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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Fresh Oil

Oilers call up Omark & O'Marra after Horcoff joins Hemsky on injured list

Wednesday, 08.12.2010 / 4:53 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Fresh Oil
 
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 8

FRESH OIL

After earning a single point in a strong come-from-behind effort vs. Anaheim Tuesday night, the Oilers were back at Rexall Place Wednesday morning for an off-ice workout and optional skate.

Eleven players took to the ice: Devan Dubnyk, Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Gilbert Brule, Ryan Jones, Jean-Francois Jacques, Theo Peckham, Jason Strudwick, Steve MacIntyre and Zack Stortini.

But it was several of the absent players who dominated conversation among the media.

Midway through the first period vs. the Ducks, Shawn Horcoff collided with Corey Perry and suffered a knee injury. The captain did not return to the game and is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.

Horcoff joins fellow forward Ales Hemsky on the Oilers injured list, depleting the club's offensive arsenal.

"You look for the silver lining, obviously --
I'm a glass half full kind of guy," head coach Tom Renney said. "It does provide us opportunity to look at the depth of our system, and we do have options and that's exciting. That does not change the fact that we're going to miss two crucial pieces to our team."

TWO CALL-UPS, PLEASE

To fill the vacancies, the Oilers recalled forwards Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons. Omark currently leads the Barons with 13 goals and 13 assists in 26 games, while O'Marra leads the team in plus/minus with +11.

Press release: Oilers recall Omark & O'Marra
Tom Renney on Omark & O'Marra

"The proper fill-in for [Ales] naturally is our leading scorer down there, and that's Linus. He can play both wings and it's a good fit from that point of view. And with Ryan, he's a centerman and that fills a need for us through the Horcoff thing. It's pretty straightforward," Renney explained.

One of Omark's famous shootout goals. Watch here

23-year-old O'Marra made his NHL debut last season with the Oilers, tallying one assist in three games. Omark has yet to play an NHL game but has a bevy of fans and supporters, thanks in part to a handful of spectacular shootout videos that went viral on the internet.

Omark scores six
Omark's breakaway vs. Manitoba
Omark gets creative in shootout vs. MB
Omark's sensational shootout goal

Omark's creativity is easy to applaud, but some have questioned whether he has the maturity or defensive awareness to make the step to the NHL. Renney is confident the young Swede is ready for the challenge.

"I've said a hundred times that the toughest thing to defend in the game is somebody else's imagination with the puck, and so we're not going to stifle that, but we're certainly going to stress the fact that we don't turn pucks over here, and if we do it's damage to the team, naturally, and we can't have that," the coach said. "Be creative, do your thing, but understand that there's four guys on the ice that can skate that will help you get from A to B. And just play the team game."

SETTING THE LINES

Omark and O'Marra shared space on the Barons' top line, but Renney insisted he hasn't finalized the look of the Oilers front lines just yet.

"We're kind of playing around with that now," he said. "The big thing is that we knew we needed offence and we knew we needed a centericeman. That was job one -- now we'll kind of connect the dots and see what we can come up with to make us competitive.

"We'll try to put something together that suggests some balance but with some good attack, but also a defensive awareness as well."


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Jason Toshach of Edmonton, AB submitted a question for Taylor Hall.

JASON: "Is the daily schedule of the NHL what you expected? Is it less or more busy? Do you have as much free time? Have you found anything fun in the city since being here thats not hockey related?"

Taylor Hall

TAYLOR: "There's definitely not a lot of free time. Not only on the ice for practice, but there's a lot of extra curricular stuff that you kind of have to take care of.

When you're an 18-year old moving to a new city, you have to get an apartment, get furniture, get cleaning people and everything. So it was kind of hectic there for the first little bit but it has settled down now.

There's lots of stuff to do around town, but where you're this busy, hanging out with friends and teammates is usually the most fun."

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

 
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 7

OILERS vs. DUCKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers started their strive for a fifth straight win with a skate at Rexall Place Tuesday morning. As Ales Hemsky remains out of the line-up due to groin injury, there were no changes to the team's forward lines. 

Nikolai Khabibulin was the first goalie off the ice, signalling that he will start tonight's game vs. Anaheim. It will be the veteran goaltender's third straight start since returning from injury, and with only one goal allowed on 65 shots, he's looking to continue his excellent play.

The visiting team won't be taking it easy on the Oilers netminder. Having been shutout in their past two games, the Ducks will be desperate to light the lamp tonight.

Oilers head coach Tom Renney isn't taking his struggling opponents lightly.

"I think this is the type of team that can counter-attack and really bite you bad in the offensive zone if you're not moving the puck properly," he said. "They've got some guys that know how to score and create offense in different ways."

"We'd love to play error-free of course and keep them off the scoreboard again, but that's just sort of a five-minute-at-a-time job for us. I think the big thing for us is just to make sure we play five at a time well."

STRETCHING THE STREAK

Riding high on four straight wins, the Oilers are a confident bunch heading into tonight's game. But the players and coaches are honest about the learning process and admit that there is plenty of room for improvement.

"You have to lose, so to say, before you win, and you have to go through some tough streaks," captain Shawn Horcoff said after the skate. "Going into games, you have to be able to think that you can beat any team on any given night, especially at home. We're a long ways away from that yet but we feel like we're starting to figure out what it's going to take to be able to get in that situation."

A positive environment is key to creating positive results on the ice, Renney added.

"We have our stretches where we're not very good -- we have to understand that and embrace correcting that. But attitude is the one thing that you can control every single day and that's something that we've tried to work on here.

"We can be our own worst enemy if we're not careful, and we certainly want to make sure that we avoid that as much as possible."

DUCK FIGHT

Former Ducks Ryan Whitney and Dustin Penner are especially looking forward to tonight's contest.

"They're always a fun team to play; they've got some pretty dynamic forwards," Whitney explained. "They've been a little inconsistent, but they've played real well at stretches so it's up to us to kind of have a good effort again."

Tonight's game starts at 7:30pm and is presented by Air Canada.


DUCKS 3 - OILERS 2 (SO)

The Oilers battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation vs. the Ducks, but little did they know plenty of action remained. A thrilling overtime paved the way a marathon shootout in which goaltenders Nikolai Khabibulin and Jonas Hiller dominated. In the 10th round, Anaheim's Cam Fowler snapped home the game-winner to limit the Oilers to a single point in a 3-2 shootout loss.

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


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


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