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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Back to Work

With All Star break over, Oilers return to the ice for practice, welcome Hemsky & Eberle back to the fold

Monday, 31.01.2011 / 7:24 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Back to Work
 
MONDAY, JANUARY 31

BACK TO WORK

After spending an extended weekend catching up with friends and family over All Star break, the Oilers got down to business with an hour-long practice at Rexall Place Monday afternoon.

Edmonton's lone representative at the All Star festivities, Taylor Hall, was travelling back from Raleigh and thus not present at practice.

Although the Oilers' star rookie was absent, another rookie assumed the spotlight. After ringing in the New Year with an ankle injury, Jordan Eberle participated in his first full team practice today.

"I feel good," he said after the skate. "I probably could have played last week, but I think with the way that the schedule was, it made sense to stay back and rehab, get a five-day break over the All Star break. Just that extra time hopefully will help, and when I do come back, it won't re-injure."

Fellow sick bay resident Ales Hemsky also took to the ice, albeit wearing a red no-contact jersey.

Head coach Tom Renney said further assessment is required before either player takes to the ice for a game.

"I'll see how they're doing tomorrow morning," he said. "I think they've made significant improvements. I don't want to call it day-to-day yet, but I might be telling you that tomorrow."

After missing the past 12 games, Eberle hopes to play Wednesday night vs. Los Angeles.

"It's tough when you have to watch your team out there. You want to be out there bad and help contribute. I've never really had the experience where I've had to miss games, and now that's happened and it's over with, I'm definitely anxious and excited to get back," he said.

"Obviously I think Tom (Renney) wants to make sure I'm in game shape. He has a little skating test, so hopefully everything goes well there. I'm definitely trying to push to play Wednesday."

49 DOWN, 33 TO GO

Eberle, Hemsky and their other well-rested teammates will enjoy another day of practice before beginning their push for post-All Star success. Players and coaches are feeling good about the 33-game road ahead.

"It was a good few days off. We needed it, we needed to recharge," defenceman Theo Peckham said.

"I think it's good to get your mind off things, obviously to get the physical break but get the mental break too and regroup and relax a little bit," Colin Fraser added. "Four days was nice, but back to work today and I think everybody's excited and rejuvenated to get going again.

Renney wants to see a renewed focus and fervour from his team.

"We're ready, we're fresh, I think we can really make some noise in the Western Conference," he stated. "Slowly but surely we're getting some respect. At the end of the day, you're going to have to win to get the ultimate respect from your opponents, we know that, so part of our mantra I think will just be to go out and play hard and just try to make a mess of things out here.

"If we really lock into this way we want to play, I think we have a really good shot of winning a good portion of our games, at least, moving forward."

ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Amanda L. of Edmonton submitted a question for Theo Peckham.

Theo Peckham & Ryan Jones

AMANDA: "You were on Off the Record the other day. Great interview by the way. How do you manage to stay so positive all the time and always smiling?"

THEO: "I think that's just the way I am. I'm kind of a goof ball. Until I get onto the ice, I don't really take things too seriously. That's definitely the way my personality is. Guys get used to dealing with me in here. They get kind of annoyed at it, I think, sometimes. I'm always kind of goofing around and smiling.

It's tough to play the game that we play -- there are so many ups and downs, and I just take it one day at a time and keep smiling; take them as they come. I try to game-face it a little bit more on the ice. On occasion, I smile a little bit. But it's more of a 'I'm gonna get you' smile, not a 'I'm just happy having a good time' smile."

BONUS QUESTION!

Because it was too good to pass up, we also asked Ryan Jones a question submitted by Moose Jaw's Joanna Smith:

JOANNA: "Do you know the difference between an alpaca and a llama?"

RYAN: "Actually, I do know the difference between an alpaca and a llama, because I saw that kids cartoon, where it was like that king llama guy. I think that llamas spit in your face when they get mad -- that gross spit that they have -- and alpacas don't.

Other than that, no."

(Editor's note: Ryan is incorrect. Both animals spit when agitated. To find out the real difference between alpacas & llamas, CLICK HERE.)

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

 
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26

OILERS at STARS:
PRE-GAME

After arriving at their hotel in Dallas at 2:30 a.m. following last night’s last-minute 4-3 victory against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Edmonton Oilers opted to not skate this morning and instead congregated for lunch at the hotel at noon followed by a brief team meeting.

“You need to know what excellence looks like and feels like,” Oilers head coach Tom Renney said about last night’s game. “I thought we were as close to that as we’ve been, even though we fell behind.”

It was a game that the Oilers battled in throughout and eventually became the first team this season to defeat the Coyotes in regulation despite trailing after 40 minutes.

“You have to be able to get yourself back into a game, and we did that and pushed it right over the top and actually won because of that type of effort.”

The team will not be making any lineup changes save for one in goal – Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start tonight.

“We’re going to go with Khabby tonight and give Devan a break. (Devan) played very well. I just liked the look of him last night,” Renney remarked.

The game marks Khabibulin’s first start since January 20 against Dallas. He also missed the Skills Competition and had several practices off as he’s attempted to rest some nagging injuries.

“He’s been off for a little while here, just sort of maintenance time. We’ve got to make sure that he’s ready to go as well so going into the break we wanted him to get one in.”

Renney contemplated making some other lineup changes but instead decided to go with the 18 skaters that impressed him so much in Phoenix last night.

“I always fight with this – as all coaches do – to make sure guys aren’t out too long. That’s number one and number two is what’s the opponent going to bring that you might want to counter with,” he said. “(However,) I did like our performance last night. My intention is to go with the same lineup.”

HALL OF A LINE

The trio of Shawn Horcoff, Taylor Hall and Dustin Penner has been together for several games now and if last night is any indication, they are starting to hit their stride.

“Horcoff’s distribution of the puck is important because, on one end of it you have Taylor with speed and strength and is fearless going to the net. On the other side you have just a big man that’s so hard to knock off the puck that your puck possession time improves because of that,” Renney noted.

The line combined for five points last night, including the dramatic winner with 22 seconds left to play. Horcoff had two assists.

“I think it helps Shawn’s game. These guys can distribute it as well so it’s not just him who has to be the playmaker. I think you’ll find over time if we can keep this group together that they should have some real success because of their ability – all three – to manage the puck.”

Hall, who had a goal and an assist, talked about the benefits of playing with Horcoff.

“He’s definitely a really good centre to play with. He’s really good in his own end so we don’t spend a lot of time there and you can have good transition, make sure we’re playing on offence because that’s what we want to do,” Hall noted. “Coming back from injury is not easy but he’s done a great job”

Dustin Penner agreed with the rookie winger.

“I think last game – other than that one goal that they scored against us – I think every other shift was in their zone. I thought we created a lot of chances,” Penner said.


STARS 3 - OILERS 1

The Dallas Stars raced out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back as the Edmonton Oilers fell 3-1 to the Stars in their final game before the all-star break at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Dustin Penner scored the lone Oilers goal.

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

 
TUESDAY, JANUARY 25

OILERS at COYOTES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Edmonton Oilers open a two-game road trip tonight in Phoenix – the team’s final two games before the all-star break.

It poses another tough test for the Oilers as they take on a team – much like Nashville - that they’ve had trouble with over the past few seasons.

“I think from a systematic approach, yes (there are similarities between the Coyotes and Predators) and from a team that’s deeply committed to how they have to play, yes,” stated Oilers head coach Tom Renney.

“I think they have a little bit more arsenal, in terms of firepower and they have pretty balanced scoring since they all play the game the same way,” Renney continued.

In terms of lineup, the Oilers are going with the same one they had on Sunday night against Nashville and that includes Devan Dubnyk in goal.

“It’s great. I’m not going to change anything as far as the way I prepare or what I do. I’m just continuing to try to give the guys in the dressing room confidence in me, as well as the coaching staff,” said Dubnyk

DUBNYK DELIVERING

Despite the team’s overall struggles, Dubnyk has been very good of late. Throughout the month of January, he has a record of 2-1-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .927 save percentage over four starts.

Perhaps the only black mark on Dubnyk’s record this season has been in the shootout (no wins, five losses), which is ironic as in past years he has always been very successful in the showdown.

“I’m very surprised. It’s just a weird situation with the shootout. I haven’t had much success this year but it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing and had success doing,” Dubnyk noted. “I’m going to continue to work in practice. Eventually it’s got to come.”

LOOKING FOR THAT ONE-GOAL

Over the team’s last 16 games, they’ve only won two times. Of those 14 losses, 11 have come by one goal or one plus an empty-netter with three of those coming in a shootout.

“We’re playing well against good hockey teams but we’ve got to start to turn and get some wins out of it. Everybody here feels pretty good about being able to do that,” said Dubnyk.

Of course, the team’s answer to their one-goal loss woes lies right with the power play. During the aforementioned 16-game stretch, they’ve only score twice with the man advantage in 57 opportunities (3.5%).

Coach Renney indicated following the morning skate that power play success would be a big key to a victory tonight.

“It wouldn’t hurt. It’d be great to see that power play have some success, no question about that,” he began.

“The net is the end point, both for people and for pucks. We’ve got to have the wherewithal and the courage to stand around in there and get mucking for those loose pucks.”

THE RETURN

Tonight marks Edmonton’s first game back in Phoenix since Renney’s now-infamous post-game rant after a 5-0 drubbing back on November 23.

The team responded immediately with a 6-1-1 record over their next eight games and despite not getting the results after that, they have certainly played better with only a 6-1 loss to Vancouver on January 7 being of the blowout variety.

“That’s history. We’ve learned from that obviously and that’s what you want to have happen,” Renney began.

“Kudos to the guys for responding like that. That game is all gone and what we’re worried about tonight now is exactly how we choose to play these guys.”

“We all have to elevate our game in these next 35. That’s what will define our team and this season. This is a real good opportunity to start it here, with a team that dominated us the last time we were here."

Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who was on the other end of that 5-0 loss, agreed.

“That was certainly not one of our best efforts by any means this year. It was a little while ago but certainly fresh on our minds,” said Dubnyk. “I’ve got no question that we’ll come with it tonight, for sure.”


OILERS 4 - COYOTES 3

Dustin Penner scored with 21.3 seconds left to give the Edmonton Oilers a hard-fought come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday night.

Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff - both with two-point nights - as well as Linus Omark had the other goals for Edmonton while Devan Dubnyk stopped 24 of 27 shots.

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

 



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