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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: T.G.I.F

Oilers take break from on-ice activity, set sights on Saturday's game vs. Avs

Friday, 18.03.2011 / 3:26 PM / The Team Today
By Jen Sharpe  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: T.G.I.F
FRIDAY, MARCH 18

T.G.I.F

Following Thursday's 3-1 loss to the Coyotes, the Oilers skipped an on-ice practice and instead took their training off-ice for a workout in the team gym Friday morning.

While the previous night's result was disappointing, both players and coaches agreed the club's effort was admirable. The Oilers out-shot the Coyotes 36-17, no small feat considering five of their top seven scorers are injured and seven rookies were in the line-up, including two playing their first-ever NHL games.

"If we come out with the type of effort we had last night and manage the puck well and hopefully have a little more success, for example on our power-play, then I think we've got a real good shot at winning," head coach Tom Renney said.

The coach was pleased with the performances of his team's most-recent additions, call-ups Teemu Hartikainen, Ryan O'Marra, Alex Giroux, and Chris Vande Velde.

"I thought they did good," Renney said. "We knew they would work hard, we knew that game one for them would be emotional and lots of adrenaline, and what we hoped for was that they would be able to play within the structure.

"You could tell that they were proud to be here, you could tell they wanted badly to contribute, and ... they wanted to do well on behalf of themselves to put out a good showing. I get that, and I appreciate that. And the beauty of it is, they did it all for their team," he added.

Vande Velde, who along with Hartikainen made his NHL debut last night, said the game was "a lot of fun."

"It was just a good experience. I think I'll be much more prepared to play against Colorado on Saturday here, so I'm looking forward to that and hopefully I'll just go out there and play well."

ANTICIPATING THE AVALANCHE

Edmonton will carry a five-game losing streak into tomorrow night's game, but that pales in comparison to Colorado's current 10-game skid. The Oilers were responsible for two of those Avalanche losses, but Renney doesn't think a third victory will come easily.

"Colorado is a good hockey club and they're proud too. They're going to want to win. They're going to look at us the same way we look at them and come after us, so we've got to be ready for that," he said.

Will Theo Peckham return to the line-up Saturday? "We'll see how he's doing tomorrow," head coach Tom Renney said. (Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)

The Oilers might get some help from defenceman Theo Peckham, who has missed the past eight games with a concussion but completed the final phase of his recovery -- coach Renney's skating test -- this morning.

"I liked the numbers much better today than I did a few days ago, so I'll sleep on that one and we'll see," Renney said.

Two other injured players skated this morning -- Jean-Francois Jacques (foot) and Ryan Whitney  (ankle) -- but the coach confirmed they are not ready to return to the line-up.

"[Jacques] went out real quick and came right back off. It's just too sore in the skate, so I think for the time being at least, it's status quo," he explained.

Whitney underwent "season-ending" surgery in January, and Renney dismissed any notion of rushing the veteran defenceman's recovery so that he can play again before summer hits.

"If he's ready to play and play a significant amount and contribute to our cause, then I would entertain that. If it's just to sort of say 'Okay, we got one game in before the end of the year, we're back,' I mean, he's going to be back in September anyway. What's the big deal?"

OTHER LINE-UP NOTES

Speaking of defensive veterans, Jason Strudwick blocked a shot and hobbled off the ice last game but will play tomorrow.

"I think Struddy's fine to go. I don't think there's any issues there at all," Renney said.

Behind Strudwick and his fellow skaters will be goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has dropped his past three decisions but is eager to get back into the win column.


Single and standing tickets are still available for the game. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE

ONE-ON-ONE

Alexandre Giroux

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Harleen of Edmonton submitted a question for Alex Giroux.

HARLEEN: "Who is your roommate and what is his worst habit that bugs you?"

ALEX: "Down in Oklahoma it is Phil Cornet and he always sleeps. It doesn't matter what time it is, the light's out all the time so I always have to be quiet. Here it was Paajarvi, and we're on the same schedule. We don't nap in the afternoon, so the lights are always on and I like it. "

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

 
THURSDAY, MARCH 17

OILERS vs. COYOTES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

After taking three days to rest and refocus between games, the Oilers got back in game-day mode with morning skate at Rexall Place.

With nine players on the injured list, the crew of healthy Oilers was reinforced with three timely additions: Chris Vande Velde, Ryan O'Marra, and Alexandre Giroux.

Read the press release

The forwards participated in Oklahoma City's battle vs. the Grand Rapids Griffins last night (their second game in as many nights) before hopping on Oilers' owner Daryl Katz's private jet for a speedy flight to Edmonton.

"The boys were all joking around that we were going to take a private jet and I thought they were all just chirping me, and the next thing I know I get an email from our general manager down there saying you're going to the private airport," O'Marra recalled. "It's a heck of a lot better than flying commercial and a heck of a lot better than taking an overnight bus, which I'm very much used to."

Head coach Tom Renney commended the transportation solution, which allowed the trio play for the Barons, get a good night's sleep, and take morning skate with the Oil.

"It shows that we care about our players and the situation OK-City is in," he said. "I thought it was a very, very professional move by our organization to take care of these athletes as best they could under those circumstances."

Although the private jet was a treat, the real thrill for the call-ups will come tonight. With one call-up each earlier this season, O'Marra and Giroux can draw upon past NHL experiences when they face the Coyotes.

"My contract's up this year. I'm looking to compete and show them I deserve another one and I deserve another look," O'Marra said.

Vande Velde, on the other hand, will make his NHL debut tonight.

"Obviously it's very exciting and I'm just blessed that I have the opportunity to be up here," the 24-year-old centre said. "It's going to be amazing. I'll probably have a little nerves but that's expected. I'm just happy I'm here. I'm ready to go."

COYOTES CLASH

With much of his offensive firepower watching from the sidelines, Renney hopes the call-ups make energetic and positive contributions tonight.

"If they can help us win some draws and get some possession off whatever the circumstance might be, I think that's good for us," he said. "I think beyond that, it's just real good puck management, making sure that we don't turn pucks over, that we do keep things moving forward in whatever matter that they possibly can."

Although tonight's contest will mark three games in three nights for all three players, as well as four games in five nights for Giroux, Renney doesn't think fatigue will be a factor.

"If their energy seems to be dissipating or whatever, we'll work around that. My guess is that they'll give us everything they possibly can. . . Adrenaline's a wonderful thing."

On the ice, the line combinations will be as follows:

Jones - Cogliano - Eberle
Omark - Fraser - Paajarvi
Giroux - O'Marra - Reddox
MacIntyre - Vande Velde - Hartikainen


COYOTES 3 - OILERS 1

Despite out-shooting their opponents 36-17, the Oilers scored only one goal and surrendered three, resulting in a frustrating loss to the Coyotes Thursday night.

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

 
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

 


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