him.”

Renney was clear that there has been no discussion among the team’s management and coaching group to send Paajarvi to the minors.


COYOTES 5 - OILERS 0

Martin Hanzal and Lee Stempniak each scored a pair of goals and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped all 22 shots he faced as the Phoenix Coyotes defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-0 at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona on Tuesday night. The loss ensured the Oilers a split in their two-game road trip.

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

 
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 21

OILERS at DUCKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

With six consecutive losses providing the backdrop for the Oilers’ most recent run of action, the team is hoping a return to the road will help kick-start some positive vibes and a quick return to the win column.

After holding a full team practice Saturday morning in Edmonton, the Oilers opted to bypass the morning skate as the group rests up before a battle with the Ducks tonight at Honda Center. The Oilers did, however, speak with the media at the team hotel to give their thoughts and pre-game commentary late Sunday morning.

Although the team didn’t skate this morning, Head Coach Tom Renney confirmed these lines for tonight’s game, but cautioned that there could be changes prior to puck drop:

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

Whitney - Gilbert
Belle - Foster
Peckham - Vandermeer

Devan Dubnyk will get the start in goal, with veteran netminder Martin Gerber serving backup duty.

SO-CAL, SO GOOD

While the results of late have been consistent for the wrong reasons, the effort and execution drastically improved Friday night, despite the 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix. Forward Dustin Penner agreed that there was improvement, and says that the group’s mentality needs to reflect the psychological shift in the team’s overall game.

"That's how you have to think when you're going through a tough time. Especially in the last few years we've learned to deal with that, and I think we've been closer now that we have in the past before,” said Penner of the self-belief in the locker room.

Penner added his thoughts on what the team needs to do tonight to return to the win column.

"We have to do much of the same that we did against Phoenix. We played well, better than we have in a long time. Our PK was solid, our powerplay was good. If we continue along that trend -- an upward trend -- it should be a better result for us tonight."

Captain Shawn Horcoff agreed with Penner’s assessment and commented further on the team’s readiness.

"This year we know we have the quality and the talent there to get it done. It's just a matter of playing together and being ready right from the drop of the puck, and I thought we were ready right from the start last time."

COACH CONFIDENCE

Confidence is a budding theme that’s building both with the team as a whole, and with certain individuals as well. Defenceman Shawn Belle commented on his role with the team and the assurance the coaching staff have been showing with his game.

"The minute you start doubting yourself, you take a step back. When you come here (to Edmonton) you want to play with everything that you have and do what you do that got you up here.”

Head Coach Tom Renney says that confidence isn’t an issue with the multitalented blueliner.

"I have no problem whatsoever with Shawn. It's one of those dynamics that certainly proves a benefit to us when we can come into our lineup," said the bench boss.

"As spoken about earlier in the season and in training camp even, this kid's awfully close to being a full-time NHLer and I think he's proving that again now."

THE TOUGHNESS FACTOR

The Oilers had a difficult time with the Ducks last season, posting an 0-2 record at Honda Center and an 0-4 record overall vs. Anaheim in 2009-10. Coming into tonight’s test, Tom Renney recognizes the fact that the Oilers will need to be instigators in physical play in order to have success.

"We still feel that we've got a lineup that can do that, and when called upon those people have to lean back, if not push back in the first place. I feel we're going to be fine there,” the coach explained.

“If we can really push the pace off the bench and really get pucks in behind them and hunt them down -- and through the course of 60 minutes we might be able to get ourselves a win, if in fact we're skating well."


OILERS 4 - DUCKS 2

Devan Dubnyk stopped 38 of 40 shots and Ales Hemsky scored a go-ahead goal in the third period to lift the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-2 victory over the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center on Sunday night.

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


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