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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Building Confidence

Oilers participate in lengthy practice, talk confidence & more Monday afternoon

Monday, 06.12.2010 / 5:25 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Building Confidence
 
MONDAY, DECEMBER 6

BUILDING CONFIDENCE

With an extra day in between games providing a more relaxed game schedule early in the team’s six-game homestand, the Oilers took the opportunity today to further refine their skills in areas most in need of improvement.

Throughout practice, the coaching staff alternated roles at the white board, with Assistant Coach Kelly Buchberger kicking off practice with the instructional duties. Midway through the session, Head Coach Tom Renney stepped in and quickened the pace with some heart-pumping drills and a demand for perfection.

Although the team has recorded four consecutive victories in the past week, certain holes still exist in the team's game. Edmonton's powerplay currently sits 25th in the NHL with a 14.3 percent efficiency rate, and has been cause for concern despite the recent success.

As such, the final 20 minutes of today’s practice were spent working on zone entry, getting the puck deep and, of course, executing when the opportunities came with the man-advantage.

After stopping the session for a brief motivational speech with his players, Renney’s demand for precise execution hit home with the Oilers showing a greater commitment to powerplay success; effort, creativity and execution highlighted the waning moments of practice as the extra time spent with the powerplay seemed to provide the players with a boosted level of confidence.

DEVELOPING POISE 

Head Coach Tom Renney says that although confidence is improving, that the group needed to experience the early bumps of an NHL season to help develop character in the long 82-game grind.

"You've got to let them go out and play and experience that, and maybe draw their own conclusions; make some mistakes, and those types of things," said the coach.

"We are still only a third of the way into the season, and there's a lot of hockey to play and a lot to experience that's going to put them in tough spots, no question. We're far from a finished product, but we're certainly getting there because of the nature of the type of people that we drafted."

Taylor Hall, who has now scored six goals in his past eight games, says that confidence is everything -- both from an individual perspective, and for the team moving forward.

Taylor Hall
"Confidence is a big thing for any player," said Hall. "At the start of the year, it took me eight games to score, and obviously my confidence wasn't where it's at now. Confidence is huge, especially for a forward and for someone that needs to score points. It's definitely a good feeling right now."

While the confidence is currently at a season-high for many players, Hall was adamant that it was simply a product of the development phase.

"You want to worry about putting yourself in those positions to score, getting a lot of shots on net, and getting chances to score. When you're doing that, you're playing in their end. That's obviously a good thing because they can't score on you, but it gives you confidence when you get those chances."

The upbeat atmosphere is a pleasant change, and Hall continues to show his enthusiasm while keeping a level head during the four-game winning streak.

"Right now it's certainly a fun environment to be in. I think Tom (Renney) is keeping us on an even keel. We can't get too high -- it's only four wins in a row, but there are definitely a lot of positives we can take from this stretch."

Magnus Paajarvi, who has seen an increase in his point-totals since being put on a line with Ryan Jones and Sam Gagner, says that the work is far from over despite the overall improvements.

Magnus Paajarvi
"We knew it was going to take time to turn this around -- and we haven't turned it around yet, but we're on a good way right now," said Paajarvi of the winning streak.

"We're just going to keep working on those things that we worked on before. We've got to stay patient and stay humble in every day and I know we're going to do well. We're doing really good right now."

Team confidence is often the result of developing chemistry between linemates, and Paajarvi seems to have found an excellent fit between Jones and Gagner. The highly skilled Swede agrees that his play on an individual level has reached a new peak.

"I feel better right now. I've been playing better the last couple games. It's the same as the team, I think. Just stay patient there and keep working and keep practicing; and right now I'm finding my lanes a little bit more."

"I know where I can go right now and I feel comfortable with it, too. I think if I can do that, I'm going to play good hockey. Right now I'm doing a lot better, and when I do that the offence is going to come, and I think that's proven in the last couple games."

Defenceman Jim Vandermeer, who has been playing some outstanding hockey during the winning streak, agrees that an increased level in confidence usually nets positive results from an individual perspective.

Jim Vandermeer
"I think it was just a matter of just not worrying about making small mistakes. I think when you're more concerned about not making mistakes, that you're more prone to making mistakes," said the physical blueliner.

"By simplifying things, I'm in better position and not really lunging at guys or trying to make hits. I'm just in a better position to be making better hits that way. Just simplifying my game helps me be in a better position."

HEMSKY UPDATE

Ales Hemsky was once again absent from practice this morning, and the coach says that a timeline isn’t available at this time.

"These are temperamental things in terms of healing, so when I suggested indefinite, that was as accurate as I could be at the time -- and I'm not sure that I can be much better than that, other than I think that it's going to take some time," said Renney. "It could be upwards of a month for all we know."

When asked if the team was preparing to call someone up from Oklahoma City, Renney says that the process is already underway.

"We're just talking about that now again, as Steve (Tambellini) is here and we're going through that right now. I think we will at some point in time, but I'm not exactly sure when or who."

HALL NAMED NHL’S THIRD STAR

Just behind Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller, Taylor Hall was named the NHL’s Third Star of the Week this morning. Hall, known for his modesty in the locker room, was thrilled with the honour but credited much of his individual success to the team’s latest charge.

"Pretty good company, I'd say. It's certainly nice to get recognized; and I think as much as it's an individual thing, I think you can attribute a lot to the team. We've been winning games, we've been playing well, and everyone does well when that's happening."

  Read more on Hall's selection
  Hall Named NHL's Third Star of the Week


ONE-ON-ONE

Jason Strudwick

In the latest edition of our fan question series, James from St. Albert, Alberta submitted a question for Jason Strudwick.

JAMES: "During practice you participate in the drills that the coaching staff schedules, but on an individual level, what kind of things do you like to personally work on away from the formalities of practice to better your game?"

JASON: "Off the ice, I try to work on my quickness. Our trainer Simon Bennett will set up some drills and I'll try to do them -- especially the day before the game, I'll work on that.

On the ice, every day I like to spend about five minutes just by myself in one corner of the ice and just work on different skills that I know will happen over and over during a game, such as pivoting with the puck or going back for the puck with my head up.

I don't do a lot every day, but a little bit every day helps and over the course of the season it really adds up."

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 Jack Michaels

 
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 5

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

The Edmonton Oilers were back on the ice on Sunday morning for practice at Rexall Place. It was the team's first non-gameday skate since last Tuesday when they were in Montreal.

"Practices are obviously important for our structure and making sure we have the right habits and are doing the right things," said Oilers forward Sam Gagner. "Today was a little more of a flow practice to kind of get our legs under us after last night. I'd expect tomorrow to get back into the structure of things and hammer some of the things home that we need to be better at."

After the game on Saturday, Coach Renney alluded to the team coming out flat and attributed it to missing Friday's practice.

"We know it wasn't our best game (last night) but we didn't quit, we stayed with the program," noted winger J-F Jacques. "That's a big difference between now and maybe three weeks ago. We found a way to win the game rather than losing it."

The game on Saturday night ended a tough stretch for the team where they played 16 games in 30 days, including 10 on the road.

"It's been a tough schedule the last three weeks, just playing every other day. We've got a couple of days to work hard on some stuff and I'm sure it's going to pay off," said Jacques.

LONG HOMESTAND AWAITS

Saturday's win was the first of a season-high six-game homestand which will run over the next two weeks.

"It was a big win for us, especially coming off the road and having some success on the road. It's important to come back here and follow it up with a solid effort," Gagner remarked.

Taylor Hall agreed.

"We want to build this place to be our home, to be a really good place to play," said Hall. "In order for us to get back in the playoff hunt we need to really do well on this homestand. We really set ourselves up with a good road trip there."

J-F Jacques also added that getting the fans involved should also play a big role in the team's success over the next few weeks.

"We want to really establish a strong game here at home. You rarely get a six-game homestand anymore during the season. It's really important for us to not only get us going but get the fans going too to make sure we have a strong five games here left," said Jacques.

HALL, GAGNER PUTTING UP NUMBERS

Two Oilers who have been particularly hot of late are Sam Gagner and Taylor Hall.

Gagner has put up points in each of his last five games to move into a tie for second in team scoring with Ales Hemsky at 18 points (8 goals, 10 assists).

"I've felt better. I just want to keep improving. When the team's going, everyone's individually better and it makes it a little easier," said Gagner. "We're all having fun right now. We just want to keep it going and keep trying to improve. If we do that, it'll continue to get better."

Hall now has nine goals in his last 19 games after going scoreless in his first seven as he continues to adapt to the NHL game.


"It's more just a comfort level. The linemates I've been playing with have really helped me out. I think it's a lot easier when you do have chemistry with your linemates. From there I've just gotten more comfortable and seen the game in a different way and it's helped out.

OMARK THE MAGICIAN

Oilers prospect Linus Omark turned some heads in Winnipeg this past weekend where the Oklahoma City Barons played a pair of games against Vancouver's AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose.

On Friday, Omark did a spin move in the neutral zone before skating in on Moose goaltender Eddie Lack.
When he got within striking range, he tried a flip shot that just narrowly missed the far post.

Saturday night, Omark had a breakaway and didn't do the spin but tried the same flip shot. This time he scored.

Watch both of Omark's attempts and an interview with Omark & Gerber

The Barons lost Friday's game 3-2 in a shootout but rebounded to win 4-0 on Saturday. The Barons sit third in the AHL's West Division with 31 points in 25 games (14-8-1-2).

ONE-ON-ONE

Devan Dubnyk

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Ashley from Devon, Alberta submitted a question for Devan Dubnyk.

ASHLEY: "On game-days that you are the starter, is there a pre-game ritual you do? If so what is it? And when you take to the ice at game-time during the national anthem, what is usually running through your mind? Any 'pep' talk to yourself or anything like that?"

DEVAN: "Not rituals, really. You try to have a basic routine that you stick to. I'm not real superstitious, so I try to stay away from stuff like that, so that if something goes wrong it doesn't throw you off.

"You know, just try to have a similar practice; same kind of shots, same views, just do something that makes you feel good. Just try to have a similar day as far as eating -- when you eat, when you nap. Just basically try to keep everything the same.

"As far as going out on the ice during the anthem, you just try to think about things you're doing to do during the same. Whether it's angles, or skating, or being in positions, just things like that that are going to make you successful during the game."

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

 
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4

OILERS vs. BLUES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

After coming away with wins in all three games on the recent eastern Canadian road swing, the Oilers return home to begin a six-game homestand tonight against the struggling St. Louis Blues.

Having enjoyed a day off Friday following the team’s impressive 5-0 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Oilers got back to work this morning with a 30-minute skate to prepare for the imminent Saturday night clash.

The lines and defensive pairings that have resulted in the recent success will remain intact, aside from one small change on the fourth line where physical forward J-F Jacques will be inserted in place of Steve MacIntyre.

Nikolai Khabibulin, fresh off a stunning shutout performance Thursday night against Toronto, will again get the nod between the pipes.

HOME COOKING

With the group basking in the glory of a clean sweep on the road, the players are eager to carry the acquired momentum into the longest homestand of the 2010-11 season.

Head Coach Tom Renney says the good vibes are a positive change, but that the team needs to remain on an even keel as they look to extend the winning streak.

"We've got to come out well. We've been on the road now and we feel good about our minor accomplishments there. We have to make sure that we come out really hard and smart, and put the heat on this team," said the bench boss.

"Discipline to that end is going to be important, but not at the expense of our compete. I think beyond that, it will be how we manage the puck tonight; and just make sure that the team needs to work hard for everything they get."

"When you've got a homestand like this, you've got to do everything you can to play your best hockey."

Rookie Jordan Eberle, who has now scored six points in his last five games, agreed with Renney’s sentiments.

"Home is always a place where you kind of get the fans behind you and you get the little extra advantage, so we want to take advantage of that and use it,” Eberle said of the homestand.

"I think with Hemmer (Ales Hemsky) out, as a team we have to pick up his offensive ability and his impact on the game. Not only one guy is going to do that. We have to spread it out amongst the team."

YOU REMIND ME

The Oilers find themselves in a similar situation as last season, when the team rattled off five consecutive wins on the road and then returned home for an extremely important homestand. With the unfortunate results (four losses) of a year ago fresh in the minds of the media, players and coaches weren’t concerning themselves with that past statistic.

"Thanks for reminding me,” Eberle laughed. “We're playing better hockey. We're not only winning games, but we're feeling good about winning games; that we earned them. For us coming into this homestand, obviously we have a lot of confidence and we have to forget about the road trip."

"Take the confidence, but you have to learn from it and move on, and obviously we have an important game tonight. Any team on any night in this league can win, so it's just a matter of who shows up."

The head coach agreed, as he expanded further on what the team needs to do tonight to ensure to positive outcome.

"I think we have to continue to pay attention to the details that we've started the year with, quite honestly, and be relentless on those," the coach said. "We can't allow ourselves to feel that good where we just stand around and watch. We have a long way to go to catch up to the teams that are in the playoff spot, and that's our objective naturally."

DEFENSIVE STAND


With the team’s offensive game currently firing on all cylinders, the defensive game has taken large steps forward as well. Defenceman Ladislav Smid commented on the change, and says that the improvement is more of a full-team effort.

"The forwards are allowing us to gap up a little bit better; we can stand up on the opposition and our F3 (third forward) is always there for us. One of the forwards is always helping us defensively and offensively," said the stay-at-home blueliner. "We just have to keep it going."

COACH COMPLIMENTS

With the Oilers currently riding a season-high winning streak, in addition to showcasing more complete efforts on a nightly basis, Head Coach Tom Renney wasn’t shy to compliment his club’s efforts and comment further on the expected growth of the new Edmonton Oilers as they continue through the trials of a new era.

"They're just growing up. This team will have to grow up before your eyes; and we're going to have to mess up a little bit and persevere, and we're doing that," said Renney. "We're just evolving. That's all."

With the growth, confidence, and success riding high, Edmonton looks to extend its winning streak to four tonight against the St. Louis Blues from Rexall Place.

OILERS 2 - BLUES 1

The Oilers and Blues took a while to get going Saturday night, and after third-period goals by Ryan Jones and Eric Brewer, found themselves even after 60 minutes. But only 23 seconds into overtime, Taylor Hall caught a breakaway and fired home the game-winner to secure a 2-1 win for Edmonton and extend the club's winning streak to four games.

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


Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com

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