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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Building Blocks

Oilers arrive in San Jose, look to build on positive performance vs. Stars

Wednesday, 12.01.2011 / 5:59 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Building Blocks
 
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 12

BUILDING BLOCKS

After a narrow loss in Dallas, four-hour flight to Oakland, and 30-minute drive to San Jose, the Oilers caught a few hours of sleep before getting back on the ice at HP Pavilion. Practice started at 12:30 and lasted approximately 45 minutes.

Captain Shawn Horcoff, who is approaching recovery from a knee injury, was an active participant in the drills. Although Horcoff is not quite ready to return to the line-up, he skated on Ryan Jones and Liam Reddox's energetic line.

Horcoff took the spot of fellow centerman Andrew Cogliano, who injured his hand Tuesday night vs. the Stars.

"It's nothing serious but it's swollen," head coach Tom Renney assured. "There's nothing major there but he has a little hard time gripping his stick today. He'll be fine. He's good to go."

With the exception of the Horcoff/Cogliano switcheroo, Renney kept yesterday's lines intact:

Penner - Hall - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Gagner - Omark
Jones - Horcoff - Reddox
Jacques - Fraser - MacIntyre

The coach said there's a "good chance" the combinations will stick Thursday night vs. the Sharks, as well.

"I'll contemplate that a little bit overnight here. Certainly I'll give it the due diligence, but there's a good chance we'll see the same guys."

STRONG SHOWING VS. STARS

Although it couldn't secure two points, Tuesday's line-up was dominant offensively and defensively in Dallas. The Oilers fired a season-high 41 shots while allowing a season-low 20 shots.

Ryan Jones, who led the team with six attempts and scored the game-tying goal, said his line's success came from aggressive offensive attacks.

"I think it was just a matter of getting the puck down low. We used the back of the net really well as a line and just shooting off the rush," he explained. "It was one of those things: we had a couple of guys going to the net a few times and threw the puck there and that's how you create chances in this league."

Jones also credited his speedy linemates Liam Reddox and Andrew Cogliano.

"Any time you can play with guys with that sort of speed, they tend to push the D back. It gives you a little bit more room."

UP NEXT: SHARKS

Following today's practice, the Oilers are back in game-day mode with match-up vs. the Sharks Thursday night. The game starts at 8:30pm MT and will be broadcast on Rogers Sportsnet West.

ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Mitchell of Whitecourt submitted a question for Zack Stortini.

MITCHELL: "It's obvious that you want to establish yourself as more than a fighter in this league, so what kind of things do you like to work on at practice — or even away from the rink – to improve your game? Is a lot of it based on feedback you get from the coaches?""

Zack Stortini

ZACK: "I think I work on all the different skills of my game.  Most of the time my feedback is to continue to work on my skating. We have Steve Serdachny as our skills and conditioning coach, and I spend a lot of time with him working on my foot speed, specifically getting a faster two or three steps.  I've worked on my shot as well, trying to work on getting a better shot -- a quick release with that shot and just all parts of my game.  My hands, and putting it all together too.

"I spent a lot of the time this summer really working on my skills in combination.  Being able to skate with the puck and make plays with my head up and read the ice.  It's always a work in progress. I've come a long way so far working on the skills of my game but I know I've got a long way to go to get to where I want to be. I'm just gonna continue to work at it every day."

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 Bob Stauffer

 
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11

OILERS at STARS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

After enjoying three days of rest, practice, and fitness training, the Oilers were back in game-day mode Tuesday morning in Dallas. The team took to the ice at 11:30am for a 40-minute morning skate.

Among the notable changes to Edmonton's line-up was the addition of defenceman Taylor Chorney (who was called up Monday to replace injured Jim Vandermeer) as well as rookie Taylor Hall moving from the left wing to centre.

The forward lines were as follows:

Penner - Hall - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Gagner - Omark
Reddox - Cogliano - Jones
Jacques - Fraser - Stortini

When asked about the decision to move Hall to centre, head coach Tom Renney said, "Why not?"

"The kid's played a lot of centre ice in junior and obviously with a Memorial Cup team, he's pretty important to them. So we'll have a look at it," he explained. "It's not like it's completely foreign to him, but certainly at the NHL level, it's a new challenge."

"It's going to be fun," Hall responded. "It's been a while since I played centre, but Tom feels that it could be a good line for our team and a good mix-up. I prepared a little bit for it yesterday in practice and today, just taking face-offs, and I feel pretty good."

Hall added playing centre won't be without its challenges.

"D zone is going to be a little bit different, just being down-low all the time and really having to communicate with your D-men. But we have a good D core on this team, and if we're communicating and we're talking down low, handling things the way they should be, we should be fine."

On the second line, Sam Gagner is also looking forward to having some fun with Swedes Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark.

"They're obviously really skilled and they have a lot of chemistry with each other," he said. "I obviously want to play a skilled game and move the puck around with those guys, but I think it's going to be important for us to get into battle areas and make sure that we're working hard off the puck in order to create our offensive changes. And if we have that mindset, hopefully things will go well."

On the blue line, Chorney skated with fellow call-up Jeff Petry. Renney wouldn't commit to that pairing, however.

"We'll see how that goes. There might be a little bit of synergy between the two of them to start. We'll see. Obviously there's six of them, so we'll put the best combinations we can together.

"At the same time, as we've said all along, it's about getting young guys on the ice as much as we possibly can, giving them the experience and us the education," he added.

FACING THE STARS

Renney said his club will have to sharp in some specific areas in order to come out with two points tonight in Dallas.

"I think our start will be important. This is a good team that plays awfully well really anywhere right now, obviously, but certainly in their own rink, they come at you pretty good. The corners are a little more shallow than they are in some rinks, so that forecheck is something we're going to have to move the puck past.

"I think beyond that we've got to make sure that we put pressure on them and force them to at least read the rush and come back to it in their end -- so get pucks in behind them, get pucks deep.

"And I think really a big part of this game, because of the manner in which they push the pace, is to out-change them," he continued. "We need really, really good changes here. They can take advantage of a poor change quickly, so at least we have to make sure that we push the pace off the bench."

Backstopping Edmonton's efforts will be Nikolai Khabibulin.

HEADED TO ALL-STAR

While the Stars are Edmonton's immediate challenge, for three players, a more light-hearted challenge is on the horizon.

Ales Hemsky, Hall, and Jordan Eberle were invited to attend NHL All Star Weekend in Carolina at the end of the month, and all players are looking forward to the experience.

"It's definitely an honour to go there and experience the All Star Game for the first time," Hemsky said. "I didn't really think about it, I didn't expect it, but it's a lot of good players in the league that could be there and they are not there maybe. It is what it is, so I will take it like that and have fun, just have fun and enjoy the time there."

Although Hall and Eberle will not play in the All Star Game, they will join the veterans and their fellow rookies in the Skills Competition.

"It's very exciting and something I'm looking forward to," Hall said. "I think me and Ebs talked about it a little bit, if we had the opportunity to go to Carolina ... It's going to be a very good experience for me."

Read the All Star announcement


STARS 3 - OILERS 2

Despite outshooting their opponents 41-20 and posting two quick third-period goals to erase a two-goal deficit, the Oilers couldn't keep the Stars from jumping back ahead, resulting in a 3-2 loss. Jean-Francois Jacques scored Edmonton's first goal, followed shortly thereafter by Ryan Jones, who led the game with six shots on net.

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

 
FRIDAY, JANUARY 7

CANUCKS 6 - OILERS 1

After keeping it scoreless through the first 20 minutes, the Oilers slipped off their game-plan in the following 40, eventually tumbling to a 6-1 defeat in Vancouver Friday night. Ales Hemsky scored Edmonton's lone goal in the final second of the second period, while Nikolai Khabibulin posted 28 saves in the loss.

FIRST PERIOD

The Oilers held a slim 2-1 shot lead in the first few minutes of the game, but the Canucks soon found some traction and tested Khabibulin with six more shots by the eight-minute mark.

At that time, Dan Hamhuis was called for high-sticking and the Oilers went on the power-play. The visitors added two shots on the man-advantage, but home goalie Cory Schneider turned them both away to keep it scoreless.

It would stay that way until the end of the first, with the Canucks carrying a 14-6 shot lead into the second period.

SECOND PERIOD

Only 30 seconds into the middle frame, the Canucks broke the stalemate. On the opposite wing as his twin, Daniel Sedin caught a quick pass from Henrik and tapped the puck past Khabibulin to make it 1-0 Vancouver.

1:34 later, the Canucks scored again. After receiving the puck from Andrew Alberts, Ryan Kesler skated up center ice and fired on Khabibulin from mid-slot. Although the Oilers goalie caught a piece of the puck, it flipped over the top of his glove and bumbled across the line to set the score 2-0.

A trio of infractions kept penalty box doors swinging following the goals, but penalty killers and goaltenders prevented another goal until the return of five-on-five.

Once that happened, it didn't take long for the Canucks to add a third. One minute after Kevin Bieksa completed his hooking minor, the Sedin brothers joined forces on a two-on-one for another goal.

Edmonton picked up the pace in the latter half of the frame, eventually outshooting Vancouver 12-8 in the period. The Oilers last attempt, courtesy of Ales Hemsky, slipped inside Schneider's right point just as the buzzer sounded. After video review, the goal was deemed good and the Oilers got on the board, trialing 3-1 heading into the final frame.

THIRD PERIOD

After dropping the puck for the remaining 0.3 seconds of the second period (strange, I know), the teams switched sides and dropped the puck for the third. Within the first minute, Theo Peckham accidentally directed a clearing attempt at Hemsky's face. The Oilers forward covered his head and dropped to the ice before skating to the bench, but he did not require medical attention in the dressing room and was shortly back in action.

At the five-minute mark, the Canucks extended their lead. While an initial point shot didn't make it through to the net, a second attempt courtesy of Hamhuis was expertly deflected by Kesler, renewing Vancouver's three-goal cushion.

2:40 later, Steve MacIntyre amped Edmonton's aggression by plowing Alberts into the corner. The hit prompted a short-lived scrap between both players that warranted one roughing minor to MacIntyre and two to Alberts. The Oil failed to capitalize on the resulting man-advantage, their fourth of the game.

The power-play tables quickly turned. At 10:34, Theo Peckham earned four minutes for tripping and roughing, and only 22 seconds into the five-on-four, Kesler struck again to secure a hat-trick and make it 5-1. The power-play goal ended Edmonton's impressive multi-game stretch of perfect penalty-killing.

Before Peckham was able to complete his final two minutes, Hemsky and Jason Strudwick joined him in the penalty box, along with Raffi Torres on the other side of the glass. Peckham was able to rejoin the play, but five seconds later, Alex Edler joined the Canucks assault and scored his fourth of the season.

Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com

 



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