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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Options & opinions

Oilers holds optional team practice; coach comments on call-ups, injuries & more

Wednesday, 02.03.2011 / 4:32 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Options & opinions
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 2

OPTIONS & OPINIONS

On the heels of Tuesday's come-from-behind shootout win over Nashville, the Oilers took a bit of a break from the game-practice-game routine by holding an optional practice late Wednesday morning.

13 players took to the ice for the skate, including all three goaltenders (Nikolai Khabibulin, Devan Dubnyk & Martin Gerber), all four rookies (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi & Linus Omark), and recent call-up Richard Petiot.

Coaches Kelly Buchberger, Steve Smith, Frederic Chabot, and Steve Serdachny monitored the on-ice activity.

MARTIN'S MOTIVES

In the dressing room, the morning's casual atmosphere took a serious turn when Gerber was asked about his future with the organization.

The 36-year-old netminder has posted an impressive .958 SV% and 1.30 GAA in three undefeated games with the Oilers this season, but due to Khabibulin's impending return from an eye injury  ("He's real close," head coach Tom Renney said) and continued emphasis on Devan Dubnyk's development, Gerber's current call-up will likely be a short one.

"I just want to make the best out of it and try not to think about it too much," he told the media. "I thought [this season] would go a little bit different, and it didn't, but that's the way it is"

Renney displayed his usual tact when asked about the club's crowded crease.

"I look at it as who we have under contract, who's available to us under circumstances," he said. "We do have a developing young goaltender here that we have to play, we have obviously a heavy commitment to what we think is a number one goaltender in this league in Khabi, and we have an outstanding contingency plan, should we require that, in Martin.

"He's just been phenomenal for us in terms of how he's played and how he's practiced, and he brings a real professional approach and attitude to the dressing room and to the ice surface and we couldn't ask for anything more than that," Renney added. "At the end of the day, that's all I should be concerned about."

With his one-year contract soon coming to an end, Gerber was candid about his off-season plans.

"It would be nice to at least maybe next year somewhere get another shot, another try, and see how it goes," he said. "It's a pretty big log jam here so it doesn't look like it's there's too many spots open."


Renney wasn't surprised by the goaltender's comments.

"I completely understand that and respect it and I would be shocked if he felt otherwise, quite honestly. I think he's clearly demonstrated again that he's a capable goaltender in this league and he's certainly performed well for us ... I'd have no problem endorsing Marty Gerber as an NHL goaltender."

PETIOT PINCH HITS

Petiot played first NHL game of the season last night.

Gerber wasn't the only call-up to perform well last night: defenceman Petiot finished +1 in 17:44 of ice time vs the Predators, marking a solid debut in his first NHL game of the season.

"He came in here and played real well for us, under trying circumstances of course, and against a team that needs both points, not just one," Renney observed. "That speaks volumes, I believe, for the work guys are doing in Oklahoma City and naturally on behalf of Richard himself."

INJURY UPDATES

Renney concluded his media address by providing some injury updates.

Khabibulin: As stated above, Khabibulin is "real close" to returning to the line-up and will be reevaluated today.

Ales Hemsky: After falling awkwardly on a hit in the second period last night, Hemsky left the game with an undisclosed shoulder injury.

"He's having an MRI today and until such time as we get the results of that, we're not real sure," Renney said. "I think it's more precautionary than anything else. It's one of those things where you want to do that to give the athlete peace of mind and also to educate and inform ourselves."

Theo Peckham: The feisty defenceman continues to suffer the ill effects of a fight with Boston's Nathan Horton Sunday night.

"It's sort of status quo right now," Renney said. "He's going to do a neuropsych test tomorrow, where they connect the dots in some way, shape, or form."


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Haley of Saanichton, B.C. submitted a question for Jordan Eberle.

HALEY: "How do you feel about the opportunity to play with Colten Teubert again"

Jordan Eberle

JORDAN: "I've played with him through all my junior career so it'll be interesting to see him here. It seems like we just can't get away from each other, so it'll be fun. Hopefully he gets the opportunity to be here someday, and it's going to be good to get a guy that I've grown up with, played junior with, and it seems like every international tournament with. He's a great guy.

What can fans expect from Colten when he makes an appearance in Edmonton?

"He's a simple, shut-down defenceman. He's tough. In junior, there was countless times where I'd get hammered and he'd be the first guy to stick up. He's a great team player and a good leader "

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 Ryan Dittrick

 
TUESDAY, MARCH 1

OILERS vs. PREDATORS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

With Monday's trade deadline comfortably behind them, the Oilers got back into game-day mode with a 35-minute skate Tuesday morning.

Dustin Penner's trade to the L.A. Kings leaves a gap on the top line, and rookie Magnus Paajarvi has been tapped to fill it tonight vs. the Predators.

"There are other candidates that can play up there as well, so I'm not sure that we're going to certainly lock this down as being his opportunity to play there," head coach Tom Renney explained. "He has to make sure that he's an impact player for us under those circumstances too, as young as he is, but he's shown an ability to do that and influence a game, and we're hoping he can pull that off tonight and beyond."

Paajarvi is eager to skate with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.

"Hemsky's really skilled. He can do a lot of things that no one else can do with the puck, and Horc is really solid both defensively and offensively, so I think I'm just going to focus a lot on myself to get there for them and we can create something."

The 19-year-old Swede has big skates to fill (literally -- Penner is 6'4"), but he won't try to play the same role on the ice.

"He's a big guy who uses his body a lot, and I think I try to use my speed a little bit more. So we'll see how it goes, but I'm going to get out there and go 100% for sure and I'm excited."

LINE-UP NOTES

Due to Paajarvi's promotion to the top line, Renney has adjusted the remaining combinations for tonight's contest. The other three forward lines are expected to be as follows:

Hall - Cogliano - Eberle
Jones - Gagner - Omark
Jacques - Brule - Reddox

On defence, Theo Peckham continues to suffer the effects of a fight with Boston's Nathan Horton Sunday night.

"I don't know if we call that concussion or not," Renney explained. "He's out of the line-up for now, it's probably day-to-day, so I'm not sure how to qualify that."

As a result of Peckham's injury, the Oilers recalled blueliner Richard Petiot from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons early Tuesday morning. Petiot was not present at practice is slated to arrive in Edmonton later this afternoon.

Read the press release

Backstopping Petiot and the rest of the Oilers skaters will be fellow call-up Martin Gerber. Devan Dubnyk will watch from the bench after starting the past three contests.

"I think it's important for Gerbs to get a game in," Renney said. "I also think that Dubey needs to know that I have that latitude as a coach when I've got two goaltenders, both capable. That it's not a slam dunk. He was much better against Boston than he was previously against St. Louis. I think that there's some things that we still need to have him look at in order to be prepared for his next start, so it's just coach's decision."

Edmonton's third goaltender, Nikolai Khabibulin, continues to sit on the injured reserve after getting an ice chip to the eye last week. The veteran netminder is on the road to recovery, however, and took to the ice for a short stint between the pipes after the main Oilers skate.

"He can't do any heavy lifting, strength work, weight room, or those types of things. He can skate, he can block some shots and get a little bit of work in," Renney explained. "We'll push it a little bit further tomorrow and see how he makes out there."


OILERS 2 - PREDATORS 1 (SO)

After being out-shot 30-13 through 40 minutes, the Oilers picked up their game in the third, dominating the Predators in the remainder of regulation and through five minutes of overtime. Early shootout success for both sides put the game-winner in Linus Omark's hands, and the skilled rookie didn't disappoint, fooling Pekka Rinne with a sneaky shot to secure a 2-1 shootout win for Edmonton Tuesday night.

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

 
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28

MOVING DAY

At the start of perhaps the most stressful day of the year for NHL players and management, the Oilers attempted to keep the mood light with an upbeat practice at Rexall Place.

The on-ice activities included a few quick drills,
five-on-five and three-on-three scrimmages, and then a shootout showdown.

With head coach Tom Renney assisting general manager Steve Tambellini in his trade discussions away from the rink, associate coach Ralph Krueger ran the practice.

"There's been a lot of talk within the group in the last few weeks, and it's kind of culminated this morning. We felt it in the energy and you've got to react to that, let the guys flow and get a good sweat and get this day over with," he said.

As Krueger could likely anticipate, the day had only just begun.

CALLING COLORADO

Shortly after 11am local time, two hours shy of the trade deadline, the Oilers made their first move.

In exchange for defenceman Shawn Belle, the club acquired another young defenceman, Kevin Montgomery, from the Colorado Avalanche.
The 22-year-old has appeared in 51 games this season with the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters, recording 19 points and 34 penalty minutes.

Read the Montgomery press release

ALL THE KINGS MEN?

Shortly after the Montgomery trade, rumours started to fly about Dustin Penner being traded to Los Angeles. 15 minutes before the deadline, the Oilers confirmed that they had acquired 21-year-old blueliner Colten Teubert and two Kings draft picks in exchange for the big winger.

Read the Teubert press release

"Over the last, I'd say, 48 hours, discussions with a few teams with regards to Dustin were taken place and then it became quite evident that the return was going to fit into what we're trying to do here," Tambellini explained. "We have to give up a good player but (we got) the first round pick, the first-round prospect of a defenceman that we don't have a lot of."

In Teubert, the GM expects a solid young defencemen that will bolster the Oklahoma City Barons this season and add to the organization's defensive depth.

"I think his strengths are going to be one of compete, he has great leadership qualities, he's a good person, and I would say a predictable puck-moving type of player," Tambellini said. "He's been involved with Team Canada at a high level, he's played with Jordan Eberle, he's not fun to play against. We need a lot more of that."

Tambellini added that the organization is also pleased with the first-round and conditional third-round draft picks they acquired in the trade.

"(Head Scout) Stu MacGregor, he's an excited man today," he said. "This is the time in the growth of our organization to have those type of assets. This is the right time, and I think we had to recognize that this fits in. Maybe five years from now, this doesn't make sense, but right now, this is exactly what we need."

Penner expressed surprise at being traded.

Dustin Penner addresses the media for the first time as an LA King.

"I don't think anything can prepare you for something like this," he told the media. "I'm sad to leave. I think, like everybody here, I felt like we were building something together. I didn't expect to get traded. It's interesting. I haven't been in this position before and especially being at the rink, so it's been kind of a daze."

Andrew Cogliano had nothing but good things to say about his now-departed teammate.

"I really enjoy Pens and him being around the room and playing, he's been great here," Cogliano said. "For him, it's good. He's going to a team where they're in a playoff hunt, he's familiar with some of the guys on the team, so I'm happy for him and hopefully he does a good job."

LOOKING AHEAD

Tambellini expects his club to adapt well to Penner's absence, starting tomorrow night vs Nashville.

"I expect them to compete to win every night, just like we said at the beginning of the year. Does it mean more time for Taylor and Jordan and Magnus Paajarvi? Maybe. Or does it mean time where you see someone come up from the minors to get some extra time? We have lots of offensive strength along with Ales (Hemsky), that we should be able to handle anything that we play right now."


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Shelley Fleming of Edmonton submitted a question for Shawn Horcoff.

SHELLEY: "What outlook do you put forth to your teammates, especially the rookies, with the team now playing "spoiler?"

Shawn Horcoff

SHAWN: "When you're playing at this time of year, the majority of teams are going to be in a fight for playoffs, for position in the standings, and getting their games geared up. Hockey really starts to pick up this time of year, so it's going to be a really good challenge for us and the young guys to get a taste of high-intensity games.

"I thought last night (vs the Bruins) was a good example of that. They came out in the first period and they're obviously one of the best teams in the league and one of the best in the east, and they really had their intensity at a different level than we were prepared to match with four lines.

"There's always things to play for. There's jobs to play for here, there's pride. We obviously feel like we're going to go somewhere here in the future and you want to be a part of that, us veterans alike, so there's plenty to play for."

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 & Tom Gazzola

Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com

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