SICK BAY REPORT
The Oilers followed up Tuesday's loss to Minnesota with an hour-long practice at Rexall Place late Wednesday morning.
Like during the previous morning skate, a number of injured players participated in the drills, including Shawn Horcoff, Jim Vandermeer, and Gilbert Brule.
To assess whether a player is ready to rejoin the line-up, head coach Tom Renney administers a custom on-ice fitness test.
"[It's] just trying to mimic shifts, shift lengths, recovery period, work-to-rest ratio, and what the drop-off was with respect to that, and if in fact the player was ready to integrate back into a four-line rotation or three-pair rotation with the necessary rest and recovery," the coach explained.
"If I'm racing for the puck and I'm at the tail end of a shift and I'm not fit, I'm going to get run into the boards, something's going to happen, or they're going to get the puck and go score a goal. So it's protecting everybody."
"He's got to pass my test," Renney added. "My test is the last thing we do to make sure a player's ready to play."
Prior to practice, Horcoff passed the test. After missing 18 games with a knee injury, the Oilers captain will dress Thursday night vs. Dallas.
"Tom always has a couple protocols that he puts the guys through to make sure that he's comfortable with where their fitness level is, and it went really good today. It felt good during practice after that and I'm ready to go," Horcoff said.
The veteran centerman has been skating with the team for over a week and is eager to rejoin them in competition.
"It's been tough, it always is," he said. "You feel bad, you want to be out there, you want to help the guys, especially when they're going through what they have been lately here, with their struggles and that.
"But we're not far off. We're right there, and I think we're going to start getting healthy here and start getting some bodies back and hopefully that will put us over the edge."
YOU GAIN SOME, YOU LOSE SOME
Although Vandermeer, Brule, and Jordan Eberle are not far behind Horcoff on the road to recovery, the news from sick bay isn't all positive. Tuesday night vs. Minnesota, All Star Ales Hemsky suffered a concussion and was unable to complete the game.
View Oilers Injury Report
The winger underwent an MRI early this afternoon, but Renney didn't have much information to pass on to the media.
"We think it's a concussion and I don't think MRI is going to disclose a whole lot, to be honest with you," the coach said. "The thing is, we don't know how long it's going to be either. It could be a couple days, it could be a week, it could be longer than that. We're not sure."
Another player who is questionable for tomorrow's game is Devan Dubnyk. The young goaltender was feeling the effects of the flu last night vs. the Wild, and although he technically backed up starter Nikolai Khabibulin, he was kept off the bench to protect the rest of the team from illness.
Dubnyk did not participate in practice today; instead, Edmonton's former video coach, Brian Ross, filled in at one end of the ice.
Despite the loss of Hemsky and the loss to Minnesota, the Oilers are trying to stay positive and focused heading into their next challenge.
"We had a bad start yesterday, and as far as our record lately, I think it's not indicative of the way we've been playing," Dustin Penner said. "We've been in a lot of one-goal games. A lot of those games have been within our grasp to win, whether it's the power-play that hasn't been scoring or unlucky bounces, we just seem to be able to lose games that maybe we shouldn't. And it's not for lack of effort or trying."
STARS IN SIGHT
You can catch Horcoff's return to the line-up live from Rexall Place when the Oilers take on the Stars Thursday, Jan. 19. Single and standing tickets are still available.
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS
In the latest edition of our fan question series, John Simmer of Toronto submitted a question for Theo Peckham.
JOHN: "Who has helped you the most in your hockey career?"
THEO: "Probably a couple people. My mom and, actually, my agent (Bill Markle). He came to see me play in a prospects tournament when I was 15, and ever since then he's kind of been helping me out a little bit. He's been a big part of who I am today."
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