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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Warm Welcome

Thursday, 09.12.2010 / 5:33 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Warm Welcome
 
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 9

WARM WELCOME

The Oilers were all smiles at Rexall Place Thursday morning, and not just because photographer Andy Delvin demanded big grins.

After posing for a team photo at center ice, the players and coaches were joined by over 80 Oilers head office staff, who shuffled out for an organizational group photo.

The center face-off circle was filled with happy faces, among them two young call-ups who were donning the Oilers jersey for the first time this season.

To help fill the vacancies left by injured Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky, Edmonton recalled Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Tuesday afternoon. Following the team photos, the forwards joined their new teammates in a lengthy practice.

Omark and O'Marra were paired up with Ryan Jones during the skate. The other forward lines were as follows:

Hall - Gagner - Eberle
Penner - Cogliano - Paajarvi
Jacques - Fraser - Brule

Head coach Tom Renney said he will keep the call-ups on the same line Friday night vs. Tampa Bay but the lines will likely change as the Oilers homestand continues.

"To start with, I think that's our point of view, to let them play together," he explained. "I think it's safe to say too that Omark will move around a little bit and Ryan will play with some different people. ... We'll see how it goes."

"You want to put them in a position to have success," Renney continued. "Linus is not going to play on our fourth line. That doesn't make any sense at all. The fact of the matter is he could move up in our line-up because that's kind of what he is. Whereas Ryan, for example, in my mind is a good third or fourth line player, to kill penalties and really give us some size and strength up the middle and be a contributor on both sides of the puck."

'I WAS ECSTATIC'

Linus Omark

As one of the Oilers last cuts in the pre-season, Omark had trouble hiding his disappointment the last time he addressed the media in Edmonton. Today, however, he was confident and optimistic.

"
When I get something like that against me, I try to prove everybody that I can be better, so I tried to do that," he said. "I'm excited to play my first game. I worked a lot on my things down there so I'm glad to be here."

O'Marra is also thrilled about the opportunity to play with the Oil.

"It's every guy's dream playing down there to get up here, and everyone's working towards that, so when I got the call, I was ecstatic."

While Omark is known for his flashy plays -- "When I feel good and have confidence, I do it," he said -- O'Marra is going to keep it simple.

"I don't think they're expecting me to come in here and score 30 goals," he explained. "I'm here to win some face-offs, play simple and physical ... Basically do what I'm doing well down there, play to my strengths and not try to do anything outside the box."

Renney admires the 23-year-old's poise.

"Ryan has stuck with it, there's no question about that, and for two years in a row now I've sat in with him and told him he's going to the farm team, and both circumstances he handled it extremely well.," the coach said. "Not that he wanted to go, not that he was happy with it, but he was very professional and sounded very driven to get himself to the National Hockey League one way or another. This might be the 'other' but he's here and he wants to make the best of his opportunity."


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

 
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


INSIDE THE OILERS