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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Recovery Effort

With nine players injured, Oilers lean on call-ups for Thursday's home game

Wednesday, 16.03.2011 / 5:04 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Recovery Effort
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16

RECOVERY EFFORT

The Oilers continued their three-day break between games with another practice at Rexall Place Wednesday morning. 

With an astounding six forwards and three defencemen sidelined due to injury, practice numbers were limited. As such, coaches could craft only three forward lines for the drills:

Jones - Cogliano - Eberle
Omark - Fraser - Paajarvi
Hartikainen - Reddox - MacIntyre

To bolster the stricken club, Teemu Hartikainen was recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Monday morning and will play in his first-ever NHL game Thursday night vs Phoenix.

"I can't wait for tomorrow -- I get to get on the ice and start to play here. I'm so excited," he said.

The young Finn won't be the only call-up to play vs the Coyotes: In addition to Linus Omark, Jeff Petry, Liam Reddox, and Taylor Chorney -- who all spent considerable time in the AHL this season -- three more players will be called up from Oklahoma City early tomorrow, head coach Tom Renney announced.

"We've got names circled but [the Barons] play again tonight, so we'll have to wait and see," he explained.

While the Oilers injury situation is dire, the Barons are within striking distance of a playoff spot and are understandably wary of losing some of their key contributors.

"OK-City is in a position to continue to pursue that playoff spot, so we want to be conscious of that as well and do what we can to help them," Renney said.

POSITIVE THINKING

With five of their top seven scorers currently injured, the Oilers know the remaining 12 games will be especially challenging. Despite battling a voracious injury bug, players and coaches continue to think positively and remain focused on the task at hand.

"Everyone here is intelligent enough to know that wins are going to be a real tough thing for us to pursue, but that we will," Renney said. "We'll certainly be playing teams that are going after points that will force us to play as good as we possibly can with our roster, if we don't want to get embarrassed."

"We've got a lot of injuries right now but that's part of the game and you can't really blame it on anything," Magnus Paajarvi added. "You've got to go with the guys you have, and the guys you have, you've got to step it up and take more responsibility. So it's up to us now."

With six forwards out of the line-up, Jordan Eberle said defensive play will have to be that much better.

"I think if you look at a team like Pittsburgh, we just played them, they obviously lost some key guys and they might be one of the best defensive teams in the league, so I think we have to kind of adapt that style and not turn over the puck. Obviously we're going to need some goals to win and I think we're going to do that with good defence."

On the bright side of the blue line, defenceman Theo Peckham participated in his second consecutive practice and is days away from returning to the line-up. He has missed seven games after suffering concussion February 27 vs. Boston.

"He won't play tomorrow. We'll do a couple more practices with him obviously and push the pace on him a little bit. We'll see how he's doing after Friday.  We're sort of into that day-to-day range at that point in time. I'll just see how his fitness level is on Friday and take it from there," Renney explained.

PHOENIX IN PHOCUS

After a two-week hiatus, the Oilers invite fans back to Rexall Place for Thursday's game against the Coyotes. Tickets are still available.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE

ONE-ON-ONE

Magnus Paajarvi

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Alanna of Edmonton submitted a question for Magnus Paajarvi.

ALANNA: "Do you and Linus Omark ever have conversations in front of the guys in Swedish?"

MAGNUS: "Yeah, it happens but not too often. If we're in a group, like a lot of people and we're in the same conversation, we speak in Engish. I asked before if it was okay to speak in Swedish with each other and they said it was alright. So if it's something quick or we need to translate something, we say it in Swedish.

Do you ever speak Swedish around your other teammates just to be sneaky?

"If it would piss people off, we wouldn't do it. But jokingly, for sure."

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, Dan Tencer & Tom Gazzola

 
TUESDAY, MARCH 15

MEDICAL EMERGENCY

After returning home from a disappointing five game road trip where the Oilers were only able to pick up one win, the team held a practice on Tuesday.

Because of the Oilers’ growing injury situation, only nine forwards took part in practice (Andrew Cogliano, Jordan Eberle, Colin Fraser, Ryan Jones, Steve MacIntyre, Linus Omark, Magnus Paajarvi, Liam Reddox, and recent call-up Teemu Hartikainen).

Injured defenceman Theo Peckham also took to the ice after missing seven games due to a concussion.

INJURIES AND SURGERIES AND CONCUSSIONS, OH MY!

After losing Taylor Hall to a high-ankle sprain earlier this month, Sam Gagner and J-F Jacques were also added to the growing list of injured players which includes Shawn Horcoff, Gilbert Brule, Ales Hemsky, and Theo Peckham.

Though Hall is frustrated his rookie season ended much sooner than he though, he understands that it might be better for him, and the team, to take the time to heal instead of trying to rush back.

“I don’t think it would be right for a player to miss 8 weeks and then go in there and play. I think someone else could do a better job,” Hall said to the media. “It might be different if I was able to come back at the end of the regular season for a few games, but there’s just no chance of that happening.”

After taking a Paajarvi shot to the foot in Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, Shawn Horcoff suffered a hairline fracture to his left foot, but is hopeful he won’t miss much time.

“The good news is it’s not displaced,” said the Oilers captain of the injury. “Best case scenario, is 7 - 10 days.”

Ales Hemsky revealed to the media today that he was aware of his shoulder injury and was playing throughout the season with pain.

“I missed last season; I didn’t want to say to much. I wanted to play.” said Hemsky who now must go through 4 - 6 months of rehab. “A lot of players have tears [in the tendon], sometimes you don’t even know.  It’s just when it starts being painful and start bugging your normal life and stuff like that; then it’s something wrong.”

Sam Gagner also talked about the freak accident on the bench during last Wednesday’s game against Washington that saw his season come to an end after Ryan Jones’ skate severed a tendon in his hand.

“When you’re just sitting on the bench you don’t expect to get hurt,” said a frustrated Gagner. “They said the surgery went well and I was going to be out for about 3 months.”

Defenceman Theo Peckham, who was out with a concussion, skated with the team at practice today and is optimistic about returning to the lineup.

“They don’t want to put me in a vulnerable position out there,” Peckham said after being asked if he would be in the lineup on Thursday against the Coyotes. “I trust the training staff and coaching staff that when they let me go I’ll be ready.”

Head coach Tom Renney understands the frustrations surrounding all the injuries facing the Oilers, but, is looking at the situation as a positive experience for the prospects to get some experience playing in the NHL.

“Adversity is part of every team’s season no matter what. What we have to do is learn how to deal with that as a group, first as a coaching staff and how we maneuver our lineup. As an organization, in terms of who we call up to help continue grow this thing and provide opportunity.”

Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff is also trying to pull positives out of the current injury situation.

“It’ll be a good opportunity for some young guys to get a lot more minutes and some quality time in situations they wouldn’t normally play as much in.”

JF Jacques and Gilbert Brule are also out with injuries and did not practice.  Jacques left Friday’s game against Detroit and did not skate at practice today due to a sore foot.  He will not play Thursday, but is expected to be day-to-day after that according to Renney. Brule, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game against Pittsburgh, also will not play in Thursday’s game.

HARTIKAINEN CALLED UP

Recent call-up Teemu Hartikainen skated with the team at practice today.

Prior to being called up, the 20 year old Oklahoma City Baron rookie had put up impressive numbers in the AHL.  In 66 games, Hartikainen had scored 17 goals and 25 assists for 42 points with a respectable -1 rating.

When asked about how he feels about joining the team, Hartikainen spoke enthusiastically about his chance with the big club.

“I’m so excited,” he told the media, “If I play well, I can show and take my spot.  It’s really good for me.”

Knowing that the Oilers were short on offense due to the growing injury problem,, Tom Renney spoke of the contributions that he was hoping Hartikainen could make.

“He has the capacity to score, and it’s those tough goals, that blue paint contribution  that you need in today’s game,” Renney said of the recent call-up. “That’s certainly something we’re looking for him to add to our lineup. I’m not surprised he’s here. I would like it to be under different circumstances, but the bottom line is he’s here and will make good of that opportunity.”

When asked what he could provide for the team when playing perfect, Hartikainen gave a simple answer.

“A perfect game for me is a few good hits, driving to the net, maybe a goal.  Driving to the net all the time, that’s my game.”


ONE-ON-ONE

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Chris Eldstrom from Edmonton submitted a question for the Oilers' Steve MacIntyre.

CHRIS: "Who do you think would be the toughest guy to drop the gloves against and why?

Steve MacIntyre

STEVE: "Probably Eric Goddard, broke my face a couple years ago.  I would say he’s probably the toughest guy I’ve come against for sure."

Who is a legend you would like to have faced or a guy where you might have been "whoa, I’m fighting this guy"?

"I fought Wade Belak last year and said I grew up watching him. He played for the [Saskatoon] Blades, I played for the Blades. He wore 33, I wore 33. I was actually more blown away from meeting him.  Then I got to fight him and I had a pretty big grin on my face.  He was always a guy my dad made sure I watched and tried to learn a few things from. Obviously meeting Marty McSorley and those kind of guys is a huge bonus too."

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: Karmela Arocena | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

SUNDAY, MARCH 13

OILERS at PENGUINS:
GAME PREVIEW

Last 10: Edmonton: 4-5-1; Pittsburgh: 3-3-4

Season Series:
This is the only meeting of the season between these two teams. The Oilers and Penguins met once during the 2009-10 season, when Pittsburgh escaped Rexall Place with a 3-2 victory on Jan. 14, 2010.

Edmonton scored twice on the power-play, with Andrew Cogliano and Lubomir Visnovsky doing the damage, but the visiting Penguins responded with three unanswered goals in the third period to claim the two points.

Big Story: With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin relegated to the sidelines, the Penguins have only recorded a single victory in the team’s past five games; directing focus to the team’s .550 winning percentage without the team’s top snipers.

The Penguins, who are currently positioned fourth in the NHL’s Eastern Conference standings, are looking to get back on track to ensure home-ice advantage in the post-season.

Saturday’s 3-0 loss to the hard-charging Montreal Canadiens has presented an even greater challenge as the struggling, playing-for-pride Edmonton Oilers roll into town.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton began its current five-game road trip with a dominating 5-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche last Saturday. Since that game, the team has struggled, dropping three consecutive decisions to the Flyers, Capitals and Red Wings respectively. In those three matchups, the Oilers have been out-scored 11-3, but did see improvement as the week progressed.

Although the Oilers dropped a heartbreaking overtime result to the Red Wings on Friday, Edmonton battled hard and competed all night, despite challenging the highly skilled home side with a depleted lineup.

"I'm damn proud of our hockey club tonight," said Head Coach Tom Renney. "We stuck with our game-plan. We stuck to the strategy that we thought would help us win. Our penalty killing was absolutely outstanding; our power-play was less than what we needed. We knew we could be challenged there, but that's okay."

"We fought hard and we tried to win a hockey game. We deserved a better fate, but Detroit is a good hockey club."

Providing the opportunity to capture victory was the strong play of rookie netminder Devan Dubnyk, who made 42 saves in the overtime loss. Edmonton’s record on the season has dropped to 23-37-9, but Dubnyk's personal stat-line remains at a .500 clip with a 10-10-7 record.

Following Friday's game, Renney commented on his goaltender’s poise and overall brilliant play vs. Detroit.

"He's been good. He's played very, very well for us. He looked solid, he looked big and he tracked the puck well. He was an efficient goaltender. They loaded up pretty good on the power-play and he was big for us."

Dubnyk credited his performance to the team’s overall success in disarming the Red Wings’ net presence.

"It's my job to battle with them, look over them and find a line on the puck. They're good at getting tangled up with you and making it look like they're not, so I have to be aware of that and not allow myself to get tied up with them."

"The guys did a good job on the rebounds after," Dubnyk concluded.

Penguins:  The Penguins’ struggles continued Saturday afternoon when the Montreal Canadiens exited Consol Energy Center with a 3-0 blanking of the hometown squad.

Pesky winger Matt Cooke summed up what his club needs to improvement on for Sunday’s matchup vs. the Oilers.

"We have to come [Sunday] more focused, more prepared and ready to make a play when the puck is on your stick."

Elk Point, AB native Mark Letestu -- who has been promoted to the top line alongside James Neal and Alex Kovalev -- is looking forward to facing the Oilers for the first time in his career.

"I'm pretty familiar with them. My in-laws are season ticket holders and my family is pretty involved with the organization, so I keep up pretty close with them," said the 26-year-old centre.

"Anytime family gets to watch, it's pretty special for me. Being the hometown team, we want to put on a good performance and hopefully have the bragging rights all summer."

Although the game will be memorable on that front, Letestu remains focused on the task at hand and believes Edmonton will be a challenging opponent.

"They're having some injury problems right now. They're scrappy, though. They almost had Detroit [Friday night] and we expect a team that's going to be battling for everything they get."

Who’s Hot: Oilers forward Ryan Jones played a season-high 24:50 vs. the Red Wings, in the process notching his 15th goal of the season. Between the pipes, the aforementioned Devan Dubnyk has a 2-1-1 record in his past four starts, stopping 124 of 132 shots for an impressive .940 save-percentage.

Although the Penguins were shutout Saturday afternoon vs. Montreal, forward James Neal has acquitted himself nicely into the team’s lineup since been acquired from the Dallas Stars. In the team’s previous game vs. Buffalo, Neal recorded one goal and one assist, adding a plus-three rating in the Penguins’ 3-1 win.

Injury Report: Sunday’s matinee will be a battle between the depleted rosters. Oilers Taylor Hall (ankle), Ryan Whitney (ankle), Sam Gagner (hand) are all out for the season. Ales Hemsky will be out another 1-2 weeks with a shoulder injury. Theo Peckham, who is currently at home in Edmonton, is still day-to-day with a concussion. Fellow blueliner Taylor Chorney is also on the sidelines with a week-to-week knee condition.

Penguins sniper Evgeni Malkin (knee) is out for the season. Arron Asham, Sidney Crosby, Nick Johnson and Eric Tangradi are all out for an undisclosed period due to concussions. Mike Comrie is also on the IR with a hip injury, while Brooks Orpik’s broken hand will keep him sidelined for another month.

Stat Pack: The Oilers’ all-time record against the Penguins is an impressive 35-24-5, but success in Pittsburgh has been a challenge. Edmonton boasts a 13-15-4 all-time record in the Penguins’ home rink. The Sunday matinee will be Edmonton’s first visit to the brand new Consol Energy Center, meaning the visiting slate can be wiped clean.

Ales Hemsky, Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner all suffered serious injuries after climbing atop the Oilers’ leaderboard with 42 points each. Devan Dubnyk made 42 saves vs. Detroit before Pavel Datsyuk ended the game in the overtime. That normally inconsequential number appears to be presenting some unfortunate luck.

Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff has scored a hat-trick once in his career. His three-goal performance came against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 10, 2006 when the Oilers rolled over the Penguins 3-1 at Mellon Arena.

Saturday’s game vs. Montreal represented Pittsburgh’s 200th consecutive sell-out, combining the team’s efforts at the old Mellon Arena and the recently introduced Consol Energy Center. The Penguins have marked an impressive 123-58-19 (.666 winning-percentage) record in that time.

Puck Drop: As the Oilers conclude the extensive road trip, Ryan Jones believes that a number of positives can be taken forward into Sunday’s matinee.

"We the more simple we keep it, the better team we're going to be. When we stretch out of our element, we seem to pull away from each other and teams can pick us apart a little more. "

"When we stay within our systems and just play together, we're a hard team to beat."


PENGUINS 5 - OILERS 1

The Edmonton Oilers wrapped up a five-game road trip with a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon. Chris Kunitz scored a pair of goals for the host Penguins while the other three goals were scored by Maxime Talbot, Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek. Ryan Jones potted the lone Oilers marker as the team finished the five-game trip with a 1-3-1 record.

Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com

 


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