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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Decisions, decisions

Returning forward, injured defenceman & a recall have Oilers line-up in flux

Monday, 27.12.2010 / 5:02 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Decisions, decisions
 
MONDAY, DECEMBER 27

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

After suffering a disappointing 3-2 loss in Vancouver and making the short flight back to Edmonton Sunday night, the Oilers returned to the ice for their first post-Christmas practice late Monday morning.

Shawn Horcoff donned a track suit and strapped on his skates before the rest of his teammates, testing out his injured knee. The Oilers captain has not played a game since December 7 vs. Anaheim.

Gilbert Brule also took to the ice before practice. The 23-year-old forward has missed the past three games due to the flu but is on his way to recovery.

Horcoff and Brule aren't the only players looking forward to rejoining the line-up: After 25 days on the injured reserve, Ales Hemsky fully participated in practice, skating with Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano, and said he expects to play tomorrow vs. Buffalo.

"The doctor said I should be okay, I don't have to take any MRI," he explained. "The last one week, I skated and I pushed it hard so I should be ready for tomorrow."

Hemsky has a simple goal upon his return: "Just focus on my game and help the team win some games."

With Hemky's imminent return, the Oilers will have some decisions to make. Rookies Linus Omark and Ryan O'Marra have performed well since their call-up December 8th, but returning vets may cut short their time with the club.

Head coach Tom Renney is going to weigh his options.

"I'm looking at who's injured and can't play, first and foremost, and that's really where my mindset is, and if I've got to send somebody down, then we'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said. "I can't speculate given the nature where guys are in their treatment and their rehab, so I'm trying not to worry about that because it's a tough call."

DEFENSIVE DETAILS

The Oilers blue line will also likely see some changes in the coming games. Although Jim Vandermeer is expected back soon, Tom Gilbert was injured vs. the Canucks and is listed as "day-to-day" according to Renney.

"He's doing fine, he's doing way better today, but I'm one of those guys where if it costs a game to play the rest of the year, I'm going to do those things," the coach said.

For some insurance, the Oilers recalled Jeff Petry from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Monday afternoon. Edmonton's second-round pick in the 2006 Entry Draft has recorded 21 points in 32 games  so far in his rookie season with the Barons.

Read the press release: Oilers recall Jeff Petry

SET FOR THE SABRES

The Oilers are hoping to overcome their injury issues and battle through to a win over Buffalo Tuesday night. Despite dropping their last three games, players and coaches are feeling good about the club's recent performances.

"We know we've been playing good hockey the last couple games, even though we lost, so we've just got to work on those small things," Magnus Paajarvi said. "We've got Hemmer coming back now i think so that's going ot help us a lot too."

"We've got to keep going at it and getting off to good starts like we have been," Colin Fraser added. "Seems like we have 10 minute lapses in games where they kind of not necessarily score but start swinging the momentum the other way, and I think we've got to limit that, limit our turnovers, and really just do much of what we have been doing but do it for a full 60 minutes."

Renney likes the team's mindset right now.

"We absolutely love the challenge of going out to get wins and that's how we're approaching this," he said. "Making sure that they stay positive, and good preparation, good feedback, practices that make sense, good dialogue back and forth ... At the end of the day, you sure want it to translate into results and sooner or later we need that."

Singles and standing tickets are available for Tuesday's game.
Click here to purchase.

ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Carla of Edmonton submitted a question for Ryan Jones.

Ryan Jones

CARLA: "What kind of music do you listen to before a game to pump you up?"

RYAN: "Pretty much whatever's playing in the room. We have the team iPod with a playlist that pretty repetitive. It's full of a little bit of Eminem, Bru might have got a Slipknot song on there. They take requests, but it seems like we've played it all year. It's been 34 games so I listen to that."

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

 
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 26

OILERS at CANUCKS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers boarded a plane for Vancouver this morning at 8:30 a.m. Upon landing in Vancouver about 90 minutes later, the team went straight to Rogers Arena for the morning skate at 10:30 a.m. Vancouver time.

"This is great. This is old-time hockey, I love this. Get to the game and play," noted Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

"There might even be a benefit to travelling, getting on the plane and getting to the morning skate."

The team raised some eyebrows when Ales Hemsky, Gilbert Brule and Jim Vandermeer all took the ice in the skate but in the end there will be no lineup changes from what the team put on the ice Thursday in Los Angeles.

Top line will be Hall, Gagner and Eberle followed by Penner, Cogliano, Paajarvi. Third unit will be Omark, O'Marra and Jones with Jacques, Fraser and Stortini making up the fourth line.

The Canucks will be going with Cory Schneider in goal tonight while Edmonton will counter with Nikolai Khabibulin.

"Roberto's been well-documented as a goaltender and Cory we know a little less of. Freddy (Chabot) does a great job of doing pre-scouts on opposing team's goaltenders so I think we'll be fine."

BIG TEST TONIGHT

Once again, the Oilers are going to be tested in a big way tonight by Vancouver.

"They're really good," said Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney. "They're deep up front and they've got some puck-moving defencemen and a really good goalie. We've just got to play the way we did in California and we shoudl be good."

The team has had two close games against the Canucks, considered one of the elites of the Western Conference, but came away with no points each time.

On November 2 at Rexall Place, Vancouver roared out to a 3-0 lead. The Oilers fought back to tie it but the Canucks managed to score another late in the third - former Oiler Raffi Torres netted his third of the night - to win the game.

On December 12, the Oilers were outshot 32 to 12 and were defeated 2-1. The game was 2-0 for most of the contest until Jordan Eberle scored with 4.5 seconds left to make it close.

"We have to penetrate this team," Renney said. "They do a very good job protecting their goaltender and they do a good job when they've got the puck of not giving it back.

"I don't care if they count it as a shot on goal as long as we're doing everything we possibly can to get it on net."

Edmonton's penalty killing is the worst in the NHL at 71.4% while Vancouver's power play is the League's best at 24.4%. The Oilers are bottom five in faceoffs while Vancouver is the league's best on the dot.

"We're the type of team that has to do pretty much everything as a group and certainly faceoffs is an example of that," Renney said. "When you can work to tie and then really work to get that free puck, that's a win. In the defensive zone a tie is as good as a win."

TRIO RETURNS TO THE ICE

Brule, Vandermeer and Hemsky all returned to the ice to practice with the team but none of them will be ready to play tonight.

"(Ales is) day-to-day," stated Renney following the skate. "I'm not going to look at him in a 14-minute skate and see him for the first time in quite some time and decide to put him in the lineup in a game like this, that's for sure."

It was a similar story with Brule.

"He still has a little bit of the flu symptoms and actually came off a little bit early from practice for those reasons. It's day-to-day."

Brule said he felt a lot better than he did last week after he was ravaged by the flu.

"I had a stomach bug, was sick for a couple of days then felt drained. I had no energy and was pale," said Brule. "But I'm feeling better now. Had a good couple days off here and getting back to it. Felt good on the ice today."

Vandermeer is a little further away from returning but also not that far off.

"I haven't talked to (Head Medical Trainer) T.D. (Forss) that much about him but I'd say close to that, maybe a little longer."

EYES ON THE WORLD JUNIORS

Oilers head coach Tom Renney remarked that he will be watching this afternoon when Team Canada kicks off the World Junior tournament against Russia. Of particular interest, Oilers prospect Olivier Roy will be getting the start in goal for Canada.

"I really like this kid," Renney said of Roy. "He's a great competitor. Nothing fazes him. Two straight years in a row, he's been cranked hard off the collar bone and right back out there.

"I think he'll do a heck of a job."


CANUCKS 3 - OILERS 2

Ryan O'Marra scored his first career NHL goal but the Edmonton Oilers couldn't hold onto a 2-0 lead, ultimately falling 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks. The defeat was punctuated by Kevin Bieksa's game-winning goal with 24.0 seconds left to play in the game.

Ryan Whitney scored Edmonton's other goal while Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 30 of 33 shots in a losing cause.

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

 
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 23

OILERS at KINGS

After a late practice on Wednesday afternoon, the Oilers opted to rest their troops on Thursday morning instead of going for a morning skate. The team had an off-ice workout in the morning at their hotel in Santa Monica before an availability with the media just before noon.

Oilers head coach Tom Renney welcomed the challenge against the Kings - a team that he very much admires.

"I think they're legitimate. It's probably not hurt them to be just outside that playoff picture. They obviously have great drive and Terry (Murray) does a great job coaching these guys," the bench boss remarked.

The style of play that the Kings play could pose some issues for the Oilers but should also make for a very exciting match-up this evening.

"I really like these guys. They play hard. They're a little bit riverboat but they play hard," he continued.

Renney went on to talk about how the Oilers need to play to match the Kings' intensity and enthusiasm but also create an effective counterattack.

"We're still working on that transition game ourselves, of our defenceman to have the green light to go," he said. "We want to make sure that we do have numbers above the puck so when they turn it over we can attack with those same numbers."

Tonight is the first of four meetings this season between the Oilers and Kings. Each team won twice last season with both of the Oilers' victories coming in a shootout and coming in Los Angeles.

DUBNYK GETS THE START

The biggest star of Edmonton's second victory against the Kings was goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who turned aside 52 shots and following that up with a winning shootout performance as well. Oilers head coach Tom Renney confirmed that Dubnyk will get the nod this evening.

"It was a fun game last year, and exciting the way it turned out. I'll just try to build off the good things I've been doing."

Dubnyk hasn't played much since Nikolai Khabibulin has returned from injury with only one start since that time - a 2-1 loss to the Canucks. The towering netminder brushed off any thoughts about competition between the two, however.

"Khabi's playing fantastic and it's exciting to watch. My job is to wait, watch and learn, and be ready to go when I get a chance," said Dubnyk. "I don't know if it's really a competition between us. It's pretty set, our roles and positions. I'm just trying to follow him up and do my job as a backup, give the guys a chance to win whenever I get the call."

POWER PLAY A KEY TONIGHT

One key to tonight's game could be the team's power play. A key factor in Tuesday's loss was the team's inability to convert on an extended two-man advantage against the Sharks. That fact was not lost on Taylor Hall.

"There's not a whole lot of five-on-three opportunities but you have to make it that much more worthwhile when you do get a chance because they don't come by often," said Hall.

On Wednesday, the team spent a lot of time practicing the power play. Head coach Tom Renney stressed it needed to get better.

"We have to cash in on our power play, really, at any time," Renney said. "We worked on it a bit yesterday. It's just so fundamental."

OTHER ADJUSTMENTS COMING?

Yesterday, Renney hinted that Steve MacIntyre could see an appearance in the lineup tonight against the Kings. When asked today, he didn't confirm that a decision has been made but didn't rule out that change - or potentially some others.

"That'll be a gametime decision. Whether I rearrange things beyond that remains to be seen."


KINGS 3 - OILERS 2 (SO)

The Edmonton Oilers matched the Los Angeles Kings goal-for-goal and shot-for-shot through 65 minutes of play and five shootout rounds but Jarret Stoll's shootout goal finally clinched the victory in a 3-2 shootout defeat at Staples Center in L.A. on Thursday night.

J-F Jacques and Taylor Hall got the two goals for Edmonton while Jordan Eberle also netted a shootout tally.

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

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