After participating in an off-ice workout Sunday morning, the Oilers returned to the frozen canvas at Rexall Place to engage in a one-hour practice to help shake the rust from a 2-1 loss to the Calgary Flames over the weekend.
With an all-business attitude early in the session, Head Coach Tom Renney pushed the pace of the individual drills and demanded further precision from his group as the early portions of the practice were, at times, sloppily completed.
Once the dust settled following Renney’s vocal and energetic interlude, practice continued with the players refining the message and completing the drills with precision and a heady effort.
Amidst the sound of skates carving the Rexall Place ice, new line combinations were debuted as the team prepared for the absence of rookie forward Jordan Eberle. The following concoctions were unveiled:
Paajarvi - Gagner - Hemsky
Penner - Cogliano - Hall
Jacques - Brule - Jones
MacIntyre - Fraser - Stortini
Peckham - Gilbert
Smid - Petry
Vandermeer - Foster
PRESS BOX TO PENTHOUSE
Magnus Paajarvi, who was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s dust-up with the Flames, was promoted from the press box to the first line – an opportunity that he believes needs to be captured with his new linemates.
"They're great hockey players," Paajarvi said of Hemsky and Gagner. "But I've been playing great hockey this year, too. I'm just going to try and go out there and do what I do best, and I know they have really good assets too, so I think we can be a really good line.
"Hopefully we can create something. I'm just going to go out there and focus – the first thing on myself."
While the highly talented Swede was looking forward to this new opportunity, the reflection of Saturday’s seat in the press box was still an all too real memory.
"It was not fun to be on the outside," said Paajarvi. "We'll see in the long run, but I think it was helpful for me for sure. It was a new experience and I can just learn from that. You get a whole other perspective [from the press box]. You see 10 guys instead of two guys, maybe, and you can see where the lanes are and things like that."
When it came to the reasoning behind his exclusion from the lineup, Paajarvi cited some potential improvements that he needs to focus on.
"Try to get more greasy, more aggressive. Try to use my body a little bit more, things like that."
Paajarvi’s recognition of the areas in need of improvement was a positive sign for the coach.
"Greasy is in the vocabulary now. That's good," Renney remarked.
"He knows that. He's a great kid. He's such a great competitor and he just knows that he's got to battle, and make sure that he gets to places first with his speed and stays over top of the job and gets to the dirty areas -- the nasty areas.
He's a talented player; he's a skilled guy. As much as we want him to do those things, and there are ways where he can contribute along those lines, we also want him to use his wonderful talent to blow it open and try things."
Another player who will be re-inserted for tomorrow night’s matchup with the Detroit Red Wings is rookie defenceman Jeff Petry. The smooth-skating blueliner was looking forward to getting back in the rotation following his one-game relegation to the press box.
As Petry explained, the opportunity presented "a good learning experience" as he continues to establish his name with the coaching staff.
"If you get back to the puck as quickly as possible, it gives you that extra time. Those guys that trap you down low, they're strong enough to hold you off. Just don't give them time to set-up. Get the puck and get it going up ice," Petry said of the learning specifics.
"It is a confidence-builder, but I can't be too comfortable. I have to keep taking it game-by-game, day-by-day and keep working hard to stay up here."
After suffering an ankle injury Saturday night against the Flames, the news of Jordan Eberle’s condition was positive today after many feared a longer-term lineup disruption. Eberle emerged from the locker room without a cast and walking, seemingly, under little duress.
"I don't think it's as serious as it looked," Eberle said to relax the media contingent. "I haven't gotten an MRI yet, so I've got to wait for that until tomorrow."
"But the way that I felt the first day and the way that I feel now -- and the fact that I'm walking fine and feeling fine -- it's definitely a relief."
Eberle, who said that he hadn’t been through any kind of injury in his career, recounted the events that led to his ailment.
"I fell in an awkward position and I kind of felt it pop a little bit, but as I got back to the bench it felt better and better. I tried to put a little weight on it, and it was obviously sore. I came in, got an x-ray and there was nothing broken or anything like that, and that was good."
With the rookie itching to get back into the lineup as soon as possible, he’s working hard to rehab the injury and help to accelerate the healing process.
"Obviously I’ve been rehabbing, icing it and taking care of it over the past few days; go to the pool today and do some work on it there and, like I said, doing the right things to make sure I get back into the lineup as soon as I can."
"I'm hoping to get on the ice soon," Eberle concluded.
Although injuries have played a large role in the recent headlines, Renney wasn’t about to insert any excuses for the team’s recent play or for the atmosphere around the locker room.
"It’s always a challenge and it's always worth it. I don't need to get philosophical, but there are a lot of people in tougher situations than our guys having to play through this. It's game-on for us. Let's just go play and let's just try to put our best foot forward every night and improve by the circumstance."
The Oilers will aim to do that tomorrow night when the Detroit Red Wings visit Rexall Place. Limited singles and standing tickets are still available, so act now before they sell out!
Purchase tickets online
OILERS RECALL PAIR
Due to the uncertainly with Eberle's injury and the fact that the team currently does not have any extra forwards available, the Oilers have recalled Linus Omark and Liam Reddox from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
In the latest edition of our fan question series, Gillan of Edson submitted a question for Theo Peckham.
GILLAN: "Do you listen to music before games to get pumped up?"
THEO: "Lately I've been listening more to band called Middle Class Rut. It's a little bit more alternative. I like them, I like Soulja Boy's 'Mean Mug' -- that gets me fired up, too. I have an iPod that I use, I like to listen to my music to get pumped up before games and before warm-up. I've always done that since I was a kid."
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 Tom Gazzola