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THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Fight Night Recap

Oilers return home for off-ice workout, look back on Thursday's game & more

Friday, 25.03.2011 / 5:55 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
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THE TEAM TODAY: Fight Night Recap
FRIDAY, MARCH 25

FIGHT NIGHT RECAP

The Oilers landed back in Edmonton early this morning following a winless road trip through Nashville and St. Louis. Even with the late plane ride home, the Oilers opted to return to the rink this morning for an off-ice workout at Rexall Place, as the team prepares to face the Calgary Flames tomorrow night.

Although scoring production continues to be a sore spot for this depleted Oilers squad, it was the team’s physical  play that was the hot topic this morning.

Jim Vandermeer, J-F Jacques and Theo Peckham all engaged in first period fights with willing Blues combatants. Although energy in the building was high, Peckham was not pleased with the actions of Blues rookie Ryan Reaves following his bout.

"I yelled in the penalty box, 'show some class!’” Peckham said.

The melee was short-lived, as Peckham lost his balance and tumbled to the ice; prompting the linesmen to step in and break the men apart. With shots landed on both sides, the decision was a draw.

Reaves, on the other hand, saw things differently as he waved his hands en route to the penalty box. All things considered, an action that Peckham considered to be an act of belittlement between opponents.

"Doesn't matter how bad you beat up a guy. You see [Steve MacIntyre] beat guys up all the time and he skates straight to the penalty box. It's a common respect amongst players and I've never been the type to do that. If he wants to do that, that's his thing.”

THE HEAVYWEIGHT

Excluded in the opening period ruckus was heavyweight Steve MacIntyre, who was unable to find a willing dance partner throughout the evening. Head Coach Tom Renney was mum with his comments, but hinted that he wanted his tough guy to be more involved.

"First of all, he's got to play. He's got to show me that he can play the game and participate within the structure of a game plan. On my part, I have to deliver the opportunity. And I'm willing to do that.”

"That being said, sometimes you've got to hunt your prey.”

When asked if MacIntyre was too honorable in his approach, Renney was reserved in his criticism.

"Maybe. And others are, too.”

With Vandermeer stepping up to battle with Cam Janssen, Renney believed to see a discrepancy in size that was carefully selected by the Blues forward.

"I would have picked a different opponent than Jimmy (Vandermeer) did last night. I would have said that we've got another guy on the bench that will dance with you.”

Head Coach Tom Renney
With that said, Renney believes that MacIntyre needs to improve in the teachable areas before he can be allotted more ice-time on a regular basis.

"We have to make sure that Mac can function within the structure that we want to play,” Renney said.

"We're starting with a pretty raw guy here who hasn't had a lot of opportunity prior to this year to be a player; and really hasn't yet either, quite honestly. I'm not going to pat myself on the back. I would like to deploy him more than I have. Those are my decisions and I'm fine with that.”

MacIntyre agreed with his coach’s assessment, saying that his goal is to continually improve as he looks to make his on-ice contributions more valuable.

"I think long-term, that's my goal. Gradually get better every practice and to keep up with the guys and be able to get to my hits,” MacIntyre said. "Not to be running around out of position, but being in the right place at the right time, and keeping my feet moving.”

"That's part of being a big guy. It's a little tough to get going and get those pops, but that's something that we have to work on and I'm willing to put the work in. I have to go out there and be more assertive. I need to take the bull by the horns and run a few guys and set the tone that way."

For MacIntyre, balancing the line between that and his other, more common role has been an ongoing challenge, given the circumstances of today’s game.

Steve MacIntyre
"I've been in the minors for a long time and down there, there's a few more guys that are willing to go. That's their job and that's what they're there for. Here, it's a job but you have to be smart about it. With power-plays and penalty kills that teams have, they could very easily put you down one or two goals.”

Renney appreciates MacIntyre’s devotion to his job, but further emphasized the need for an overall improvement.

"He will always be there for his teammates and his team from a physical point of view. We don't have to teach that. What I want to make sure of, and that was why I suggested my earlier comment, is that he gets a chance to be a player first; because he does some other stuff that you don't teach.”

"We want to make sure that Steve gets the chance to continue to improve, and I believe he is improving,” Renney concluded.

PLAYING THE SPOILER

The Calgary Flames are next on the schedule as the season winds down. Calgary, who currently sits 10th in the NHL’s Western Conference standings, still has an opportunity to make the post-season with a miraculous late-season run. Edmonton is looking to end that hope Saturday night at Rexall Place.

"We're excited about that,” Renney said.

"It's fun to be a part of the Battle of Alberta, regardless of each team's circumstance. It just has a life of its own, anyway. The fact of the matter is that Calgary still has an opportunity to make the playoffs and for us, that's motivation to do whatever we can to prevent that.”

In order to accomplish that, the Oilers will need a stronger effort as the team looks to rebound from Thursday’s setback in St. Louis. Regardless of the circumstances, Edmonton’s bench boss is behind his group all the way.

"You should never, ever, underestimate yourself,” Renney said.

"Even at this point in the season now with our lineup looking like it is, there are some really valuable lessons to be learned. Opportunity is there. This is our roster and you're going to play. That has opportunity written all over it."

SINGLES STILL AVAILABLE

Limited single seats are still available for tomorrow night's game, so get yours now before they're gone!

  Click here to purchase tickets online


ONE-ON-ONE

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

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

LINUS: "My roommate on the road is Liam Reddox. His worst habit, I would say, is that he showers more than six times a day. But he's always clean, and he smells so very good, so I'm able to appreciate that."

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: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

THURSDAY, MARCH 24

OILERS at BLUES:
AT THE MORNING SKATE

Edmonton rolled into Scottrade Center early this morning to participate in the 20-minute morning skate as the team prepares to take on the St. Louis Blues this evening.

Unlike yesterday, the temperature in windy Missouri was on the chilly side; perhaps a sign that this Midwestern road swing is wrapping-up and that a trip home to Edmonton will soon follow the Blues battle.

Although lines were not run at the skate, it is expected that Head Coach Tom Renney will start the game with the following combinations, with some well-known faces welcomed back into the lineup:

Jones - Cogliano - Eberle
Paajarvi - Reddox - Omark
Jacques - Fraser - Hartikainen
MacIntyre - VandeVelde - O’Marra

THE ‘NEW’ GUYS

Although Jacques and Fraser admit they’re not feeling top-notch, their respective conditions have been improving significantly since suffering their injuries a little more than a week ago.

"Good," Fraser said of his sore foot. "Obviously not 100 percent, but it's getting better every day. It felt good out there yesterday at practice, and I rested a little bit last night and it felt good this morning."

Jacques echoed Fraser’s sentiments, explaining that it has been a steady improvement over the past few days.

"It's getting a lot better. It's been a little bit over a week now and it kept improving every day, and I think it will keep improving over next couple of days as well. It's finally good to get back at it."

A greater opportunity has been presented for both, as they look to make an impression on the coaching staff in the final nine games of the season.

"With all the guys that are hurt right now, if I can get a couple more minutes tonight and bring something to the team that I know I can bring, it's certainly going to help me stay there until the end of the year," Jacques said.

With an inexperienced team going to battle each night, 26-year-old Fraser has inherited a mentorship role has one of the team’s veterans.

"I'm not even an old guy, but I'm an old guy in this locker room," laughed Fraser.

"Obviously with the injuries we already had, I was hoping to get to play a little more. We'll see here and see how the foot holds up. We've got a lot of young guys. It's good, too, to see how these guys play and see where the team's going in the right direction."

Head Coach Tom Renney is looking forward to the contributions that Fraser and Jacques can bring, and is hoping that both will keep things simple as they look to reintegrate themselves back into the fold.

"I think they've got to bring some energy. They need some physical play, obviously," Renney said.

"In the case of [Fraser] he's got to win some faceoffs for us. We almost seem to struggle there, so he's got to be good there. With a man like [Jacques] he's got to go to the net. He's got to be that strong, physical presence that we require, too. If they can do that and play the game sort of at even, if you will, it will be a good first game back for them."

READY FOR THE BLUES

Although St. Louis has endured a similar run of injuries, the Oilers are prepared for what should be an excellent test tonight.

"They're a good team," said winger Jordan Eberle. "Obviously they've got some injury problems, too, but they're battling through a playoff spot, too. It's nice to come in and get the team's 'A' game.

We've been getting teams like that, with Nashville the other night and we're getting Calgary the next night. Teams are gunning for that playoff spot and it's nice to get that competition that we can step up and hopefully get a win."

Fraser agreed, adding that his time with the Chicago Blackhawks helped him get a better understanding of St. Louis’ structure and overall team game.

"I think they play hard every time. In Chicago, we knew it was never an easy game against St. Louis. They've obviously got some skilled guys, but even their second-third line guys can grind and finish checks and play hard. It's never an easy game against them, so we've got to be ready for a physical battle tonight."

Ryan Jones, who has been promoted to the top line recently, believes that the key to success will revolve around keeping things simple; an element that Jones has embodied this season, having posted 16 goals in 72 games.

"We've just got to put pucks and bodies to the net. That's the way that you score goals no matter what time of the year it is. Go to the net and look for all the loose stuff. You've got to go to the hard areas to score goals and it's matter of getting there and creating a bit of space for the other guys on my line."

"We have to be opportunistic," Jones concluded.

QUICK START

In what has become somewhat of a sore spot for the Oilers, getting off to a quick start will be key for an Edmonton squad that has fallen behind early in recent games.

"We need a really strong start," Jacques said. "It's something we've talked about for a while and it seemed like something we were getting away from. It's been really good to us at the beginning of the year when we had a strong start, we got ourselves right in the game and we were ready for a big game."

Renney agreed with Jacques' assessment and further commented on what the team needs to tonight to return to the win column.

"We do need a good start. If you look at our last couple games, we haven't started particularly well," Renney said. "We need a good start to make sure that, right away, we get the respect of our opponent for the right reasons. I think you'll see some juggling of the lines, some personnel moving around a little bit; we have to stay really close to the detail in terms of our game-plan, so that it doesn't matter who you're with, this is how you're playing."

"Beyond that, we have to compete. I really believe that we've got to work hard for every inch of ice that we get and make sure that our opponent has to work hard, and even harder, for what they get."

BETWEEN THE PIPES

Nikolai Khabibulin will return to the crease tonight as he makes his 42nd start of the season. The veteran netminder will be searching for his 11th win, as he currently boasts a 10-28-3 record overall.

BLUES 4 - OILERS 0

Edmonton's attack went silent as St. Louis goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped all 12 shots he faced to earn his 17th career shutout. Third period goals by Matt D'Agostini, Chris Stewart and Adam Cracknell sealed the outcome, as the Blues defeated the Oilers 4-0 at Scottrade Center Thursday night.


Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com

 
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23

MIDWEST FILES

Following the team’s seventh consecutive loss last night in Nashville, the Oilers hopped on the charter and traveled to the equally as warm and sunny St. Louis, Missouri.

Although the Oilers dropped a 3-1 decision one night ago, spirits were high as Edmonton participated in a quick one-hour practice at Scottrade Center earlier this morning.

Drills were kept short, but good times were had as the team cruised through a series of shinny games late in the session, before breaking apart to challenge each other in a shootout competition.

Recent call-ups and road trip newcomers Chris VandeVelde and Teemu Hartikainen stole the show with a number of slick moves that wowed teammates and the spectating media contingent.

A NEW EXPERIENCE

While the Oilers are still in search of some activity in the win column on this current road trip, VandeVelde and Hartkainen are both caught up in the experience of their first NHL getaway.

"Flying in the Edmonton plane and with all the guys, it's definitely different than flying commercial or taking a seven-hour bus trip, so obviously that's a perk of being up here," said a smiling VandeVelde.

"In college, we had a few short bus trips but we flew pretty much everywhere else. Then again, it was commercial and we get a little spoiled up here with our own plane. It's nice. You get all kinds of food on there and we get meals and everything's free. It's definitely a privilege and I don't take it for granted."

Fellow call-up and current linemate Hartikainen agreed with VandeVelde’s take on the upscale travel arrangements.

"It's so much better. The airplane is so good and hotels are better."

THE GROWTH PATTERN

While VandeVelde is certainly making the most of his opportunity to travel with the big club, his on-ice play continues to be the primary focus as the 24-year-old rookie establishes an NHL role.

"Obviously it was a dream come true to be up here and I think I've come a long way since the start of the season when I was down in the 'A' where I had a slow start," VandeVelde said. "But the last 20 games have been really good for me. I'm here now and it's an exciting time for me and hopefully I can stay up here for a while."

Chris VandeVelde
When asked about the reason for this recent uprising at the professional level, VandeVelde was eager to credit the collective work with the coaches in Oklahoma City, along with his personal desire to improve and become a better player.

"All three of the coaches down [in Oklahoma City] have been real good to me and have taught me a lot of things. I think I've kind of taught myself some things, too, just from learning and playing 60-some games down there or whatever it was. Obviously that's a huge help. You learn things as you go."

Like a true professional, VandeVelde understands that this is only the beginning of a long development process. This new phase requires a strong conclusion to the 2010-11 season in Edmonton in order to establish a footing within the organization.

"You've just got to play hard and leave your impression. I think I've done that so far and hopefully I can elevate my game a little more."

WALKING WOUNDED

In the 3-1 setback to Nashville, the Oilers appeared to be on the receiving end of the injury bug once again. Jordan Eberle’s right foot was cranked with a Jeff Petry slapshot in the opening period. The talented rookie skated off the ice in noticeable pain, but was able to complete the game under his own power before being assessed by the medical staff prior to departure.

Although Eberle exited Bridgestone Arena last night wearing a walking boot, the 20-year-old winger was able to skate this morning and looks to be ready for tomorrow’s matchup against the Blues.

"It was obviously pretty sore; pretty swollen and bruised. Luckily it's not broken. I think the fact that we took care of it right after the game and got ice on it and pressure, and trying to get all the swelling out contributed to why I got to skate this morning.

Jordan Eberle
It was pretty sore in the skate, but I think the fact that there's pressure in the skate and blood flow helps it."

Moments later in the game vs. Nashville, Petry again wired a slapshot into the Nashville end from the neutral zone. A leaping Eberle avoided another collision with the puck, potentially saving him from further injury.

"It was real close," laughed Eberle. " But that's part of the game and you've got to battle through that."

With all the action surrounding the incident, Eberle had no doubt that he will be included on tomorrow’s lineup card.

"Yeah, it will be good for tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be even better tomorrow."

Although Eberle was able to escape something more serious, defenceman Kurtis Foster was not as fortunate. With 30 seconds remaining in the game last night, Foster went back in own zone to retrieve the puck. Caught off balance and in a vulnerable position relative to the corner-boards, a steaming David Legwand sent the veteran rearguard awkwardly into the wall.

Foster hit his on the boards and stayed down for several minutes while Head Athletic Therapist T.D. Forss provided a medical assessment. Foster was unable to skate this morning, but he believes his condition has improved significantly since arriving in St. Louis 14 hours ago.

"I'm feeling a lot better today. Last night I definitely didn't feel too well. I had a little bit of a stick stomach and had a little bit of a headache. I woke up today and felt pretty good so I didn't try to do anything too hard and hopefully if I feel good today, I can get some exercise tomorrow."

Given his proximity to the boards and unfortunate collision with the Predators veteran, Foster says that the experience was most certainly a scary one.

"I've had a couple bangs to the head but nothing too significant. Last night there for a couple seconds I didn't really know where I was. That was a little scary," Foster said.

"I went in, saw the doctor and did all the new protocol they've got to do. Last time was a little tough with the flying, but as soon as I turned the lights off and went to bed I definitely felt a lot better. It definitely feels much better today."

GIROUX ASSIGNED

Shortly following today's practice, it was announced that forward Alex Giroux had been assigned to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons. The 29-year-old winger had recorded one goal and one assist in his eight games with the big club this season.

  READ THE PRESS RELEASE

As a result, it is expected that Colin Fraser or J-F Jacques may be available to play tomorrow evening.


ONE-ON-ONE

Chris VandeVelde

In the latest edition of our fan question series, Joseph of Red Deer, AB submitted a question for Chris VandeVelde.

JOSEPH: "With this being your first NHL road trip and all, what do you like to do on the bus or plane to pass time?"

CHRIS: "I listen to a lot of music on the iPod and stuff. I listen to everything. Country, techno, rap, everything. There's not really anything I don't like. You name it, I listen to it.

I'm not a big reader so I also like to watch movies and stuff. I like to play games on my phone, too. Just basically anything you can to relax and pass the time."

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: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Tom Gazzola

 

 

Author: Ryan Dittrick | edmontonoilers.com
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