THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Eastern Arrival

Oilers open up the eastern portion of their road swing with a practice in Philly

Monday, 07.03.2011 / 2:40 PM / The Team Today
By Marc Ciampa  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Eastern Arrival
MONDAY, MARCH 7

PHILADELPHIA FREEDOM

The Oilers had Sunday off following a convincing 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night but it was back to business on Monday as the team practiced at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

After the Eastern Conference leading Flyers lost their last game 7-0 to the Rangers, Oilers head coach Tom Renney knows they're going to be ready to play tomorrow night.

"Pete's certainly going to have his team ready to go after a stretch that's a little bit unusual for them in terms of wins and losses," Renney noted.

"We really have to be ready, there's no question about that. But it's good for us. to face teams like this If we want to be a playoff team come next year we have to make sure we come through places like Philadelphia and have success."

STATUS QUO

From the line rushes on Monday, it looked like the team is planning to go with the same lineup as Saturday.

Gilbert Brule was on the ice but was the odd-man out. He subbed in on the fourth line alongside J-F Jacques and Colin Fraser and also on the top line between Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle.

"The couple games he's played, he was good. He brought some spark to his game, he's one of those kids that gets in quick and finishes his checks," Renney said on Brule. "He can score, he can shoot. We have to make sure we give him opportunities to do that."

However, Brule has battled through illness and injuries almost all season long.

"Most important of all, we have to make sure he's healthy for his own reasons," Renney continued.

Renney also said that Devan Dubnyk will start in goal tomorrow night.

GIROUX SETTLING IN

If the team does indeed go with the same lineup, it means that Alex Giroux will play his second game of the season.

"I just try to not do too much. I don't want to play to make mistakes, I just want to play to help the team," said Giroux. "Chip in, make some plays and play solid defence and I think I'll be fine."

Giroux did well in his Oilers debut, scoring a goal and firing two shots on goal in 12:42 of ice time.

"It was all him," Giroux said of the playmaker on his goal, Linus Omark. "I know he's not really a shooter so I was just trying to get myself in a good position and I know he's good enough to find my stick. It was good to get a goal."

Renney had high praise for Giroux following practice.

"Given our team, we're the lowest scoring team in the league so it's not an easy adjustment for him," said Renney. "We showed a clip this morning of getting inside your defender and getting to the net with your stick on the ice and that's exactly how he scored his goal in Colorado - and should have had a second earlier in the game, quite honestly.

"We have to continue to put him in situations, when he does get the opportunity to dress, to have that success, no doubt."

GAGNER GETS GOING

Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane, right, chases down the Edmonton Oilers' Sam Gagner during second period NHL hockey action in Edmonton, Canada Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan)

With injuries and departures to the team's top three scorers - Dustin Penner, Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall - Sam Gagner has stepped up to fill the void and thrived. 

"When those guys are hurt and we have trades like that, guys need to step up. I don't think it's a case of feeling like a forgotten man by any means. It's a good opportunity for guys to step up. I think at the end of the season, even though we're not in the playoff race we want to treat this like playoffs. We want to continue to establish an identity and grow as a team. It's a huge opportunity for guys to show what they're capable of - not only on the outside but to their teammates as well."

In his last three games - all Oilers wins - Gagner has picked up five points.

"I felt really good. There's a few things that I need to do for me to be a successful player out there and I'm starting to do these things out there," said Gagner. "Getting on the forecheck is what makes me move my feet. When I'm thinking about getting the puck back, I'm good when I have the puck."

Gagner has been known for playing his best hockey later in the season when the competition tightens up. A fact that Renney attributes to his competitive nature.

"He's a great competitor. He's got character in him and he likes the challenge of facing teams that are battling for a playoff spot."

Renney went on to talk about how Gagner has been able to excel despite being one of the younger players on the team. A fact that has often gone overlooked.

"He's had some pretty good success as a young player in this league already," Renney said "Sam is one of those guys that understands better and better each game what both ends of the rink looks like."

The pane of glass which fell on top of Oilers GM Steve Tambellini.
GLASS TOPPLES ON TAMBELLINI

Oilers GM Steve Tambellini had a bit of a scare on Monday after practice when a pane of glass at the Wells Fargo Center fell down on him.

"It's scary. I can't believe that Ricky (Assistant GM Rick Olczyk) was able to pull that trigger from 17 rows up and still get that thing going but good for Ricky and good for Steve to maybe weather through that. I'm not sure he knows what time it is yet but we'll work through that," joked Renney. 



ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Kyle Eldstrom from Edmonton submitted a question for goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

KYLE: "What's it feel like to make a big save off of a well-known player who's known for always being able to find the net?"

Alexander Ovechkin (Getty Images)

DEVAN: "You don't really think about it during the game. Obviously those guys are guys you have to be aware of all the time because they get themselves in good positions to score and are able to put it in.

"Any time you're able to make a big save on those guys it definitely feels good but it's something you think about more after the game if you look back. It feels good but in the NHL 95% of the guys are able to put the puck in the net when given an opportunity so you have to be aware of everyone but it is nice when you make a big save on some of the well-known players. It certainly feels good afterwards."

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

SATURDAY, MARCH 5

OILERS vs. AVALANCHE:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Edmonton Oilers kick off a five-game road trip tonight when they take on the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

The team will have some lineup adjustments in place, most notably Taylor Hall will not be playing after suffering a season-ending high ankle sprain on Thursday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Magnus Paajarvi will take Hall's place on the top line alongside Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle. The second line will be comprised of Ryan Jones, Sam Gagner and Linus Omark.

"Paajarvi, Horcoff and Eberle is kind of a natural fit for us," noted head coach Tom Renney. "At the same time as I say that, last time we were here Paajarvi, Jones and Sam (Gagner) were real good together."

Gilbert Brule will not play tonight as he is out with an illness. As a result, Alex Giroux has been called up from the Oklahoma City Barons and will make his Oilers debut. Giroux has been tearing up the AHL with 29 goals and 65 points so far this season in 61 games. He ranks second in the league in scoring and should get an opportunity to show what he can do offensively in Edmonton.

"He's a sniper and he certainly does that real well," Renney said of Giroux. "We want to make sure we put him in the right place."

Giroux will play on the left side with Cogliano in the middle and Reddox on the right.

Colin Fraser, J-F Jacques and Steve MacIntyre make up the fourth line while Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal.

PLANTE ARRIVES

On defence, Alex Plante will play his first game of the season with the Oilers. Plante, 21, has a goal and 10 assists as well as 112 penalty minutes in 57 games this season with the Barons.

"It's been going really well," Plante said of his experience this season in Oklahoma City. "We're really trying to make a push for the playoffs and it's really exciting."

Plante played four games with the Oilers last season, picking up one assist but this season has seen Belle, Petry, Petiot and Chorney all called up to the Oilers blueline before him.

"Not really," said Plante when asked if that's bothered him. "I feel if I start thinking about that I'm just going to go bald a lot quicker than I want to. We've got a great D-core down there and it makes us competitive."

DUBNYK BACK IN GOAL

Although Nikolai Khabibulin has returned from injured reserve, Devan Dubnyk will get his second consecutive start tonight. That could be partly due to a strong performance 10 days ago when a very strong first period from Dubnyk helped propel the Oilers to a  5-1 win over the Avs.

"The start's the key," said Dubnyk. "I always say that, especially on the road. Whether that start for me is 10 minutes into the period or 15 seconds into the period it's my job to be ready to go. If they make a play and get one early it's just as important to continue to go after that."

Dubnyk has a 9-9-6 record this season with a 2.85 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

"It's been an exciting year for me. Obviously, the start of the year I didn't know what to expect in terms of games but it's exciting to get the opportunity to play and just earn more starts."

LIFE WITHOUT TAYLOR

Tonight is the first game this season the Oilers have had to play without their leading goal scorer, Taylor Hall. It's something the team will have to get used to as the rookie left winger has been shut down for the season.

One player who can identify with what Taylor is about to go through is Jordan Eberle, Hall's roommate who missed most of January with a similar ankle injury.

"It's the same thing I went through, same injury, maybe a little worse," said Eberle. "I know for him - like me - it's the first time he's ever been injured. It's tough but you've got to battle through it."

Renney looked at the positives of the situation, which included the ability to look at new players - such as Giroux - or a longer look at players with added responsibilities - such as Paajarvi.

"It presents options and opportunity," said Renney. "We realize what's not in our lineup beyond Taylor, too. The past week there's been a lot of changes."


OILERS 5 - AVALANCHE 1

The Edmonton Oilers scored early and scored often en route to a 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Saturday night. Sam Gagner had a three-point night while Tom Gilbert, Linus Omark and Andrew Cogliano each put two points on the board in the victory.

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

THURSDAY, MARCH 3

OILERS vs. BLUE JACKETS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

The Oilers took to the ice for morning skate Thursday with two notable absentees: Theo Peckham and Ales Hemsky.

Following a fight during Sunday night's game vs the Bruins, Peckham continues to suffer from concussion-like symptoms and, as a result, call-up Richard Petiot continues to fill his spot on the blue line.

The injury bug has also hit Hemsky, who suffered a shoulder injury midway through Tuesday night's game vs. Nashville.

"There's nothing that traumatic, but it is involving the rotator cuff," head coach Tom Renney explained. "It looks like it's going to be two to three weeks. We're not 100% sure."

The coach said a second MRI next week should clarify Hemky's timeline for return. "Obviously we hope sooner rather than later, but that's as much as I can tell you now."

With Dustin Penner's trade on Monday and Hemsky's injury Tuesday, Edmonton's remaining forwards have the opportunity to prove they can contribute at a high level.

"I think it's a chance for a lot of guys to step up and fill in different roles here with those two guys gone," Gilbert Brule said. "They're huge components, obviously, to our team, but I'm definitely excited to be on the power-play and get a chance there."

With Hemsky's injury, Renney has had to shuffle the lines once again. On the top line, Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff, and Jordan Eberle will be reunited.

"Horc and Ebs, we've played together for a long time and hopefully it works out," Taylor Hall commented. "Horc's always been fun for me to play with and we've always had pretty good chemistry."

Renney admitted injuries have challenged his ability to balance the lines, but he emphasized that the team's identity lies not in line combinations but  on-ice effort.

"It becomes increasingly difficult as players fall by the wayside, but again it is about our identity and no identity matters if you don't work," he said.

"I hate the fact that this is a cliche, but it is: We have to take our games one at a time and be the best team that we possibly can, hopefully the better team on the ice that night, for all the right reasons and not because we had just great goaltending, or our power-play scored one finally, or we might have been outshot tremendously but we got a timely goal. We just want to play a complete game and we want to do that 18 times, and then we'll evaluate where we are beyond that."

BATTLING THE BLUE JACKETS

Edmonton's next immediate test is Columbus.

"They're going to come hard, we know that, so we're going to have to really navigate this game quickly in terms of retrieving pucks and moving it past their forecheck and forcing them to have to maybe adjust their game plan," Renney said. "We have to play to our strengths, and one of them is quick puck-movement and using our speed."

Devan Dubnyk will be responsible for Oilers netminding tonight. After watching last game from the bench, the 24-year-old is eager to get back between the pipes.

"I've always said I've got to continue to earn my spot in there, and it would be great to get that many more games in and that much more experience building to next year, obviously," he said. "I just want to continue what's been going on and continue to feel good in the net and work on all those little things that are just going to make me better going on. Every opportunity, however many it is, between now and the end of the year is a great opportunity for me."

Renney understands the importance of Dubnyk's development.

"We have to play him. He's got to get opportunity to play and we've got to continue to develop him like we would any of our skaters."


OILERS 4 - BLUE JACKETS 2

42 penalty minutes, two fights, and six goals highlighted an action-packed contest in which the Oilers emerged victorious, defeating the Blue Jackets 4-2 on Fan Appreciation Night at Rexall Place.

But it wasn't all good news for Edmonton: after registering a Gordie Hall hat trick with a goal, assist, and fight, Taylor Hall suffered a left ankle injury and had to leave the game early.

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

 

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